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Buckley, Airmen can reduce lighting costs

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Two of the greatest marvels of the 19th century were the harnessing of electrical power and light. While electrical distribution changed the face of world, the ability to stave off the darkness at the flick of a switch increased productivity to unimaginable heights.

The development of the incandescent light bulb was not a simple affair, spanning more than 100 years of refinement, and has been the lighting staple for nearly all of the 20th and 21st centuries. However, in 2014, they will be left in the glow of the history books as the 60-watt incandescent bulb is phased out of production.

Under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, a provision exists to enact the gradual phase-out of the iconic light that changed the world to include the 60W bulb on January 1, 2014.

The question is how does that translate to Airmen and impact their bottom line? When browsing for a replacement light bulb right now, a noticeable discrepancy is seen in the upfront cost of lighting solutions. A 60W incandescent bulb is roughly $0.56 in bulk. The equivalent compact fluorescent light is about $1.92 in bulk. The newest offering, the light-emitting diode bulb, is roughly $30 each.

The initial sticker shock may come to a surprise for many Airmen, but upon closer inspection, all things are not equal between these solutions.

The incandescent bulb, even after two centuries of refinement, only sees a lifespan of 2,000 hours. The average CFL lifespan is roughly 10,000 hours. LEDs are not typically rated to failure, but consider a 30 percent reduction in lighting output as their end of life. This is at a minimum 25,000 hours, but many are now at 50,000 hours - nearly six years - of life. Also, a 60W incandescent bulb equivalent CFL uses 13W on average and the LED is typically 8W.

Based upon the national average for electrical service, the standard Airmen can expect an LED to cost a total of $74.00 to purchase and operate over its lifespan; the equivalent CFL, including the cost of replacements bulbs equaling the LED's lifespan, is $81.08; and the incandescent bulb runs a whopping $344.03!

The CFL will soon be the upfront cheapest solution, but that's not all the criteria. CFL bulbs, while greatly efficient, contain trace amounts of mercury vapor, a toxic material. Should a CFL bulb break, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends to vacate all pets and persons from the room for
five to 10 minutes to allow the vapors to settle and to turn off your central heating or air conditioning during this time. Further, the agency recommends using a damp cloth or tape to clean up the fragments and dust and to not use a vacuum. The vacuum cleaner will stir up the mercury vapor and may spread it further. This consideration alone may make the higher initial price tag of LED lights more palatable for people.

The Air Force is always looking toward energy saving solutions. It has replaced older fluorescent light bulbs with newer, more efficient light bulbs, offering a savings of nearly $6 per the lifespan of each bulb. Consider the office you work in and how many bulbs are in each fixture and the number of fixtures. That's how big those savings are across the Air Force.

Air Force Space Command has continued this trend by replacing High Pressure Sodium street and parking lot lights, the ones with the familiar orange glow, with high-efficiency LED lighting on Buckley AFB. This move will save Buckley more than $31,000 annually, decrease the manpower needed to replace lights due to the longer lifespan of LEDs and provide better quality lighting for those operating after hours on the installation. Many of these new fixtures feature a technology that allows them to automatically dim during the darkest period of night to further save energy when more intense light is not necessary.

Airmen can aid in streetlight and parking lot lighting energy conservation by highlighting fixtures that are "stuck on" during the day to their facility managers.

Airmen can aid in energy conservation efforts by simply ensuring all non-essential lighting is turned off at the end of the day.

Leaving the lights on in a small office area may cost $100-350 annually, however, much larger office areas and administrative areas can cost up to $5,000 annually if left on. Support rooms such as break areas and conference rooms may see consistent traffic, however, leaving those lights on all day can cost up to $400 per room per year during duty hours alone.

That can quickly add to major costs across Buckley. Keep those costs in mind as you go through your day and remember, We Are Air Force Energy!
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