10,000 fluorescent light bulbs are snatched up in two hours | TahoeDailyTribune.com

10,000 fluorescent light bulbs are snatched up in two hours

Adam Jensen
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Sierra Pacific Power field representative Mary O'Brien distributes energy efficient light bulbs to customers on Wednesday morning.

Sierra Pacific Power set off a light-bulb feeding frenzy at its South Lake Tahoe office on Wednesday, giving away 10,000 compact fluorescent lamps to customers in just a couple hours.

Sierra Pacific customers reportedly began lining up at 9 a.m. for the rare freebie that was scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. A community service officer from the South Lake Tahoe police department was even summoned when neighbors became concerned about all the traffic.

“We knew it was going to be popular, but … wow,” said Bobby Robertson, program manager for Sierra Pacific’s Energy Star Lighting and Appliance Program, shortly after the last box of spiral bulbs was handed out around noon.

People who got to the giveaway in time were rewarded with a box containing a dozen compact fluorescent bulbs.

“I like the idea of having modern technology in my home and saving electricity,” said South Lake Tahoe Resident Pasquale Ardolino, before riding off with his new box of bulbs.

Compact fluorescent lamps use up to 75 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and can last between seven and 10 years when used for three hours per day, according to Rose Healion, a Sierra Pacific conservation project manager. Healion kept busy on Wednesday shuttling boxes of bulbs from the back of a pickup truck to eager customers.

A Web site run jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that if every home in America replaced one conventional incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent lamp, enough energy would be saved to light more than 3 million homes for a year, save more than $600 million in annual energy costs and reduce greenhouse gases equivalent to emissions from more than 800,000 cars.

“I think we need to reduce our demand for power,” said South Lake Tahoe resident Andrea Stanley, when asked why she came to the giveaway. “Also, these are really expensive.”

The bulbs can cost around $5 each in some South Lake Tahoe outlets, but their longer life span and greater efficiency have been lauded for saving consumers money in the long run.

An article in Consumer Reports magazine estimated that replacing five heavily used incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps could save consumers $25 a year in energy costs.

Sierra Pacific’s South Lake Tahoe event comes on the heels of a similar effort on the North Shore. The events herald the federal “Change a Light Campaign,” which runs from October through November, Robertson said.

Such voluntary programs are a growing trend, but formal restrictions on incandescent bulbs — in use since the end of the 19th century — are on the way.

On June 14, Nevada became the first state in the nation to pass legislation effectively banning the sale of traditional incandescent bulbs in the state by 2012. U.S. lawmakers are also working on legislation that could phase out the sale of conventional incandescent bulbs nationwide as soon as 2014.

With headquarters in Reno, Sierra Pacific Power is the electric utility for most of northern Nevada and Lake Tahoe. According to the company’s Web site, Sierra Pacific has 40,567 residential and 5,309 commercial customers in California.

Mercury and Fluorescent Bulbs

Because they contain mercury, a hazardous material, California law requires spent or broken fluorescent bulbs to be recycled or taken to specialized disposal facilities.

South Tahoe Refuse’s Transfer Station accepts fluorescent bulbs free of charge on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. The facility also accepts fluorescent bulbs free of charge on Saturdays from 9-11:30 a.m., according to the El Dorado County Web site.

Guidelines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on cleaning up broken fluorescent bulbs is below.

How do I clean up a broken fluorescent bulb?

– Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.

– Carefully scoop the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a sealed plastic bag.

Do not use bare hands to handle debris. Wipe area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place used towels or wipes in plastic bag. Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up broken bulb on hard surfaces.

– Place all cleanup materials in a second sealed plastic bag. Place first bag in a second sealed plastic bag. Wash hands after disposing bag.

– If a fluorescent bulb breaks on a rug or carpet, remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner, following above steps. Tape can be used to pick up small pieces and powder.

If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken, remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister) and put the bag or vacuum debris in two sealed plastic bags.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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