Lower Your Utility Bills – Part 1: Shine A New Light – Small Changes Can Add Up To Big Savings
|August 24, 2014||Filled under Frugal Tips and Tricks|
What else can you do to save money around the house? I don’t know about you, but utilities consume a large percentage of our money each month. We’ve found seven places that we think we can lower your utility bills – phone, internet, water, home maintenance, insulation, power, and this one, part 1 of this series – lights. Not just turning off lights around the house, but the actual light bulbs themselves.
Did you know that if every American home replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulb, we would save enough energy to light three million homes for a year? Alright, that’s the big picture, but what about saving on your own utility bill? First, consider that lighting accounts for close to 20% of the average home’s electric bill. Then, take into account that the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) uses 75% less energy than a traditional incandescent bulb. You can see how the savings will start to add up. Let’s take a look at one of the easiest places to start saving energy; the lighting:
Time to See the Light
We all have experiences with those awful huge warehouse style fluorescent lights, which is why most of us cringe when we hear the term CFL, or compact fluorescent lamp. The little squiggly screw in bulbs weren’t much better, at least until now.
The CFLs you buy with the ENERGY STAR label must pass extensive testing to ensure the product performs well and produces only the highest quality light. Look for bulbs labeled “warm white” or “soft white” to get light that is most like the incandescent light bulbs you are used to. If you want a light that is similar to a bright white incandescent bulb, choose CFLs that are labeled “bright white” or “daylight.”
Choosing the CFL that is most equivalent to the light you currently have in a fixture isn’t tricky. You’ll find the information to help choose the right bulb right on the package. Most packaging will even state something like “Soft White 60 Replacement.”
If you still have visions of ugly squiggly pigtail lighting, take heart. Manufacturer’s have even taken that distraction away from the debate. You can now buy CFLs that resemble a standard incandescent light bulb. So, now you know that you can choose a good looking CFL, as well as one that has a level of lighting you prefer. But what about the cost?
Pay Now and Save
You’ll find CFL prices are higher than incandescent light bulbs. It may set you back on your heels a bit when you first look at the price tag. Most CFLs range from around $2 each up to $15 each for specialty bulbs. However, over the lifetime of the bulb, you can save about $30 in energy cost which more than offsets the initial cost. As a matter of fact, it is estimated that if you replace just five of your most frequently used light bulbs with CFLs you can save over $70 a year on your energy bill.
The initial cost of CFLs may be a bit frightening, but you also have to consider that these bulbs not only use less energy, but they last up to 10 times longer than regular incandescent light bulbs. Therefore, the return on investment not only involves the energy savings, it also involves the replacement costs of all those incandescent bulbs. You may be able to get a package of incandescent light bulbs pretty cheap, but if you have to buy them by the gross and replace them constantly, the cost starts to take a bigger bite out of the budget than a few CFLs.
You may be ready to tear through the house now and rip out every incandescent bulb and replace them with CFLs. But, before you begin, there are a few considerations.
- The energy savings and long life of a CFL depend in part on just how and where it is used. You will get the most efficiency out of a CFL when it is in a light fixture you use often and that is on for at least 15 minutes at a time. Think about the lights you need for long periods of time, like outdoors, living room, family room, kitchen, shop, or recreation room. Of course you don’t leave your CFL on all day or night, just like you wouldn’t leave an incandescent bulb on when not needed. But for those areas where lighting is required for several hours, a CFL is often a wise choice.
- The idea that turning a CFL on and off uses a lot of energy is misleading. While it’s true that there is a brief surge in energy use when a CFL is turned on, in the modern CFL technology, that surge usually lasts about a tenth of a second and consumes about as much energy as five seconds of normal operation. Even if a CFL is turned on and off frequently, it will still use less energy than the incandescent bulb you had in there before.
- However, it is true that turning a CFL on and off frequently can shorten the lamp’s life. Since the return on investment is calculated using the long life of the bulb, the savings won’t be there if you don’t use the CFL as intended; in light fixtures that are left on at least 15 minutes at a time.
- Throwing out perfectly good incandescent bulbs may not sit too well with your frugal nature. No problem. When you replace a light bulb with a CFL, save your light bulb to use in an area where a CFL would lose efficiency. Think about those places where you wouldn’t have the light on for more than 15 minutes at a time, such as a closet. Also, if you have a dimmer switch on a fixture, you will want to keep your incandescent bulb in, unless you buy a specially designed CFL meant for dimmers.
- The bathroom may not be the best place to install CFLs. High humidity can shorten the life of the lamp. However, you can avoid that problem by making sure you operate your ventilating fan when showering or bathing. Keeping in mind that running the fan uses electricity, you have to weigh the balance of energy used versus energy savings. This may be a trial and error situation. If you install CFLs in your bathroom and find you’re replacing them frequently, it’s not a money saving plan in your particular instance.
- If you keep a porch light burning, you have a perfect place to save money. Install a CFL in a porch light fixture and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how long the light lasts. Of course, just like an incandescent bulb, in order to get the longest life out of the lamp, protect it from ice, snow, and rain whenever possible.
- Not all fixtures should be fitted with a CFL. Closed fixtures, those that don’t vent the heat out, are not a good fit. Even though incandescent bulbs produce more heat than a CFL, if a fixture traps the small amount of heat the CFL makes, it will reduce the life of the lamp, which reduces your cost savings over time.
Are there five or six fixtures in your house that are left on for hours each day? Could these light bulbs be more efficient? With all the choices today for CFLs that look like, and light like, incandescent bulbs, there’s no reason to hang onto the old money wasters. Take a look around today and give this simple energy saving plan a try.
Continue through the rest of the series here, and start saving money today!