I got more than I bargained for when I attended the Minneapolis Energy Fair last night. First, I got a free compact fluorescent lightbulb (reserved for the first 500 attendees) even though I was over an hour late to the start of the event. Then I saw my friend Dan, who works in the Minneapolis environmental office, chatting up visitors to city’s display. And after a brief trip around the room, I heard a great talk on energy issues by iconic local TV news anchor, Don Shelby.
The energy fair was sponsored by the Center for Energy and Environment in support of their Minnesota Energy Challenge initiative. Their current energy challenge is to install five compact fluorescent bulbs in place of old energy-wasting incandescents. Saving the world doesn’t get much easier than this, so I went out today and bought eight new compact fluorescent bulbs. For the eight bulbs I replaced, my energy usage dropped from 625 watts to 145 watts. Even better, the local Ace hardware stores are running a special instant discount that makes GE soft white compact fluorescent 15W, 20W and 25W bulbs just $1 each. At that price, I should have bought a few more.
Because of my late arrival, most of my time at the energy fair was spent listening to the talk by WCCO anchor, Don Shelby. WCCO has been running regular stories on energy and climate change issues as part of their ongoing “Project Energy” series. There was a lot of good information in the talk, but rather than try to cobble a weak reiteration of the details I heard, I’d suggest homeowners and citizens looking for accessible information on energy issues check out the “Project Energy” link I just provided.
Perhaps the most insightful idea I took from the lecture was the notion that energy innovation and conservation benefit from the profit motive. Wal-mart realized it could save $6,000,000 a year by using fluorescent bulbs in its ceiling fan displays. Homeowners get the same benefit on a smaller scale. I haven’t calculated exactly how much I’ll save annually by switching those eight bulbs in my house to fluorescents, but I know they will pay for themselves in just a couple months. As the owner of an older house with wiring that is inadequate by modern standards, CFLs also reduce the demand on old circuits that are easily stretched beyond their intended load. Getting the same amount of light from a quarter of the energy means I’m less likely to blow fuses or overheat wires. That would be a smart choice even if it didn’t save money or help the environment.