Fairgoers who wander into the new State Fair Eco-Experience exhibits will be the first recruited to join the Minnesota Energy Challenge. But organizers hope all Minnesotans will accept the challenge when the campaign goes statewide in a few weeks.
"Everybody can do lightbulbs. They're easy to do. Everybody can do them. It's sort of a no-brainer," says Sheldon Strom, Executive Director of the Center for Energy and Environment - the group sponsoring the challenge.
Strom says it's not only simple to upgrade lightbulbs, it's surprisingly cost effective.
"An incandescent light essentially wastes 95-percent of the energy that goes into it. Only 5-percent of it or 6-percent of it is useful light. Almost all of it is heat and very little of it is light," he says.
In contrast he says compact fluorescents use only about a quarter as much energy.
"They last much longer, they last seven to 10 years. Over the term of their life they save a lot of money, $30 to $50 per bulb," he says.
That sounds appealing to Selma Steiner. She didn't know anything about CFLs before she stopped by the Minnesota Energy Challenge booth to chat with a volunteer.
"Do they fit in every socket? For the most part, yep. They have the same base as an incandescent. Do they have different wattages? Yep. They're all different wattages."
It didn't take much to convince Steiner. After learning that the bulbs cost as little as $2 to $3 a piece, she agreed she would give them a try. "It really is wonderful to save that much energy because we're gonna be short of energy pretty soon. I'm very impressed with them," she says.
A few feet away, Terry Conard, is checking out an information board on CFLs. Conard recently bought four of the bulbs. But he's not sure he bought the right wattage for his reading lamp.
"I'm kind of having trouble adjusting to the light because they seem to put out less light," he says.
Still Conard says he's willing to purchase more bulbs even though he isn't sure they're saving him any money yet.
"They cost a little more than the regular light bulb. But in the long-run they say they will pay for themselves. So I think it's a good idea."
Fairgoer Chris Lenius has already changed out almost all of the light bulbs in his house to CFLs. He stopped by the booth to find out why his CFL bulbs vary so much in color.
"It doesn't make much difference to me, but my wife still likes the incandescent light quality better. And you can see here there's a big range of colors that I didn't really know about until I started buying different bulbs from different places and just noticed that they didn't match as well as I assumed they would," he says.
"That's really the problem. I think people are willing to do it. But they've had experience five or six years ago with poor quality lights," says Sheldon Strom. He says just like incandescent light bulbs, there is significant variation among CFLs in terms of light output and color rendition. He says the more people learn to look for these difference before they buy the bulbs, they more satisfied they'll be.
"That's why we think it's important that there be these displays so people really know how to make these informed choices, because it does seem a little complicated." Strom says ultimately the goal of the Minnesota Energy Challenge is to reduce energy use in Minnesota by 2-percent. That's the current rate of energy growth each year. Strom says Minnesotans probably won't be able to get there by just changing lightbulbs, but he says if Minnesotans are able to conserve that much energy through a variety of ways the state wouldn't have to build any more power plants.
On October 1st the Minnesota Energy Challenge will unveil a Web site with many more suggestions on how Minnesotans can reduce energy use. The Web site will keep a running tally on how much energy and money Minnesotans are saving by participating in the challenge.