Tuesday, February 27, 2007


18 seconds is about how long it takes to change a lightbulb. Changing one, just one, of your regular incandescent light bulbs to something better can make a difference - both in your pocket book and in the Earth's environment. Using Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs is one of the easiest ways I've come across to make a difference.

The common light bulb is an energy sucker and it has been since the 1880s. It hasn't changed much since then, has it? From the electricity it draws, it uses anywhere between 10-20% for light, and the rest is wasted in heat. You've heard that over and over again. It doesn't seem that big a deal until you find yourself in a cool and -dark- basement in the summer time because you can't fathom turning on lights that will just warm the place up again. CFLs don't. They don't because they draw 20% of the electricity to produce the same amount of light, and because they don't pull that other 80% for heat, they are practically cool to the touch. You get light. Not heat.
Drawing less electricity means you're paying less in your electricity bill. Currently, about 1/4 of the electrical usage in America is for lighting. Use a bulb that uses 1/3 of the energy and you'll get a bill that reflects it.
OK, let's say you pay $200/mo for your electricity bill. About $50/mo is the lights. Lights when you're reading in bed, lights when you're brushing your teeth, lights when you're having dinner, or getting ready for work. Your kids leave the bedroom light on when they go to school. You have your front porch light on all night. The bathroom light leads the way for midnight potty breaks.
Now switch your 60W incandescent bulbs for 15W CFLs. Use your lights the normal amount. Pay $12.50. Your monthly bill drops to $162.50. Wouldn't that be worth it?
But it starts with a single light bulb. Or what I'm encouraging... one room a month. Count up the lights in your bedroom or the hallway. Then replace them.
But but... you say: the bulbs are expensive! Sure. You can pay $1.50 or $2 for a regular bulb. It'll last about 1000 hours (let's see, we'll pick 5 hours a day for regular use, 200 days... about 1/2 a year), then you get to buy another $2 bulb to last the rest of the year. Seems like an OK deal. Or, buy a CFL for $3-$6. These energy saver CFLs by TCP through Amazon are $12 for 4 bulbs. For that same year your electricity bill drops. A tiny bit for a single lamp, more for 4, but it drops which offsets some of the CFL cost. Here's where it becomes a happy thought for me though... These bulbs replace a typical 60W bulb and they last 10,000 hours. So, from changing your light bulbs twice a year, you move to changing them about, oh, about every 5 years.
And you're using less energy. And if you're using less energy, the power plants can produce less energy. And if they produce less energy, they pollute less. And if they pollute less, we all win.
So, can you do it? Can you spend $3 or $5 to replace, for years, a single light in your home? Can you spend $20 and switch over a whole room? Can you ask your friends and family to switch? Even just a single bulb?
I hope so.
Can you imagine if all it took to cut our energy use nationwide by a 1/4 was 18 seconds a lightbulb? And we all did it?
Disclaimer: Obviously, my figures are examples. Actual results will vary dependent on your light usage and your current electricity bill figures.
Next time I talk about CFLs, I'll give you an idea of what light options are out there.
In the meantime, check out 18seconds.org for info on the light changing movement, energyfederation.org for info on the bulb options are out there (some are OK for recessed or enclosed fixtures, or dimmers), and of course the site on An Inconvenient Truth, just because we think it can make a difference.

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