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Out With the Old, In With the New: New Hampshire Town to Upgrade Lighting

June 17, 2010 - 3:09pm

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Newfields, New Hampshire's town hall has a lot of old-time charm worth keeping, with its steeple, rusted-red brick and chimney stacks, but the town lights are ready for a makeover.

"Obviously, they don't have gas lamps from the 1800s," jokes Clay Mitchell, Newfields' town planner.  "But the lights are old. In the town hall meeting room, they are awful. They are big, fat and hum when you turn them on." 

Now, with a $2,000 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) from the U.S. Department of Energy and New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning and also a $3,300 electric use rebate from the local utility company, the town will switch out 98 lights with energy-efficient T-5 and T-8 lights in the town hall and fire station.  Exit signs in the town hall will be replaced with light-emitting diodes.

Originally built in the 1800s and early 1900s, the town hall and fire station, respectively, have never received lighting upgrades.

The town spends about $40,000 on energy every year and will save about $1,700 and 11,000 kWh per year, according to Mitchell, who works six hours a week for the town of only 2,000 people. The payback for upgrades to the town hall and fire station is just two years.

"It seems like a small amount, but this is a small town and that amount of money has a tremendous impact," he says.

But the economic benefits are not the only reason to make the switch.

"It is also critical that the most public buildings have these kinds of lights upgraded and very much on display," Mitchell says. "We intend to make it real public outreach event, so that [residents of the town] can go back and look at their own houses and create energy savings solutions."  

An energy audit found that the town hall and the fire station consumed the most electricity in town. The town's only other municipal building, the library, is occupied just a few hours a week, and is not a priority for energy efficient improvements, Mitchell says.

"After the successful grant application, the town has decided to schedule an additional energy audit for the town hall to look at insulation, windows and the HVAC system," says Mitchell. "The process of applying for the EECBG program has inspired this next step."

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