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LI's switch to energy-efficient lighting shows savings

PSEG Long Island crews transfer power lines to

PSEG Long Island crews transfer power lines to new utility poles along Montauk Highway in West Islip on Thursday, July 10, 2014. Credit: John Paraskevas

The shift to energy-efficient lighting hit a milestone on Long Island this month, as PSEG-rebated bulbs and fixtures reached a record 2 million for 2015 and LEDs overtook sales of compact fluorescents for the first time.

PSEG Long Island, which subsidizes about a quarter of the cost of the home bulbs through instant rebates through participating retailers, said the change is helping cut energy costs and reducing the need for new power sources.

This year alone, 2 million bulbs and fixtures saved 106 million kilowatt-hours of energy, the utility said. Of the more than 2 million EnergyStar bulbs bought, 1.1 million were LEDs.

There are an estimated 50 million light sockets in 1 million Long Island homes, and PSEG estimates that about half now use efficient bulbs such as light-emitting diode (LED) or compact fluorescents.

The company estimates the bulbs will save customers about $21 million in energy costs this year.

Since 2010, about 600 million kilowatt-hours have been saved, the company said.

PSEG and its predecessor, LIPA, have been pushing more efficient lighting for years because it's among the cheapest ways to reduce energy usage. For every $1 the utility spends rebating the bulbs, it gets back $6 in savings by avoiding the cost of new generation, said Mike Voltz, director of energy efficiency and renewable programs at PSEG.

For customers it makes even more sense. LED bulbs use about one-seventh the electricity of incandescent bulbs, and can last up to 23 years, or a total 25,000 hours. They produce considerably less heat, and can operate with light-dimmers and as exterior spotlights.

They are also coming down in price, to $5-$10 for 60-watt-equivalent bulbs. The PSEG efficient-lighting program works with retailers such as ACE Hardware, BJ's, Costco, Home Depot, Lowe's and Stop & Shop. The bulbs are also available from PSEG through a link on its website at LED bulbs there are priced at $4.98 each.

Voltz said the incentives for commercial customers to switch to efficient lighting are even more lucrative than residential. PSEG will pay from 50 percent to 70 percent of the cost of replacing older bulbs and fixtures. He said it makes economic sense because the savings to the utility ultimately can be even greater given larger usage amounts.

Average homes use about 15 percent of their total electricity in lighting, and most have an average 50 light sockets around the house. PSEG estimates that to date, the utility and its customers have converted about half the available sockets to efficient light bulbs.

The savings of electricity in the past five years is the equivalent of the production of a 2,280-acre solar farm, or about 456 megawatts of solar power, Voltz said.

In the future, when the remaining 50 percent are converted, homes could reduce the amount of electrical usage for lighting to just over 7 percent, Voltz said.

PSEG is holding a commercial efficiency seminar at the Hilton Hotel in Melville on Oct. 29 to tout the savings and options for business users.

Customers who sign up for a home energy assessment can have some light bulbs in their homes changed to CFL lights for free. Voltz said PSEG is examining the prospect of using LEDs in the program as bulb costs come down.

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