Light exchange brightens holiday, saves moneyDebbie Griffin photo River Falls Municipal Utilities had on hand 800 strands of light-emitting diode (LED) holiday lights for its offer of trading customers two strands of energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) lights for two strands of old, incandescent-type holiday lights. The utility reported that as of late afternoon Monday, Nov. 29 -- two days into the promotion -- it had traded about 600 strands of lights. Here utility employees stand with the many boxes of old lights that will be recycled.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
River Falls Municipal Utilities had on hand 800 strands of light-emitting diode (LED) holiday lights for its offer of trading customers two strands of energy efficient light-emitting diode (LED) lights for two strands of old, incandescent-type holiday lights. The utility reported that as of late afternoon Monday -- two days into the promotion -- it had traded about 600 strands of lights.
The exchange happens at the utilities office inside City Hall Monday through Friday, Nov. 29 to Dec. 3, on Monday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Tuesday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. while supplies last.
The utility promotes use of LED lights because they save energy -- costing up to 90% less to run than traditional, incandescent lights. The LED bulbs also remain cool, whereas incandescent ones generate heat.
Utility employee Chris Blasius said the LED lights came into the market about five years ago. They shine more brightly and last 100 times longer than the old style.
Blasius said, “They’re almost indestructible.”
She said RFMU customers can exchange old-for-new lights while supplies last. The utilities can verify at the office that people are customers, but Blasius said it would be helpful for light swappers to bring a River Falls a utilities bill with them.
“In order to get the free lights,” she said, “you have to recycle two (strands) at City Hall.”
So how can a person tell which kind of lights they have? Most folks have a big, tangled bundle of them and don’t remember when or where they bought them.
Blasius said, “You can tell the difference by looking at them.”
Partly as an educational display, the utilities set up two Christmas trees at City Hall; one has LED lights and the other has incandescent lights. Passersby will be able to see the trees through a big window in City Hall; they face downtown and Maple Street.
Blasius said it will be obvious which one has the LED lights.
She said most LEDs have a hard plastic bulb cover, while the incandescent ones have a glass bulb. A person can usually see the element wire inside an old-style bulb but not in an LED one.
Another way for people to tell “for sure” what kind of lights they have, says Blasius, is to borrow a kilowatt meter at the public library. The meter will show higher consumption on the incandescent kind than the LED kind.
Visitors to City Hall can see the difference since its two trees will each be attached to a kilowatt meter.
Blasius confirms that incandescent lights are still available and are less expensive than LEDs; but, she says the LEDs make up for the cost difference in energy savings. In participating retail stores, shoppers may find an automatic $2 rebate on LED lights, made possible through Energy Star.
Out with old
Along with the light exchange, the utilities partnered with the Recycling Association of Minnesota and others to bring River Falls the second annual Recycle Your Holidays program.
It enables people to bring their old lights for recycling to one of four places in River Falls: Ace Hardware, 1163 N. Main St.; Lund’s Hardware, 201 S. Main St.; River Falls High School, 818 Cemetery Road; and City Hall, 222 Lewis St.
People can recycle as many strands of lights as they want and don’t have to be a utilities customer to drop off lights.
Blasius said the receptacles have been out since Nov. 15, America Recycles Day, and will remain out until Jan. 15.
She said the lights go to a recycling company that disassembles them in order to recycle the individual components such as plastic, copper, glass, etc. RFMU Conservation and Efficiency Coordinator Mike Noreen said another good aspect about the recycling operation is that it employs developmentally disabled people.
Noreen said, “RFMU is very excited to participate in this program. It covers so many bases, from kilowatt reduction to recycling to local employment. We see this program as an opportunity to transform the holiday lighting in River Falls from incandescent to LED…By participating, people will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, keep materials out of the landfill by recycling and give adults with disabilities an opportunity to earn money.”
Learn more about the utilities and/or the light exchange online at