2012 LED Light Bulb Discounts for Houston-Area Residents

LED light bulb subsidies in Houston

If you’re a residential electricity customer who lives in the Houston, Texas area, you have a few choices when it comes to the type of light bulb you can buy. You can get the standard incandescent bulb or you can shop for energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), halogen bulbs or ultra-efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs). People buy incandescent bulbs, CFLs and halogen bulbs all the time, but not as many folks invest in LEDs because of their cost.

However, thanks to a money-saving program by Houston–area electricity utility CenterPoint Energy that’s been carried over to 2012, you can actually save some real money off ENERGY STAR–certified LED light bulbs.

The program offers discounts on a variety of LEDs at all Houston–area Home Depot, Lowe's, Sam's Clubs and Costco stores. The great thing is that you won’t get some sort of rebate card or check in the mail. The discount is built in and applied right at the register. (Although the utility’s website still lists information for the 2011 program, we’ve confirmed with them that the 2012 program is, in fact, underway.)

What are the benefits of LEDs?

LEDs, compared with incandescent bulbs, use 80 percent less energy, last 15 times longer, and save $50 in electricity costs over the life of a single bulb. Installing just one LED can save you from $5 to $11 a year in electricity costs. Installing five LEDs can save you $250 over their lifetime.

Which LEDs are part of the discount program?

There are several distinct types of LEDs that qualify for discounts under CenterPoint’s program:

A-line LEDs look most like normal incandescent bulbs and are used to replace typical 40W to 100W incandescent bulbs in cases where the bulb is visible or has a downward-facing socket.

7W decorative LEDs are used for decorative lighting fixtures, such as chandeliers.

Globe LEDs are meant to replace 40W to 60W incandescent globe bulbs in cases where the bulb is visible, like above or around a bathroom vanity mirror, and in downward-facing sockets.

MR16 LEDs replace 20W halogen bulbs, which are typically used for task lighting in things like desk lamps.

PAR38 flood LEDs are used to replace 90W to 120W outdoor floodlights and work equally well with motion sensors or photo cells.

R30 flood LEDs are perfect for replacing 65W to 90W R lamps used in recessed cans.

R40 flood LEDs are for stronger 65 W to 120W R lamps in recessed cans and are great for providing bright lights in bathrooms.

How Do I Shop for LEDs?

Since LEDs use fewer watts than incandescent bulbs — which is why they’re so efficient in the first place — you can’t look to replace your 40W incandescent bulb with a 40W LED. In fact, they don’t even make 40W LEDs. Instead, incandescent bulbs and LEDs are compared by lumens, or the amount of light they produce, rather than watts, or the amount of electricity they use (more on watts vs. lumens here). Here’s a chart to help you compare watts between incandescent bulbs and LEDs:

Incandescent BulbLED Equivalent












CenterPoint Energy, “Advanced Lighting Program — Residential.”

CenterPoint Energy, “Make Your Mark with ENERGY STAR LEDs.”

How Illinois Residents Can Get Low-Interest Energy Efficiency Loans

Monday March 26, 2012
Posted at 10:52

There’s a lot of talk these days about saving money off utility bills by making simple, energy-efficient improvements around your home and changing the way you do certain things. Upgrading to CFL light bulbs or setting back your thermostat when you’re not home can be good first steps to cut energy costs, but some energy efficiency improvements, such as upgrading to an energy-efficient furnace or installing high-efficiency windows, can carry significant price tags.

While some expensive improvements may be worth it in the long run, the upfront costs might be too high for many Illinois residents. But since the benefits of energy efficiency include everything from lower utility bills to less pollution to less strain on the electric grid, it’s important that financing be available for homeowners who need it. To help Illinois homeowners, Energy Impact Illinois (EI2), an organization led by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), has partnered with several local banks and credit unions to make sure homeowners can get low-interest energy efficiency loans.

Which Energy Efficiency Improvements Qualify?

There are two main categories of energy efficiency improvements that qualify for EI2’s low-interest loan program:

Boiler or furnace with additional items

Illinois homeowners who upgrade their boilers or furnaces are eligible for low-interest energy efficiency loans. Homeowners are also eligible for low-interest loans to finance water heaters, programmable thermostats, central air conditioners and other ENERGY STAR appliances and equipment as long as the upgrades are done in conjunction with boiler or furnace upgrades. Improvements must be installed by participating heating and cooling contractors.

