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Bright idea

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By Katy Korkos

The county annex has new and improved light bulbs, thanks to the quick-thinking of Los Alamos County facilities staffer Leon Ortega. Ortega had worked on the installation of new, energy-saving T12 fixtures in the Municipal Building shortly before it was deemed unsafe by engineers. He suggested the current money-saving project to his boss, Jim Zerr, because the old fluorescent-light fixtures in the Annex Building required constant maintenance to keep them shining. Ortega worked closely with Anthony Strain, also from the county’s facilities division, to get the job done in less than one week.The team removed 100 fixtures and 400 energy-efficient bulbs from the Municipal Building and moved them to the County Annex, to replace aging ballasts and bulbs, and shed more light on both workers and customers in the Department of Public Utilities and the Community Development Department.The transplanted bulbs use electronic ballasts, which start and operate more quietly, without flickering and with increased efficiency in light output. They use less energy than traditional ballasts. T8 electronic fixtures have now become the standard in new construction and retrofit applications, according to the lighting manufacturer Simkar.Simkar states on its website that the new bulbs and fixtures will save more than 40 percent in annual energy costs, or $26.71 per fixture per year. Also, compared with T12s, colors seen in the T8s’ light will look truer longer. The new bulbs have light more like daylight, so colors appear more natural and images sharper. After 10,000 hours, T8 lamps are still running at 95-percent light output, unlike T12s, which are at only 85 percent. T8s also last up to 24,000 hours versus 20,000 hours for T12s. In addition, the light bulbs are easier to dispose of than the T12 bulbs and have less impact on the environment.“It is encouraging to know that our facilities are purchasing better products when making upgrades,” said Matt Dickens, the county’s new water and energy conservation officer. Dickens calculates that the county saved $6,092 by recycling the old fixtures and bulbs. “The more efficient bulbs and fixtures will save the county more than $600 in electrical costs annually,” he said. “This approach could establish precedence that suggests we make better buys when our existing items need to be changed. Regardless, it's pretty cool now that my office is brighter, and comforting to know that we are using less energy.”