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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Seeing the light in a second-hand store

Author: Guest Writer/Friday, January 18, 2013/Categories: Uncategorized

As a rule, Americans don’t like the government telling them what to do. But every now and then, the government gets it right. 

So it was with a recent energy-efficient lighting upgrade at Misers Mercantile in Carbondale, Colo., a venerable second-hand store in a century-old brick building. 


The new lights in Misers Mercantile, says owner Paula “Sam” Hunter, reduce the store’s carbon footprint and save money. Bob Ward photo.


When Landlord Dale Eubank learned last year that the U.S. government is “phasing out” T12 fluorescent light bulbs across the country, he decided to replace the old T12s throughout Misers with new, more efficient lights. Some 500 million of the outdated T12s were sprinkled across the country, so in 2009 the Department of Energy began to gradually halt manufacturing of the fixtures and familiar, 4-foot-long bulbs.

The Misers upgrade cost $7,500, but thanks to rebates available through his electric utility and local government, Eubank paid just $1,500 out of pocket. 

That was only the start of the good news. Misers’ owner Paula "Sam" Hunter says employees and customers immediately noticed the clearer light bathing the clothes, books, videos and knickknacks. The truer light emanated from electronic-ballast T8 bulbs, which also last longer than T12s, reducing the time and money spent on replacements.

Good illumination is important in a second-hand store where every item is carefully inspected, first by employees and, if an item is approved for sale, by bargain-hunting customers. Who wants a used DVD with scratches or a bowling shirt with a salsa stain? The peeps gotta scope the merch. 

And here’s the real rub: when the bookkeeper checked the utility bills, she discovered the store was using 20 percent less power than the year before. In eight months, Misers (true to its name) saved $700.

In other words, the new T8s should pay for themselves in energy savings in less than two years. Translate those savings to 500 million light bulbs, and the numbers get big.

Not much downside to this government mandate.

– Bob Ward

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