Whole home improvements

Illinois homeowners are also eligible for low-interest energy efficiency loans to cover whole home improvements, which are considered to be any recommendation by a certified energy auditor that results in an estimated comprehensive energy savings of 15 percent or more. Improvements must be installed by participating energy upgrade contractors.

Who Are the Participating Lenders and What Are the Loan Terms?

EI2 has partnered with Green Choice Bank, Members Alliance Credit Union and North Side Community Credit Union to offer the low-interest energy efficiency loans. All of the institutions offer unsecured loans with minimal paperwork and quick approvals. Each institution has its own loan terms. In some cases, the institutions will offer secured loans for amounts exceeding their stated maximums for unsecured loans.

Green Choice Bank serves homeowners in the seven county Chicago region. Loan amounts range from $2,500 to $10,000 with a maximum repayment term of 7 years. Home equity loans are available for more expensive energy efficiency projects.

For more information, call 773.799.9400 or visit www.greenchoicebank.com.

Members Alliance Credit Union offers low-interest energy efficiency loans to homeowners who live or work in the City of Rockford. The minimum loan amount is $500. The maximum loan amount is subject to the borrower’s ability to repay. The maximum repayment term is 5 years. Eligible members must be existing or new Members Alliance Credit Union members that meet certain income and financial requirements.

For more information, call Pat Smith at 815.226.3278 or visit www.membersalliance.org.

North Side Community Federal Credit Union offers low-interest energy efficiency loans to existing or new members who live, work or worship in the Chicago neighborhoods of Uptown, Edgewater, Lakeview or Rogers Park. Loans are offered up to $6,500 with a maximum repayment term of 5 years. Eligible members must meet certain income and financial requirements.

For more information, call Jennifer Sierecki at 773.769.5800, extension 227, or visit www.northsidecommunityfcu.org.

For More Information

For basic loan details or for information on the EI2 low-interest energy efficiency loan program, call EI2 at 855.9.IMPACT (855.946.7228).

EI2’s list of participating heating and cooling contractors.

EI2’s list of participating whole home contractors.


Energy Impact Illinois, “Energy Impact Low Interest Loans.”

BGE Offers Refrigerator Recycling for Residential Electricity Customers

Maryland refrigerator recycling

If you’re a residential electricity customer of Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) and you have an old refrigerator or freezer you’re thinking about ditching, the utility has an offer that just might help you make your decision.

BGE, through its Smart Energy Savers Program, is willing to swing by your home, pick up your unwanted refrigerator or freezer, recycle it, and give you $50 for your trouble.

According to the utility, more than 95 percent of each refrigerator and freezer is recycled by the program, which means that less than 5 percent of each appliance makes its way into a landfill. Plus, BGE says that you can cut your annual energy use by about $100 if you get rid of that second refrigerator or freezer in your garage or basement.

If you’re interested in taking advantage of BGE’s refrigerator and freezer recycling program, here are a few things you should know:

  • Regardless of whether you buy your electricity from BGE or an alternative Baltimore electricity supplier like Spark Energy, BGE must be the company that delivers your electricity and you must have a valid BGE account number
  • You must own the refrigerator or freezer
  • Appliances must have a capacity of between 10 and 27 cubic feet
  • The appliance must work
  • The appliance will be picked up at the address listed on your BGE billing account for no charge
  • You can have up to two appliances recycled through the program
  • You’ll get a check for $50 for each appliance recycled; checks will be mailed to your billing account address within four weeks of the time your appliance is picked up

To recycle a refrigerator or freezer through BGE’s Smart Energy Savers Program, you can call the utility at 866.898.1901 to schedule a pickup.


Refrigerator and Freezer Recycling, BGE Smart Energy Savers Program.

Illinois Public Facilities Get Help With Energy-Efficient Lighting Upgrades


Public facilities in Illinois are eligible for financial incentives that can help them upgrade to more energy-efficient lighting prior to a planned phase out of certain types of commercial fluorescent lamps beginning in 2012.

The state’s Illinois Energy Now (IEN) program is run by the State Energy Office of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). It offers incentives for lighting upgrades to local, state and federal government facilities, public schools, community colleges, public colleges and universities that can help the facilities decrease energy costs. The incentives are available to government customers served by Ameren Illinois and ComEd.

“By offering incentives to make lighting upgrades more affordable, we are helping to ensure our public facilities can spend more resources on direct service instead of keeping the lights on,” said DCEO Director Warren Ribley.

