Seattle City Light plans door-to-door light-bulb installation

Seattle City Light just announced a new program to get compact fluorescent light bulbs into more homes: They’re going door-to-door in parts of West and South Seattle — and after initial notification, they will offer installation on the spot. According to City Light’s news release, this will include city residents in the 98126 and 98106 zip codes (and a few other non-West Seattle zips) – read on to see what the program’s about:

Seattle City Light offers many incentives for residents to conserve energy and cut their electricity bills. Until now those programs – including the popular “Twist and Save” discounts on compact fluorescent light bulbs – have depended upon homeowners to install the energy efficient upgrades.

But a pilot program in South Seattle announced by City Light today will cross the threshold of customer homes to install hundreds of thousands of free compact fluorescent light bulbs for thousands of seniors, low-income residents and non-English speaking households.

“By taking this next step into people’s homes, we hope to make it as easy as possible for them to cut their energy consumption and their electricity bills,” City Light Conservation Resources Director Bob Balzar said.

Installations will be done by people recruited and trained from the target communities and participants in the AmeriCorps program.

All installers will display identification. Installers will have to pass a criminal background check and drug screening. To the extent possible all hires will be bilingual, speaking one of our target languages in addition to English. They will receive job training to succeed in this project and place them on a path towards other jobs in the energy-efficiency field.

By reaching out to customers directly, with installers and notifiers who are bilingual, City Light hopes to increase participation and better explain energy saving options.

Starting Friday, March 19, outreach for the program will take place in two ways to learn whether one produces better participation.

In some neighborhoods, flyers will advertise the program and residents will have the opportunity to schedule an appointment with an installer. In other areas, notification teams will go door-to-door to let residents know about upcoming installation opportunities. About a week later, installation teams will go door-to-door offering to install free compact fluorescent light bulbs throughout the homes and a smoke detector. Participants also will receive a water-saving showerhead and faucet aerators they can install themselves.

Installations will be provided in the Seattle portions of ZIP codes 98126, 98106, 98134, 98108, 98144, 98118, 98178.

The project is being paid for with $500,000 of federal stimulus package money and about $1.2 million from City Light. The utility estimates the energy savings will amount to about 2.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity each year for every 5,000 homes served. Smoke detectors are being provided by the Washington State Department of Health under a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

City Light hopes to install 300,000 bulbs in 20,000 homes by the end of 2010. If the pilot is successful, the program might be expanded to other neighborhoods.

We’re checking with City Light to see if the bulbs will be offered to everyone in the neighborhoods they canvass, or whether there will be age/income qualifications, since the news release seems to allude to that. We’ll add the answer here when we get it. 2:47 PM: City Light’s Scott Thomsen says yes, the free bulbs/installation will be available to anybody in those zip codes – they are hoping to increase usage among the groups mentioned above but the offer is not limited to them.

19 Replies to "Seattle City Light plans door-to-door light-bulb installation"

  • Sue March 18, 2010 (11:49 am)

    With all our bitching about not wanting door-to-door solicitation, I can’t believe they’re considering this. Even with ID, there’s no way in hell I’d let an alleged City Light employee into my house when they show up unannounced. Now that this has been publicized, what’s to stop some scammer from making up some real-looking ID, carrying some lightbulbs, and getting access to somebody’s house with bad intent?

  • cjboffoli March 18, 2010 (12:39 pm)

    The potential energy savings is a good thing. But people need to remember that you can’t just toss CFL bulbs in the trash when they break or burn out because they contain mercury. Unfortunately, with no easy system in place for the proper collection of the used bulbs I fear that most will end up in landfills anyway. Bartell Drugs, Home Depot and IKEA are just a few places that will accept spent CFL bulbs.

  • mike March 18, 2010 (1:03 pm)

    How will the light bulbs be disposed of when they die? If the people don’t know or aren’t interested in going out of their way to get these lights why would they dispose of them properly. I still have a bunch of dead cfls at my house because I don’t know or I am too lazy to get rid of them properly.

  • Mr.JT March 18, 2010 (1:11 pm)

    How about the fix the streetlights instead ?

  • KBear March 18, 2010 (1:16 pm)

    I would hardly call this “unannounced”, since it is being announced with the above announcement, as well as with flyers. If we’ve reached that level of paranoia, we might as well board up our front doors and not open up for anybody. Free lightbulbs and smoke detectors would be costly incentives for most scammers anyway.

  • Garden_nymph March 18, 2010 (2:16 pm)

    The health department prints information in a variety of languages. I would think a free lightbulb and a multi-language hangtag explaining how to use it would be great but I for one don’t want to open my doors to any stranger (free bulbs or not)! Who doesn’t know how to screw in a lightbulb anyway!? They are used ALL around the world, CFC bulbs may look different, but they are installed the same way. I think the money would be better spent trying to create a better recycling program for them, as mentioned above. How about drop boxes for expired CFC bulbs in the neighborhood utility pay locations?

