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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

May 2, 2008

Light bulbs

Compact fluorescent bulbs come in all shapes and sizes for home and office use. ISU's Central Stores stocks many varieties. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Invest year-end funds to save money, energy

by Erin Rosacker

The clock is ticking on the fiscal year, and on implementation of the new resource management model. Perhaps this is the perfect time to look at investing end-of-year money into things that will lower costs when units start paying their own bills.

Energy savings are an obvious -- and somewhat controllable -- way to cut down on costs. Campus efforts were spectacular in the early part of an energy-savings campaign launched by facilities planning and management in 2002, saving $4.5 million in the first three years. However, the next two years were disappointing, and efforts this year have failed to get ISU out of the red.

Bright idea

Make the switch from incandescent lights to compact fluorescent (CF) or LED bulbs. Although CF and LED lights are more costly, the money is quickly recouped and then extended in savings. For example, if a unit invested $114 to replace 20 incandescent bulbs with CF lights, it could save $202 in just a year -- nearly doubling the return on the investment (based on lamps operating 11 hours per day, five days per week).

LED flood lights (like those used in recessed "can" ceiling lights) are much more expensive at $100 a pop, but one lasts 25 times longer than an incandescent bulb and can save $965 in just an hour of daily use, five days per week, over the course of a year.

Central Stores stocks many varieties of CF bulbs. LED floodlights are available at Electrical Engineering and Equipment Co. in Ames.

Give up control

The installation of automatic light switches is an easy way to save energy, especially in rooms that are not in continuous use (conference rooms, classrooms and restrooms). Sensors can be used to turn lights on only when people enter the room. FP&M estimates the cost of the switch at around $37, plus installation.

At a rate of 7 cents per kilowatt hour, significant money is saved when lights are used only when a room is occupied. For example, sensors keep the lights off in bathrooms for an estimated 75 percent of a 24-hour day.

Look at the STARs

Consider replacing electronics and appliances with energy-efficient models. Many products (computers, monitors, copiers, scanners, refrigerators) are included in the government's ENERGY STAR program; just look for the designation. If you think you're ahead of the game by using rechargeable batteries, check to see if those chargers are ENERGY STAR efficient.

Find a list of ENERGY STAR products online.

Let's get personal

Take a look around your personal work space and see how you can contribute to energy savings. Do you turn the light(s) off when you leave the room? Do you have sufficient daylight through a window to avoid using artificial light during certain hours of the day? Do you unplug passive "energy-eaters" like cell phone chargers and electronics when not in use?

If you find yourself squinting under the bank of fluorescent ceiling lights in your office, try taking out a few of the long tubes. Or, turn off the overhead lights and use task lighting or a desk lamp (with a compact fluorescent bulb, of course).

Other ways to save:

  • Shut off or unplug equipment on nights and weekends
  • Use energy-saving features on computers, copiers and printers
  • Set thermostats at 70 degrees in the winter and 76 degrees in the summer
  • Use shades/blinds to keep out the heat or cold
  • Keep sashes of fume hoods at minimum whenever possible
  • Consolidate or eliminate personal appliances, such as coffee makers and refrigerators

Find out more

If you're interested in finding ways to cut energy costs, just make a service request to the FP&M energy team at Other tips, tricks and information on energy savings are available on that site by clicking on "Energy Savings at ISU" under the Utilities section.

"If you save on your energy bill, you have money that you can put to use for other things, and you will have something to show for it," said David Miller, FP&M director of operations. "Saving energy helps the environment and provides you with new opportunities to put that money to work for you."


Recycle: It's the law

Don't throw that burned-out light bulb in the trash. Proper disposal of compact fluorescent bulbs is essential, since they contain mercury. When the bulb burns out, contact your FP&M building custodian or area mechanic. FP&M building staff collect the fluorescent lights, then Central Stores staff takes them to the EH&S Service Building, where they are stored, packed and shipped for recycling. ISU recycled more than 54,000 fluorescent bulbs last year.

Although ISU is required by law to recycle fluorescent lights, private citizens are not -- yet. If you are interested in recycling your compact fluorescent bulbs, most solid waste agencies provide a method of disposal. Free disposal is available in Ames. Just drop off the fluorescents at the Resource Recovery Plant (110 Center Ave.) during business hours.