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Published: 7/28/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Energy-saving bulbs available at bargain rates

2 retailers offer the spiral lights as part of drive

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
The Andersons and Dollar Tree are aiding a First Energy campaign, paid for by First Energy customers, to distribute the bulbs. The Andersons and Dollar Tree are aiding a First Energy campaign, paid for by First Energy customers, to distribute the bulbs.
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People seeking to save money by using energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs can now get up to six of the curly-shaped bulbs for just 50 cents each at two local retailers.

But if you're a Toledo Edison customer, it's only fair to tell you that you're already paying for them on your electric bill.

Under a plan approved in March by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, FirstEnergy Corp., which owns Toledo Edison, was granted permission to collect $54 -- or about $1.50 per month -- over a three-year period from each customer to pay for several energy-efficiency programs sponsored by the utility.

One of those programs is the distribution of nearly 3.75 million compact fluorescent light bulbs to FirstEnergy customers throughout its northern Ohio operating territories. Customers are being charged 30 cents of the $1.50 per month charge to pay for the light bulb program.

From March until Wednesday, the utility's customers could call a toll-free number and have up to six compact fluorescent bulbs mailed to them at no cost. About 1.7 million were supplied to customers that way.

However, under the PUCO plan the utility was able to distribute the remainder of the light bulbs to retailers in Ohio who are allowed to charge 50 cents per bulb.

Jim Jones of Maumee shops for bulbs at The Andersons.  His son Parker, 11, accompanies him. Jim Jones of Maumee shops for bulbs at The Andersons. His son Parker, 11, accompanies him.
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In the Toledo area, The Andersons' general stores and its Andersons Market in Sylvania are selling the bulbs, as are the area's 12 Dollar Tree stores.

"What we did as part of the process to get them out to customers is we made them available for some retailers. The idea was that they would sell the bulbs for 50 cents apiece and get them into the customers' hands and let them start saving money on electricity right away," said Mark Durbin, a FirstEnergy spokesman.

The PUCO estimates that the average residential customer who installs six CFLs can save an estimated $49.25 annually, or almost $150 over a three-year period.

Mr. Durbin said about 240,000 bulbs were allotted to The Andersons and about 14,000 to Dollar Tree stores.

The rest were given to retailers in northeastern Ohio, including Goodwill stores, Marc's stores, and Drug Mart stores.

Rick Swank, retail purchasing manager for The Andersons, said, "We've got literally truckloads of them, but it is definitely a limited number. Once they are gone, that is it."

Thus far, sales of the light bulbs -- in packs of two bulbs for $1 -- have been swift.

"The rate of sales has been phenomenal. The value is exceptional. The average household that has six of these can save $50 a year on their light bill," Mr. Swank said.

FirstEnergy's bulb program was first proposed in late 2009 but immediately drew a firestorm of criticism. Customers and politicians denounced the utility's initial proposal to distribute two of the fluorescent light bulbs to each customer -- and charge $21.60 over a three-year period -- in a mandatory program. That plan was changed.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.



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