RISCH & KERSEN: Shedding light on savings
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that switching to LED lighting over the next two decades could save the country $250 billion in energy costs and avoid 1,800 million metric tons of carbon emission over that time. The nation's electricity consumption for lighting would be reduced by nearly one half.
So what does that mean for Ouray? As it turns out, virtually all of the lighting in the city's public buildings is from old-style fluorescent fixtures whose technology dates back some 70 years or more. In 2007 Congress mandated their obsolescence and as of last year the various component lamps, ballasts, etc., are no longer being manufactured. It is only a matter of time before they will have to be replaced and that raises the questions of just when and with what?
A few years ago city council adopted energy conservation as a desirable goal and, of course, saving money has always been something council and city staff try to do. The challenge, however, of determining how and when to upgrade our lighting so as to optimize the savings of both money and energy has not been an easy problem to solve.
The two options we have considered have been to upgrade our light fixtures with higher efficiency fluorescent tubes and ballasts‚Äîwhich can definitely save some money and energy‚Äîor to scrap them completely in favor of solid-state lighting or LEDs. As recently as three years ago the decision would have been in favor of the fluorescents. LED tube lighting at that time was very expensive and the quality and longevity were quite dubious. Three years from now, however, the rapidly moving technology will have made the LED option the obvious choice as efficiency, light quality and tube longevity will have far surpassed the limits of the older mercury-based technology. Postponing the decision for Ouray for a couple more years is not an attractive option either, as we are wasting electricity and money every month.
To help the decision-making and to get public input, city councilor Richard Kersen has replaced two of the old four-lamp fluorescent fixtures in the Ouray Library with modern LED fixtures that produce an equivalent amount of light while consuming considerably less energy. The first new fixture is above the librarian's desk and the second just to the north above a table in the stacks. While the measured light output is very similar‚Äîactually slightly higher with the LEDs‚Äîthere is a perceptible color difference that is instructive to compare. You will have to see what you prefer.
The energy savings and payback period can be roughly estimated as follows. Each of the old four-tube T12 fluorescent fixtures consumes at least 150 watts with ballasts. The LED fixture, by contrast, consumes 43 watts. If they are on for 2500 hours a year the old style will consume 375-kilowatt hours and the newer LED closer to 108 kWh. At our current rate of 12.7 cents per kWh the older fixture costs the city $48/year while the replacement is closer to $14. San Miguel Power also has a rebate program for LED tubes in place‚Äîwith some limits‚Äîwhere up to $32 of the cost for each four-foot length of LED's can be offset. That rebate can make the payback period even shorter and the return on investment even more attractive. Clearly during most of the projected 20-year life of the new fixtures they will be saving both money and carbon.
Stop in the library, compare the lighting and let us know what you think.
Bob Risch, Ouray Mayor
Richard Kersen, Ouray City Councilman