Local Towns Compete in Light Bulb Upgrades

Andover and North Andover are turning fluorescent lights on and incandescent lights off. The towns are competing to see which can be the first to pledge to switch 1000 incandescent light bulbs to energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs. The League of Women Voters (LWV) sponsors the Change-a-Light Competition locally, but the competition has also spread nationwide, sponsored by Energy Star. Compact fluorescent light bulbs use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last six to 10 times longer, according to the Energy Star website. Charissa Rigano, an Andover resident and member of the LWV, believes that it is important to switch from energy-inefficient light bulbs to energy-efficient light bulbs such as CFLs, because it is important for everyone to try to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Over the past few years, the United States and other countries around the world have been growing more and more concerned with the issue of depleting fossil fuels. By switching to CFLs, these towns will be able to burn less fuel for the same amount of light. As to why the LWV decided to sponsor this challenge, Rigano said, “[The LWV] knows everyone likes a little competition.” The mayors of Andover and North Andover are both very interested in saving energy, she added, and although there is no official prize, she believes that leaders in both towns want to win. The competition, which began about a year ago, has been extended twice because there has not been as much participation as was originally expected. Andover currently has 408 pledges, and North Andover has 543. Rigano said that North Andover is behind mainly due to lack of awareness that the competition is taking place. There have also been some concerns related to the mercury content in CFLs. Energy Star’s website reports that CFLs do contain mercury, but only about five milligrams, about enough to “cover the tip of a ballpoint pen.” While the bulbs are in use and not broken, no mercury is released from the bulb. The mercury is an essential component in making the light bulb efficient. Rigano said that when handled correctly, the mercury within these light bulbs is not dangerous at all, although there are certain precautions that need to be taken. In a letter to the editor of the Andover Townsman, dated July 26, 2007, Rigano outlines the steps individuals should take when a CFL does break. These include opening windows in the room and leaving for 15 minutes. This is followed by simply cleaning the affected area: picking up the pieces and wiping the floor. The broken pieces can then be taken to a Household Hazardous Waste Collection Site or brought to Rocky’s ACE Hardware in North Andover. Students at Phillips Academy are eligible and encouraged to compete in the competition as it will help reduce the use of fossil fuels and put Andover ahead in the race.