Light bulb switch to turn on energy efficiency

By Kathy Kim

In an effort to improve sustainability on campus as well as cut down on electricity costs, a student-led initiative to replace all 32 Watt, 4 foot long fluorescent bulbs on campus with 25W bulbs began over J-term.25W bulbs emit the same amount of light but use 1/3 less energy than 32W bulbs.

The light bulb switch is a “big project with good paybacks,” Sustainability Manager Suzanne Savanick Hansen said. The new fluorescent bulbs will save $25,000.

“It’s a really great project,” Hansen said. “It cuts greenhouse gas emissions and reduces cost.”

Last year’s electricity bill was nearly a million dollars. The recently changed light bulbs will save $19,000 annually from these costs. The Clean Energy Revolving Fund (CERF) and the Board of Trustee funded the $40,000 project.

Volunteers put in most of the bulbs on weekends, and a student job was set up with the help of the custodial staff to intensify the effort and finish up the task over the break. Seventeen students signed on to install them and began work on Jan. 5. Each student worked 20 hours a week. In all, 8,000 bulbs were replaced.

Switchouts in the library, Old Main, Olin-Rice, the Humanities Building, Carnegie Hall, Kagin Commons, Weyerhauser Hall and the Campus Center have all been finished. The Lampert Building and 77 Mac will undergo the switch on Saturdays throughout the semester.

The project was first thought of a year and a half ago when electricians working on campus mentioned that they noticed, even on a small scale, a difference in energy consumption when fluorescent bulbs are switched to ones with lower watts. Since then, students have spearheaded the initiative and collaborated with college staff and Facilities Services.

Other projects CERF has funded in the past include a wind turbine and the EcoHouse, the environmentally sustainable student residence on campus.

“These projects benefit the college and offer valuable work experience for students who have to solve problems and learn how the college works” said Matt Kazinka, one of the student coordinators. “I feel that my job on campus has enhanced my Macalester education incredibly.