Condo Blues: Expensive Energy Efficient Light Bulbs Can Sill You Save Money

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Expensive Energy Efficient Light Bulbs Can Sill You Save Money

Welcome Columbus Dispatch readers! Today The Columbus Dispatch wrote an article about me "Energy Audit First Step to Cutting Utility Bills" in today's paper about how I save money by reducing my use of electricity and natural gas use.

One way I saved electricity is to change the energy hogging incandescent light bulbs in my house to a combination of electricity sipping halogen, compact florescent (CFL), and energy saving incandescent light bulbs.

CFLs come in (from left to right) soft light, bright white, and daylight varieties just like incandescent light bulbs

According to Energy Star, lighting accounts for up to 20% of the average home’s electric bill. That being the case, if you switch at least 25% of the incandescent light bulbs you use most often in your home to energy efficient light bulbs you can slice a serious chunk off of the amount of electricity you currently use to light your home.

You can further reduce your electricity use by opening the curtains and using natural light to light rooms as much as possible. You can even try using the One Person One Light Rule: turn on only one light for every person that is in the room. This isn’t always practical but it might make you think a little bit more about turning on all of the lights in a room when only one or two will do the job just as well.

Lazy environmentalism. Just the way I like it.

For giggles, I counted the number of light bulbs in my house so I could calculate my current household percentage of energy efficient light bulbs before The Great Light Bulb Switch Out I made during my 20% Energy Reduction Challenge in 2008.

I have 58 light bulbs in my house.

Before the Great Light Bulb Switch Out, twenty five of those light bulbs were some form of energy efficient light bulb: a combination of fluorescent, compact florescent, halogen, and Verilux Full Spectrum incandescent light bulbs. The Verilux light bulbs are the most expensive light bulb I have in my house. They are supposed to use less energy than a traditional incandescent light bulb and show colors more accurately than standard incandescent light bulbs. They are also supposed to help combat the winter blues during gray Ohio winter days because they emit full spectrum light. More importantly, I got them on sale, which is why I decided to give them a try.

Now that I have the numbers, was my percentage of  light bulbs in my home were energy efficient?

25 energy efficient light bulbs divided by 58 total household light bulbs = 43% of the light bulbs in my house were energy efficient.


And yet 43% of energy efficient lighting goodness wasn’t reflected on my not-yet-lower electric bill.

I wanted immediate energy saving results. I decided that I did not want to wait until each incandescent light bulb burned out to replace it with a CLF, although you can certainly do so, actually, I recommend it. A couple of times since I made the switch, I’ve walked into a room, flipped the lights and all of the light bulbs have burnt out at the same time, leaving me fumbling in the dark. Because, you guessed it, I switched all of the light bulbs in that room over at the same time in that room instead of waiting until each bulb burned out on its own before I replaced it with a CFL. Don’t be me.

I made the financial hit a little less by buying one three pack of CFLs every time I go grocery shopping. It took a little longer to do the switchover, but at least I didn’t have to shell out the money for 33 new CFLs all at once, which was around $200.

I bought the majority of the new CFLs at Aldi and Dollar General because they were less expensive than buying so many CFLs at the home improvement store. I picked up some store brand bulbs at Meijer too. The cheaper CFLs are working and lasting just as long as some of the more expensive name brand CFLs we have in the house before we made the Great Switch.

Yes, the Sylvania CLF light bulbs I bought at Aldi and Dollar General are still a little more expensive than energy hogging incandescent light bulbs, but it works out in the end because the CFL light bulbs last approximately 10 years. Traditional incandescent light bulbs last approximately three years. So not only am I saving electricity, I won’t have to buy or change another light bulb until 2014. Nice!

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This is a revised version of my original April 8, 2008 Condo Blues post Why a Switch to Expensive Energy Efficient Light Bulbs Will Save Me Money

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Halogenica said...

Hi there, I see you're probably meaning to give some good advice in this article.

But Energy Star, alas, is not a neutral source of information as they have a vested interest in promoting so-called energy saving products and exaggerating their benefits while downplaying their drawbacks and risks.

According to estimates by The Energy Information Agency (who base their statistics on actual surveys) home lighting on average uses less than 10% of home electricity use, which in turn is less than 3% of a home's total energy use.

Counting lamps installed will tell you very little about what you actually consume in your individual case. You have to count watts x average hours of use per month for each lamp and add the sum for all lamps.

Have you actually seen any reduction of your electricity bill or are you just assuming you're saving because everyone says that's what CFLs do?

I also hope you know that CFLs a) need to stay on for at least 15 minutes at a time in order not to have their life shortened drastically; b) lose output with age so you may need to buy a brighter one than recommended in order to get as much light as from an incandescent; c) often can't be dimmed; d) contain toxic mercury vapour and need to be handled and recycled with extreme care?

I'd use LED or halogen energy savers instead (no, not selling any, just trying to save the planet by informing the misinformed).

See my site for referenced details on the above:

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

Halogenica - Actually yes. My electricity use went down considerable when I changed my remaining incandescent light bulbs over to CFLs. I have the research and tracked each month of electcity use when I was writing about my 20% Energy Reduction Challenge - check my blog archives.

True, CFL light bulbs aren't perfect, but neither are halogen and LED light bulbs. Halogen light bulbs burn much hotter than incandescent. Dust on a halogen light bulb can catch fire and has been the cause of house fires - especially in the case of halogen Torchiere lamps. LED light bulbs are extremely expensive and not readily available for the average consumer.

I've successfuly used and properly disposed of CFL light bulbs. They can be a more affordable energy saving light bulb option if you use. If not, there are others out there.

Anyone else want to weigh in?

Robj98168 said...

My 2 pennies: I use and have replaced almost all my incandescants with CFL's. Would like to replace with LED but the cost is prohibitive. I also track my electrical usage and agree with CB that my power usage hase reduced significantly since switching. The only place that hase incandescants in my home is the laundry room, (The fixture has an sensor switch to turn the light off and on- the cfl won't work proerly with the sensor) and the bathroom- I have the Light Bar type vanity and for some reason the cfl's don't warm up fast enough to light the bathroom. So i mix the incandescants with 2 CFL. Anyway it has saved energy around my home.

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