I've heard people say that trying to save energy by improving small items, such as light bulbs, is not worth their time. What's the big deal about saving a couple of dollars a year by buying an expensive light bulb?
Let me share a secret with you. It's the little things like light bulbs that allow organizations, schools, factories and other commercial buildings to save money. The use of light is being reduced in everything from exit signs to soda machines to overhead fixtures, and the savings are quickly adding up.
Look around your office some time, or a building you visit, and you'll notice many lighting strategies in use today. It's not unusual to see fluorescent light fixtures in the ceiling with every other bulb removed. Controls on the wall that turn off the lights when there is no activity for a certain length of time. Lights powered by photocells that turn on only when they are needed. Dimmers that let you adjust the amount of light to meet your task needs.
So if big businesses are spending lots of money to install all of these products to save on lighting, why aren't you spending a lot less money to save on lighting in your home? Little savings here and there do add up.
Look at your electric bill from last month. Somewhere between 3 percent and 15 percent of that bill is for lighting in your home. It's not a lot of money, but it includes money and energy that are being wasted every month. New energy-efficient light bulbs can cut those expenses, and even if you save only $5 or $10 a month, the cumulative savings will be significant.
The standard home incandescent bulb works well, is easy to replace and costs very little. Energy-efficient light bulbs do cost more than standard incandescents -- expect to pay $5 or more for a compact fluorescent or other efficient bulb -- but the energy-efficient bulbs will save you money in both replacement cost and lower electric use. Compact fluorescent bulbs last up to 10,000 hours, while incandescents last up to 1,000 hours.
Replace four 75-watt incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents that are used four hours a day, and you'll save about $27 a year at current electric rates. Replace 24 bulbs, and you'll save $162 each year in reduced energy costs -- almost $14 each month.
You also need to consider that more than 90 percent of the electricity incandescent bulbs use is converted into heat rather than light. That might not be so bad during the colder weather, but in the warm months, you can think of every incandescent bulb in your home as a little space heater. These bulbs make the home hotter and cause your air conditioner to operate more to remove this unwanted heat.
Research has found, in fact, that a home in a hot climate like Florida with 600 watts of lights burning on a summer evening will need about 300 watts of additional electricity for the air conditioner to get rid of the waste heat.
By the way, don't minimize the benefit of these energy-efficient bulbs lasting a long time. Think of some of the bulbs in your home that are in difficult-to-replace locations, like the top of stairs or in a high chandelier. Standing on a ladder to get to these places once every 10 years or so sounds a lot better than having to do it annually.