The incentives help offset costs associated with the planned phase out of older, less efficient T12 fluorescent lamps, which will be replaced with more efficient T8 and T5 fluorescent lamps. The fate of T12 lamps was sealed by a 2010 U.S. Department of Energy mandate that requires the phase out of magnetic ballasts used in the operation of T12 lamps. The older lamps will be out of production by July 2012.

According to Illinois Energy Now, the new T8 and T5 lamps will bring immediate energy savings of up to 50 percent in addition to improved lighting performance and simpler maintenance. The incentives, which are provided as grants or rebates, help cover the costs of changing or retrofitting lighting systems, including lamps and fixtures.

The types of public facilities that are considered to be highest priorities for the IEN lighting upgrade program include those with older lighting systems still in place, those with the highest energy costs and those with lighting systems that stay on continuously, referred to as uncontrolled lighting, as opposed to newer systems that are controlled with motion sensors.

The DCEO, with its partners, including SEDAC (Smart Energy Design Assistance Center) and the Trade Ally Network, will provide resources and technical assistance to help determine the right course of action when it comes to planning energy-efficient lighting improvements at existing facilities or enhancing the design of new facilities.

More Information on the Public Facilities Lighting Upgrade Program

To learn more about the Illinois Energy Now lighting upgrade incentives, visit www.illinoisenergy.org.

For more information about the T12 lamp phase out, visit www.connexiones.com/t12-phase-out.

The incentive program has specific contacts for the incentive program based on public facility type:


State Offers Program for Public Facilities to Upgrade Lighting,” East Peoria Times-Courier, Dec. 20, 2011.

Illinois Department of Commerce and Opportunity, Illinois Energy Office, “Office of Energy and Recycling Programs November 2010.”

ComEd Customers Qualify for Rebate Off Energy-Efficient Clothes Washers

Friday February 24, 2012
Posted at 09:43

If you live in Illinois and ComEd delivers electricity to your home, then you qualify for a rebate that will save you a few bucks off a new, energy-efficient clothes washer which can help you save money off your utility bills every month.

ComEd is giving residential electricity customers a $75 rebate off the sticker price of qualifying ENERGY STAR–certified clothes washers at participating Chicagoland stores. Qualifying models will display the ComEd Smart Ideas sticker.

Upgrading to an energy-efficient clothes washer can help reduce the amount of water, electricity and natural gas you use each month. In fact, ENERGY STAR–certified clothes washers use about 37 percent less energy and about 50 percent less water. That adds up to significant savings, since the average U.S. family washes almost 300 loads of laundry per year.

If you’re not in the market for a new, energy-efficient clothes washer, there are still a few things you can do to cut costs when washing clothes.


Energy Impact Illinois, “ComEd Clothes Washer Rebate.”

ENERGY STAR, “Clothes Washers.”

How Illinois Residents Can Save Money on Energy-Efficient Lighting Upgrades

Tuesday February 14, 2012
Posted at 12:14


If you live in Illinois and your electricity is delivered to your home by ComEd, you can get some really good deals on upgrading your lighting from traditional incandescent light bulbs to energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).

ComEd is giving price breaks on ENERGY STAR-qualified CFL blubs at retail stores throughout the electric utility’s service area. The great thing about CFL bulbs is that they use about 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs while lasting about 10 times longer. According to ComEd, that means the average CFL replacement for a 100 watt incandescent bulb can save a homeowner up to $71 over the life of the bulb.

Just remember, when you’re shopping for CFL replacement bulbs, make sure you shop by lumens (a bulb’s brightness) instead of watts (the amount of energy used by a bulb), since there’s a big difference in the amount of watts incandescent and CFL bulbs use.

You don’t have to do anything to earn price breaks on CFLs because the utility is providing instant shelf discounts. But there is a 12-bulb limit and a 6-fixture limit per purchase per customer.


Commonwealth Edison Co., “Light Your Way to Energy Savings.”

Illinois Matching Grants Help Schools Become More Energy Efficient

Monday February 13, 2012
Posted at 10:33

Illinois school districts, charter schools, vocational centers and public university laboratory schools are now eligible for grants through the state’s education board that can help schools implement money-saving energy efficiency projects.

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Energy Efficiency Grants program will provide state matching grants on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to $250,000 for approved energy efficiency improvements at eligible schools. Eligible energy efficiency improvements include insulation, windows, doors, energy controls, lighting, energy recovery, energy conservation, alternative energy systems and other projects undertaken to reduce energy consumption.

