Baltimore County is preparing to modify the lighting in its largest public building to save 50 percent on its electric bill under a program being offered by the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.
Once the County Courts Building in Towson is converted, officials plan to convert the county office building and the huge new public safety building as well.
In addition, the County Council is set to approve a bill Monday night that would require county government to buy supplies made of recycled materials whenever possible, including at least 40 percent of the paper it uses.
That bill will likely just reinforce current practice, however, because already 90 percent of the paper the county print shop buys is recycled, and county purchasing agents are buying recycled materials for items as diverse as picnic tables and road-patch material.
The lighting program, however, has potential to save money in scores of public buildings and the utility company is paying 40 percent of the installation costs.
The idea is to remove half the fluorescent light tubes in a fixture and replace them with a reflector that produces the same amount of light. The 60 percent of the conversion cost borne by the utility customer is paid through monthly utility bills, which means the county doesn't have to put out cash up front.
BG&E started the program last October with conversion of the state-owned Mary E. W. Risteau District Court and multi-service center in Bel Air.
Conversion is now under way at the Anne Arundel County school administration building on Riva Road in Annapolis. Ralph Luther, the school system's maintenance director, said he can't wait to convert as many county schools as possible. Old Mill middle and high schools in Millersville will be next, he said.
"I'm so happy. You don't put any money out," he exclaimed, noting that BG&E bills the county for its normal electric usage, even after the conversion, until the installation costs are paid. Then the savings start.
Barry Pickelsimer, maintenance director for Baltimore County's schools, said the program is under evaluation now for school buildings. He said the greatest savings could be achieved in air conditioned buildings, where the changeover would reduce the heat output of the lighting systems, too.
"It looks like a real good program," he said. He questioned using the reflectors in classrooms, however, noting that if allowed to get dusty, the reflectors would dim lighting for students.
The Baltimore County Courts Building in Towson is a huge, concrete, square Goliath of a building that holds the Circuit Court and states attorney's offices, the emergency communications center, the law library, a whole floor of county agencies besides an underground garage and the sheriff's offices. The conversion there is to begin April 22 and be completed within two months.
Estimates are that after the conversion is paid for, the county will save $23,000 a year in electric costs on that building alone.
It will take 22 months of monthly electric billings of $1,900 to pay the county's 60 percent share of the conversion cost of the 1,574 light fixtures in the courts building, and the savings will begin after that.