  • Smitty March 18, 2010 (2:28 pm)

    I’m stocking up on the “old” bulbs as we speak. I plan on having a 20-year supply by the time they are banned.

    I can’t stand flourescent bulbs – they give me a headache. Can’t someone *please* invent one that throws off halfway normal light?

  • Dave March 18, 2010 (2:47 pm)

    Another bright idea for the use of federal (i.e., taxpayer) stimulus package.

  • KBear March 18, 2010 (2:51 pm)

    Smitty, if you can get your hands on one of these free bulbs, I would urge you to try it. The technology has vastly improved since CFLs first came out. It may still take some getting used to, but they’re much better than they used to be. As far as disposing them, I just save them in a box in the basement with other household hazardous items until I make a run to the transfer station. It is very easy to dispose of them there, although a neighborhood collection center would be even more convenient.

  • k2 March 18, 2010 (3:57 pm)

    We really need to stop this, do they have any idea of the EMF exposure that CFL light bulbs create? They’re going to poison the entire city, not to mention people who have sensitivity to the ‘flickering’ of CFL’s.
    I hope the dems pass that healthcare bill, we’ll need it with all the people that will be stricken with disease and chronic problems due to CFL EMF exposure!!!!!!


  • anonyme March 18, 2010 (4:51 pm)

    I agree with Sue that door-to-door solicitation is a HORRIBLE idea, not to mention a total waste of taxpayer money. Let’s do away with health clinics, but invade everyone’s privacy and install CFL’s in every home. Sure these aren’t Census gestapo in disguise?

    One more rant: Arbor Heights is in zip code 98146, and apparently we’ve been left out yet again. This would be fine with me, except that the City of Seattle still treats our neighborhood as if it is unincorporated King County, or part of White Center.

    I am so disgusted with government at every level I could puke.

  • lena March 18, 2010 (5:39 pm)

    As someone who is highly sensitive to and gets sick from being under CFL, this is a horrible idea. It is hard enough finding places that do not have CFLs these days. I know many other people who also can not be around them and there are many studies that show that fluorescent lighting can cause depression, decease ability to think and concentrate, and trigger seizures and migraine headaches.

    If you have animals there have also been many reports of anxiety and sensitivity to the sounds of these bulbs which they an hear but we can not.

  • dsa March 18, 2010 (10:07 pm)

    So if I read this right, the city or it’s assignees will be installing light bulbs in private homes. Honest? Is that where our taxes are being spent?

    Okay then…how many city employees does it take to screw in a light bulb?

  • Andy Silber March 19, 2010 (10:17 am)

    I’m the project manager on this project for Seattle City Light and a West Seattle resident and I’d just like to answer a couple of the concerns voiced here.

    As far as properly disposing of CFLs, it’s not too hard now. In West Seattle we have two Bartells, a Home Depot and a McLendon’s as convenient places to take our CFLs. In the future it will be even easier. The State Legislature passed a bill (SB 5543) that requires manufactures of mercury-containing light bulbs to establish a recycling program. Also, the quantity of mercury in these bulbs is less than would be released into the environment by coal power plant producing the electricity used by an incandescent bulb.

    To the gentleman who lives in 98146, that is outside of the city limits. Since this program is funded by a grant to the City of Seattle, we are constrained to only serve households inside the city limits.

  • BsMomma March 19, 2010 (3:56 pm)

    I had put these CFL bulbs around our house to save some money on the electric bill and because I get them free from where I work. Last weekend I took them all out. The ever so slight flickering and eventual light buzz was giving me a headache and driving me NUTS! I’m all for energy efficiency. BUT my sanity is way more important!

    anonyme: I didn’t see 98116 included…..thank goodness…..and that’s a large part of West Seattle. IF I was to get some of these fancy bulbs, I’d be more than happy to uninstall them and send them your way! :)

  • chas redmond March 19, 2010 (4:40 pm)

    Andy, the portions of zip code 98146 which are west of 35th Avenue ARE inside the city limits of Seattle – it’s called Arbor Heights and the portions east of 35th are unincorporated King County, but the portions west of 35th are the City of Seattle. The post office calls this zip code “Burien” which is technically and actually wrong. So, back to the gentleman from 98146 – specifically where do you live in that zip code.

  • Andy Silber March 19, 2010 (5:04 pm)


    Thanks for that clarification.

    We’re limiting the geographical scope of the program for two reasons:

    1) it reduces travel time between homes
    2) it increases the density of our target homes (i.e. low-income and non-English speaking).

    We’ll mainly be focusing on Delridge and Rainier Valley.

    You can see a map of our program area at

  • José March 19, 2010 (7:45 pm)

    All they’re doing is further opening the door (pun intended) for criminals with this.

  • PANIC! March 19, 2010 (9:13 pm)




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