Light bulb exchange leads to savings for Manchester residents

Print More

(Host) How many light bulbs do you have to change to lower your electric bill?

The answer to that question in a few minutes.

But first, we go to Manchester, Vermont to hear about one town’s experience trading old light bulbs for energy-efficient ones.

VPR’s Susan Keese reports:

(Keese) Manchester’s Light Bulb Challenge started with a father-and-son team. Jim Hand owns a car dealership in Manchester. His son Thomas is a college student, majoring in economics and environmental studies.

For more than a year Thomas hounded his dad to switch from regular incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs.

(Thomas Hand) “You think of a lightbulb as so small it must not use much energy. But within Vermont in the average home, light bulbs use about 20% of your electricity. And with these energy efficient bulbs you can reduce that by 75%.”

(Keese) After Jim Hand made the change, he and Thomas decided it would be a good idea to persuade their neighbors to do the same.

Hand changed 50 bulbs in his house.

(Hand) “In the first 12 months I saved $406 just by changing the bulbs. So I had a way to go out to people and say, It works.’ I mean you save money, you save the need to make that amount of power. And there’s no reason not to.”

(Keese) Compact fluorescent bulbs are those squiggly tubes that screw into regular light sockets.

They use two-thirds less electricity to make the same amount of light as a comparable incandescent bulb. They last seven to ten times longer. Jim Hand says thanks to recent product improvements, they work just as well.

The Hands’ idea for a light bulb swap got a good reception from the town. Manchester Town Manager Pete Webster says it was a no-brainer.

(Webster) “It was not even a lifestyle change, just a simple act of unscrewing one bulb and replacing it with another. Every single incandescent light bulb that’s replaced with a CFL eliminates burning 500 pounds of coal.”

(Keese)The committee that formed decided on a goal of selling 40,000 bulbs, or about 20 for each of Manchester’s 2,100 households. Webster says that’s a $15 or $20 a month savings.

The committee also worked with Efficiency Vermont. That’s the statewide energy efficiency utility. It’s funded through a surcharge on all Vermonters’ electric bills.

Efficiency Vermont had sponsored similar but smaller light bulb swaps around the state. In Manchester, it agreed to subsidize 40,000 bulbs with a two dollar rebate. That meant most bulbs sold for 99 cents each in local stores.

The drive lasted from late October through the end of March, when the town met its goal and then some. Over the life of the bulbs residents stand to save at least 2 million dollars collectively.

So how many light bulbs does it take to save on your electric bill? The folks in Manchester will tell you that even one bulb can make a difference.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

Comments are closed.