Eligible schools must receive electricity delivery from ComEd or Ameren Illinois to qualify for ISBE Energy Efficiency Grants. Applications for the grants must be for eligible equipment purchased or installed between June 1, 2011 and May 31, 2012.

For more information, including application instructions and eligibility requirements, schools can review the DCEO 2011–2012 Public Sector Energy Efficiency Guidelines or contact Kimberly Beachy (School Business Services Division) at 217.785.8779 or Agnes Mrozowski (DCEO) at 217.524.0933.


Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, “Energy Efficiency.”

How to Recycle Your Old Fridge With ComEd’s Appliance Energy Efficiency Program

Tuesday February 7, 2012
Posted at 11:39


Nothing quite says wasting energy and money like that old refrigerator sitting in your garage that spins the dial on your electricity meter just to cool a few sodas or preserve that rack of ribs from last summer. Thankfully, if you get electricity delivery service from ComEd, the utility will help you recycle that old clunker and cut energy costs, too.

Under ComEd’s appliance energy efficiency program, the utility will swing by, pick up your old working refrigerator or freezer and recycle it in an environmentally responsible way. The best part? Not only will ComEd pick up and recycle up to two refrigerators for free, they could pay you for each one.* You’ll finally be able to dump that old energy hog and save up to $150 a year on electricity costs without having to lift a finger.

Here are a few things you’ll need to know to participate in the program:

  • You must receive residential electricity delivery from ComEd
  • Refrigerators and freezers must be between 10 cubic feet and 30 cubic feet in size and must be empty, defrosted and working when they’re picked up
  • Appliances must have a clear and accessible path of removal
  • Removal personnel won’t risk injury, remove personal effects or modify your home in any way (such as removing doors or railings) to remove an appliance

Just follow these simple guidelines and recycling that old refrigerator or freezer will be a breeze. To schedule your pickup, call 888.806.2273 between 7 a.m.–8 p.m. Monday–Friday and 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturday.

* Visit the link below for details.


Environment Illinois, “ComEd Energy Efficiency Programs.”

U.S. Colleges Are Taking Charge of Energy Production and Costs by Going Solar

Friday January 13, 2012
Posted at 10:48


Colleges and universities in the United States are managing their energy production while working to save money on monthly utility costs and decrease their carbon footprints by dramatically accelerating their adoption of solar power.

According to data released by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), U.S. schools have increased their installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity by 450 percent over the last three years. AASHE said that over the same period, the median size of the average solar installation project at U.S. schools increased six-fold.

The organization said that, as a result, solar installations at U.S. colleges and universities make up over 124 megawatts, or roughly 5 percent, of the total U.S. solar PV production of 956 megawatts. There are now 435 solar PV installations on 281 campuses in 42 states and provinces.

AASHE cited the University of San Diego and Butte College in California as two examples of the trend towards adopting solar power in higher education.

In 2010, the University of San Diego took advantage of federal and state incentives to install 5,000 solar panels on the roofs of 11 campus buildings with little upfront cost. The solar panels, which have a capacity of 1.23 megawatts and provide up to 15 percent of the campus’ electricity, are owned by a developer who sells the electricity they produce back to the university below market rates. Overall, the installations are estimated to save USD about $50,000 a year in utility costs.

When Butte College completed its third solar array earlier this year, it achieved the distinction of being the first institution in the United States to generate more electricity from solar than it uses. Although the college paid about $17 million — minus federal bonds and utility rebates — to install the 14,000 solar panels on parking and walkway canopies, the third installation produces 2.7 megawatts of electricity. Two previous solar PV installations on campus provide an additional combined 1.916 megawatts of electricity.

AASHE attributed the growth of the higher education solar sector, which is now worth over $300 million, to new financing options, federal and state incentives, and falling average installed per-watt solar costs — which, in the higher education sector, fell from about $10 in 2007 to about $6 in 2010.

Top 10 Biggest Solar PV Systems on U.S. Campuses

Here are the ten U.S. colleges and university campuses with the most total installed solar PV capacity, according to AASHE.

RankInstitutionTotal Capacity (megawatts)


Arizona State University



University of Arizona



West Hills Community College District



United States Air Force Academy



Colorado State University



Arizona Western College



Butte College



Los Angeles Southwest College



William Paterson University of New Jersey



Contra Costa College



U.S. Universities Are Going Solar,” Energy Efficiency News, Oct. 17, 2011.

