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June 29, 2009
Kevin Coburn, Director of Communications

Bulb Replacement Project
Sheds Light on Energy Savings

POULTNEY, VT – How many light bulbs does it take to change your outlook? Kenneth Coe, educational technology specialist at Green Mountain College’s Griswold Library, has one answer: 505.

This summer Coe and a few helpers began replacing existing 32 watt fluorescent bulbs in the three-story library building with more energy efficient, longer lasting 28 watt bulbs. By removing a total of 505 older bulbs, the library has cut its electricity use by 34%, a reduction that will save the College an estimated 62,216 kilowatt hours a year.

“To put this in perspective, we use 350 kilowatt hours a month at my house,” said Coe. “This yearly savings is enough to cover my family’s energy consumption for the next 178 months, or 14.8 years.”

The project stemmed from a 2008 Student Campus Greening Fund proposal developed by recent graduate Mara Smith. The fund is designed to put into action initiatives that increase environmental awareness and decrease the school’s ecological footprint. The Student Campus Greening Fund is subsidized through a $30 allocation from each student’s annual activity fee. Proposals are evaluated by a student committee and awards are based on a student vote.

Smith focused her attention on the library because the building is open seven days a week throughout the school year and is usually open late at night.

“The library really has more lighting fixtures than it needs, with bulbs illuminating the stacks and other areas where direct lighting isn’t necessary,” said library director Paul Millette, who consulted with Smith on the proposal. They estimated that about ten to twelve percent of the lights could be removed and not replaced. But when Coe and GMC senior Elliot Shor began removing bulbs and testing the effects, they discovered fully a third of the bulbs in the building could be eliminated while still providing adequate lighting where it is needed most—over study carrels, the circulation and reception desks, and other common areas students use for reading and studying.

Remaining lights will be replaced with the new 28 watt bulbs at a total cost of about $3000, and disposal of the old bulbs will cost about $250. But the College should make back this investment in less than three years through the reduced electricity costs.

“I think it was a valuable lesson for all of us,” said Amber Garrard, Green Mountain College’s sustainability coordinator. “You don’t necessarily need expensive technology to make big improvements in efficiency. In this case, a simple audit will reduce energy use in the library and yield significant savings for the College.”


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