Like something out of a cartoon, a good idea came to the Rancho Vistoso Homeowners Association in the form of a light bulb.
The concept: Save $63,000 in annual utility costs by replacing light bulbs along East Rancho Vistoso Boulevard.
The homeowners' group, which represents 4,500 homes in the area, is responsible for maintaining and paying for lighting along a four-mile stretch of the road. That encompasses 248 lights, all with outdated, power-sapping bulbs in fixtures that are more than 25 years old.
Homeowners were discouraged by the cost - $45,000 to $50,000 a year - of keeping the street lighted, and sought ways to lower it. Community manager Jena Carpenter said several options were offered, including turning off some or all of the lights.
A homeowners' committee discovered it could save tens of thousands of dollars a year by replacing the lighting with modern, energy-efficient bulbs.
Homeowners are now voting among several choices for bulbs, which include high-pressure sodium, light-emitting diode (LED) and fluorescent lights, and lights of varying color and intensity. The HOA will take the vote under advisement and plans to install the new bulbs in June or July.
"It's a feel-good move because No. 1, we're getting value for the citizens," said homeowners' Vice President Mary Caswell.
"We're making sure we have the lights on for bicyclists and we don't have problems for people walking at night. We'll keep the streets safer, with visibility, and we're giving an improvement to the community."
Carpenter said the installation cost will be between $150,000 and $200,000, which will eventually be recovered in annual electric bill savings.
"First, we will go back and pay back the investment," Carpenter said, "and once that's paid back, the possibilities are endless. We can do something new with the park, make landscape enhancements, improve the entryway signage. We can apply the saving to community enhancements."
Association President Patrick Straney said the board does its best to listen to the community and seek feedback to solve problems. The homeowners' association assumed control in 2008 after developer Vistoso Partners LLC, which had managed the neighborhood, gave way as part of a mutual agreement.
"We have a very focused board that's committed to the area," Straney said. "We all live here in this community, and we run it like a business."
Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or email@example.com