U.S. Higher Education Solar Capacity Leaps 450 percent in 3 Years,” Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, Oct. 6, 2011.

Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, “Campus Solar Voltaic Installations Database.”

Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, “Solar Photovoltaic Installation @ University of San Diego.”

Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, “Solar Photovoltaic Installation @ Butte College.”

Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, “Top Ten Solar Photovoltaic Installations Lists.”

Energy-Efficiency Rebates and Services in Connecticut

If you’re a Connecticut electric customer and have your electricity delivered by Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P), you can take advantage of several energy-efficiency rebates and energy-efficiency services that are designed to help you save money off monthly electric bills.

All residential and commercial electric customers in the utility’s service territory are eligible for the energy-saving programs, even if they buy their electricity from an alternative supplier such as Spark Energy.

All programs are supported by the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund and administered by CL&P unless otherwise noted.

Home Energy Solutions program

Under the Home Energy Solutions (HES) program, a specialist will perform an energy assessment of your home, whether you rent or own, and provide information on ways you can lower your energy bills. HES specialists often look at how your home is sealed against air leaks, how your appliances use energy and how efficient your lighting is. There are three HES programs, including a basic and advanced energy assessment, and an assessment for low-income households.

Quality Installation and Verification program

Not every air conditioner, heat pump or furnace has been installed correctly. In fact, ENERGY STAR estimates that more than half of all HVAC systems suffer from poor performance due to installation issues. The Quality Installation and Verification (QIV) program ensures that your HVAC equipment is installed for the best performance and reliability, which can lead to lower energy bills, increased reliability, longer equipment life, improved indoor air quality and improved comfort.

ENERGY STAR–qualified retail products

Electric customers are eligible for rebates on ENERGY STAR–qualified lighting products and appliances through the utility’s ENERGY STAR Retail Products programs. The programs provide retail incentives and markdowns, which are offered on “marked” products in stores that have already been discounted. Products include lighting fixtures, CFL and LED light bulbs, clothes washers, dehumidifiers, dishwashers, refrigerators/freezers and air conditioners.

Residential new home construction rebates

When building a new home, utility customers can take advantage of the Residential New Home Construction Program. The utility will provide a program manager to help you through the application process and ensure that you receive all your eligible program benefits. Eligibility requirements for the programs mandate that a new construction incentive application must be submitted before a home is insulated.

Multi-family properties

The multi-family program helps owners of new constructions or existing buildings that house multiple tenants participate in various energy-efficiency rebate and services programs offered by utilities. Buildings are considered multi-family if they have more than three connected units, mixed use within the same building, or if they fall under the control of a property manager, association or housing authority. Examples of eligible buildings include apartment complexes, dorms and assisted living facilities.

High efficiency HVAC system rebate

CL&P offers a $250 cash rebate for qualifying energy-efficient central air conditioning systems or heat pump systems. Qualifying systems must be installed by March 1, 2012 and may garner additional incentives by participating in the QIV program.

Heat pump water heater rebate

You may be eligible for a $400 cash rebate if you replace your old, inefficient electric water heater with an efficient heat pump water heater. Qualifying systems must be ENERGY STAR-qualified with an Energy Factor of 2.0 or greater and must be installed before December 31, 2011.

Ductless heat pumps and geothermal systems

Utility customers who are heating their homes with electric baseboards or wall heaters, or who are building new homes and want a better way to control the temperature, can benefit from noticeable energy savings by installing energy-efficient ductless heat pump systems or geothermal systems. Systems are eligible for substantial rebates from CL&P in additional to significant federal tax credits.

Solar photovoltaic systems

Residential, nonprofit and governmental utility customers interested in installing solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in their homes or buildings are eligible for rebates from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund (now part of the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority) that cover a percentage of installation and equipment costs. Rebates are offered through designated participating solar PV installers.

Midnight turn-off option for street lights

If you have streetlights on your property, owned either by you or CL&P, you may receive a rebate from the utility if you agree to install a programmable photocell that will ensure the street lights operate only between dusk and midnight.

For more information about energy-efficiency rebates and service programs for CL&P customers, visit the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund at www.CTEnergyInfo.com, the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund at www.ctcleanenergy.com or call 877-WISE-USE (877-947-3873).


Connecticut Light & Power, “Home Services and Rebates.”

Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund

Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority