Light Bulb Brightens County's Weatherization Program

November 03, 1991|By Cindy Parr | Cindy Parr,Contributing writer

WESTMINSTER — Energy-saving light bulbs were the last thing Janet Lemmon thought she would get when she applied to participate in the county's weatherization program.

The 50-year-old Westminster resident said she found out shortly after she moved into her house on Aug. 1 that the uninsulated windows would let in a draft in winter.

"I was on the list to have storm windows replaced," she said. "But when they called and asked if I would be willing to try these lights, I said I would."

Lemmon lives in one of 10 Carroll homes that will use a new fluorescent bulb the next six months as part of a pilotenergy-conservation program offered by the county Bureau of Housing and Development in cooperation with the State Energy Administration and the State Weatherization Office.

The program, which will measure home energy savings, requires that each of the homes be outfitted with low-wattage/high-output interior fluorescent bulbs.

"The majorutility companies are looking for ways to help consumers use less electricity," said Curt Turner, community development administrator forthe county Bureau of Housing and Community Development.

BaltimoreGas & Electric Co. and Potomac Electric Co. will donate the bulbs, which use a redesigned fluorescent tube and a ceramic ballast system, and monitor the energy used.

The fluorescent bulbs will not replace incandescent bulbs throughout the homes, only in high-use areas, such as kitchens, living rooms and bedrooms.

"My lights in my kitchen and in my bathroom have been replaced with the new light bulbs," said Lemmon, who lives in a two-story, two-bedroom home. "I have never seen this kind of light before."

A total of 150 homes in Baltimoreand four Maryland counties, including Carroll, have been selected toparticipate in the program, which is is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the state Oil Overcharge Fund.

The Oil Overcharge Fund was established by the state in 1983 to administer court-orderedrestitution of 1970s oil company overcharges.

Carroll homes participating in the relamping program were selected from those eligible to receive weatherization services through the county Bureau of Housing and Community Development.

"We just finished relamping the 10 homes on Thursday, and we will be anxious for them to start using theirnew light bulbs so that we can see if the results are significant," Turner said. "The State Energy Administration will monitor the results and quantify them for cost-effectiveness and energy efficiency."

State Energy Administration officials say they hope to complete a preliminary report on their findings by June 1992. Depending upon the size of the house and the amount of light used, officials expect homesto save $30 to $50 a year on electric bills from using the fluorescent light bulbs.

"The light bulbs do not seem to be real bright, but I like them," said Belinda Gamache, 30, whose bedroom and living room lights were replaced in her two-bedroom, single-family home in Melrose.

"These light bulbs are supposed to last for a long time and take less energy to operate, so I guess if that's the case they'll beworth it."

Selected rooms in each home have been equipped with the new energy-saving bulbs. The fluorescent tubes cost about 75 percent less to operate than conventional incandescent lighting.

For instance, the new bulbs only require 15 watts of power, compared to 60 watts for a conventional incandescent bulb that emits the same light.

"The initial price of a light bulb is $15 to $20," Turner said. "The initial cost is high because you are paying for the ceramic base that holds the bulb. After the first purchase, replacement bulbs will cost about $3 each."

The life expectancy of a fluorescent light bulb is approximately 10,000 hours or eight to 10 years, compared with 800 to 1,000 hours for a 75-watt incandescent bulb.

"These homes were on our list for other weatherization programs," Turner said. "Typically, we do an evaluation on the homes of eligible individuals to see what could make it more energy efficient.

"It might be sealing the house, replacing windows, adding insulation or putting in a new furnace," he said.

The program will be tracked from October throughApril 1992. If there is a savings, relamping is expected to become astandard service of the weatherization program.

"This will be just one more program that we will be able to add to our portfolio of services," said Turner of the program, which has been in place since 1982.

In fiscal 1992, Carroll's weatherization program will service about 110 homes whose occupants qualify on a sliding scale based on income and number of people per household.

Relamping, storm window or heating system replacement and insulation are among weatherizationservices available.

Information: 857-8100.


(household, income requirements)

* One, $9,130

* Two, $13,320

* Three, $16,710

* Four, $20,100

* Five, $23,490

* Six, $26,880

* Seven, $30,270

* Eight, $33,660

Note: For each additional person, add $3,390.

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