CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- John Wells holds a box of common light bulbs in his arms, knowing that the box represents an expensive past and a very bright and thrifty future.
His company, Wells Home Furnishings, changed 872 spotlight-type bulbs over a period of four months last spring -- and saw the electricity bill go from $3,400 to $1,630 per month just from that energy-saving measure.
Now he's moving on to changing the bulbs in 150 lamps for even more savings.
What motivated this change? According to Jeri Matheny, spokeswoman for Appalachian Power, there's a push from the energy company to encourage businesses and homeowners to save energy. And APCO is willing to help defray the cost of replacing high-energy users to more-efficient choices.
"We're doing an energy-efficiency/demand-side management initiative. There are many companies taking advantage of it," Matheny said.
"We've always encouraged customers to conserve energy, both residential and commercial," Matheny explained. "We know energy costs are a big part of running a business, and if we can help our customers to save money, it's a good thing.
"Also, of course, if we conserve enough energy, we can delay when we have to add more generating capability, which is a huge investment, and then we don't have to pass that huge cost on to customers."
Wells considered alternative light bulbs for his halogen fixtures for a while.
"I had been looking at the bulbs for three years, but I was not happy with the output," he said, pointing out the importance of lighting to his furniture showroom's appearance.
"Lighting is everything in my business," he said. He chose Ultra LED 120-volt, 15-watt narrow floods by Sylvania. LED stands for light-emitting diode.
He said his power use, just replacing the spotlights, went from 204,000 kilowatt-hours per year to under 40,000. They had been using 75-watt halogen bulbs.
Each LED bulb cost $39, but through the power company rebate program, the store got back $15 per bulb.
"But we'll save so much energy it's unbelievable," Wells said. "We got $13,000 back. With all of the savings on energy, heating and with the rebate, we will get a total return in less than two years."
The new LED bulbs last about 10 years, so Wells knows he will see another bottom-line saving in labor costs. He's also looking at savings on air conditioning this summer because the new bulbs burn much cooler than the halogens they replaced.
Switching the lamps in the showroom from incandescent to fluorescent won't be as costly as the halogen-to-LED spotlight switch.
"Those bulbs have come down in price so much in the past few years, and the quality of the light has improved. While I'll probably pay 99 cents for a 13-watt fluorescent bulb instead of 30 to 40 cents for an old 40-watt bulb, it's still a lot less than it was a few years ago when the new bulbs first came out. Like everything else, once everyone starts to use it, the cost goes down," Wells said.
Small store, big changes
John D. Anderson owns Center Hardware in the Gateway Shopping Center in St. Albans. A stream of loyal customers comes through the door every day.
Recently one of those regulars asked Anderson if he had remodeled the store. Anderson explained that the noticeable difference was a result of new, cost-efficient lighting.
"People thought we remodeled! It was so much brighter, which is good for our business," Anderson said. He had an electrician switch the ceiling-covering network of more than 100 large, T12 fluorescent tubes to smaller, more-efficient T8 bulbs.
"We just changed the ends on the fixtures, the ballasts and the bulbs. We went from magnetic to electronic ballasts," Anderson explained. "They are much cooler -- and they last longer."