262 Tractor Trailers

28 December 2006

In the early 1980’s I spent some time heading up a firm that developed computer-generated energy management models for commercial buildings. We modeled a facility using software that dealt with three primary aspects of building operation: architecture, mechanical equipment and electrical equipment.

Architectural issues included the orientation of a building, how the windows were installed and maintained and what type of energy-conserving techniques were employed at the windows and doors. Mechanical issues included plumbing and HVAC demands for energy, but also the additional HVAC demands that might be required due to excessive electricity use for lights. Finally, we looked at both the demand and consumption that the building presented as an electrical load.

Our models provided detailed payback analyses for each retrofit that might be introduced to the facility. In those years our lighting retrofits often resulted in substantial savings, but required some compromises to the aesthetics of the occupied space.

Now, Charles Fishman, author of The Wal-Mart Effect" and editor of Fast Company magazine, has written How Many Lightbulbs Does it Take to Change the World? One. And You’re Looking At It.. It’s an excellent introduction to the energy (and dollar) savings that result from changing light bulbs. It also explains the current state of the technology, and how compromises in performance have been overcome.

If you’re interested in technology, the article is worthwhile. Here’s a point that caught my eye:

How much is 100 million bulbs? It’s 25 million classic GE four-packs. That many boxes of bulbs would fill 262 Wal-Mart tractor trailers, a ghost convoy of Wal-Mart trucks, loaded with nothing but lightbulbs, stretching 3.5 miles—a convoy that will never roll. Every year for six years—just from one bulb, this year. Not to mention the line of garbage trucks necessary to cart 100 million burned-out incandescent bulbs to the landfill.

You see—it’s one thing to save on your own electricity bill—but, it’s quite another to accrue the kinds of ancillary savings that keep on giving for years. With 262 fewer trucks on the highway, imagine how much more pleasant your next road trip might be!

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