Leading (and lighting) the way with LEDs

bret curry

Bret Curry is the residential energy
manager for Arkansas Electric Cooperative

In just a few weeks, another group of linemen from Arkansas’ electric cooperatives will depart our great nation and journey to yet another place on Earth that has never experienced the marvel of electricity.

During their mission in a remote Bolivian village, this team of volunteers will build power distribution lines without the luxury of modern-day bucket and digger trucks. Crews will rely on time-tested pole climbing, rigging, block and tackle and sweat equity to build the new infrastructure. When finished, their labor of love will forever change many lives by a ceremonious flip of the switch …followed by the replacement of candles, oil lanterns and wood-burning cookstoves with energy-efficient electrical lighting and consumer appliances.


L to R: An incandescent bulb, a CFL and an LED bulb. bigstock.com

As these Bolivians emerge from the dark, they will see a bright world of energy efficiency.  This new thing called “artificial lighting” in homes won’t be in the form of Thomas Edison’s incandescent bulb hanging from a pull-chain fixture in the center of the living room. It will consist of multiple fixtures and lamps that contain energy-efficient compact fluorescent light (CFLs) and light-emitting diode, or LED bulbs. And just like here in Arkansas, Bolivia’s newest co-op members will receive energy-saving tips from their local co-op, Cooperative Rural Electrification R.L. Member services representatives will provide educational materials about care for the environment, the importance of energy stewardship and how learning to use energy wisely is possible without sacrificing comfort and conveniences. Sound familiar?

Strange as it may seem, folks who are just receiving electricity in a faraway country for the first time will have more efficient lighting than many of our energy efficiency makeover applicants do now. That’s because many homes throughout Arkansas still have incandescent lighting. As a reminder, 90 percent of the energy required to light up Edison’s bulb is manifested in the form of heat, and 10 percent in light. Comparatively, a CFL equal to a 100-watt incandescent only consumes 27 watts of power. An LED equivalent only consumes about 17-watts of power. Both CFLs and LEDs have a long lifespan and emit less heat than their incandescent counterparts. Also, don’t forget that our air conditioners must run even longer during the summer to remove unwanted heat generated from lighting … and more equates to a higher bill. Using CFLs and LEDs save energy in more ways than one.

Energy Efficiency Makeover Contest

It’s not too late to apply for our Energy Efficiency Makeover Contest. Applications must be postmarked by July 15. Seventeen winners, one from each co-op, will receive up to $5,000 in energy efficiency improvements including a comprehensive pre-/post-energy audit, additional attic insulation, ductwork sealing, air sealing, heating and cooling system tune-up and an energy-efficient light bulb retrofit.

This year’s makeover winners will join millions of Americans as we transition away from incandescent and CFLs to LEDs. This technology change creates a huge potential for energy savings over the next decade. The Department of Energy projects that a decade of savings resulting from efficient LED retrofits could reach the equivalent annual electrical output of 44 power plants, or approximately $30 billion.

While we realize not everyone can win the makeover, everyone in the electric cooperative family wins when energy efficiency improvements are implemented. Using energy wisely and efficiently benefits all members by helping keep our energy reliable and affordable.

Please feel free to contact me at smartenergytips@aecc.com with any energy efficiency questions. Also, be sure to follow us on Facebook at www. facebook.com/smartenergytips.org, as well as listen to our podcasts.