Replacing Light Bulbs with Money-Saving CFLs
Jan 12, 2010 | Energy Efficiency
Imagine one action that costs little, can be done quickly, and can pay you $30 by reducing your energy bills.
Replacing your regular incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights, or "CFLs", can cut as much as 75% of the energy used by your lamps. Compared to incandescent bulbs, CFLs produce the same amount of light and last about 10 times longer.
There is no reason to wait for your incandescent bulbs to burn out. CFLs illuminate with so much less energy, you're effectively losing money by not switching now.
Today's CFLs have improved and come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, so you can install them everywhere-including with dimmers-and their light usually is flicker-free and warm.
Note that it is important to dispose of them properly, especially if one breaks.
Replacing just one 60-watt incandescent light bulb with a CFL will save you $30 over the life of the bulb on average. That's like being paid $30 to replace a light bulb. Multiply that by all your light bulbs to calculate the money you'll keep in your wallet.
Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) sometimes cost a little more up front ($1.50 to $5 on average) if they're not subsidized by your local utility, but they quickly pay for themselves in 2 ways:
1. They sip energy, so you'll lower your power bill as soon as you start using them.
2. They last 10 times longer than incandescents, so you'll only buy 1 bulb for every 10 incandescent bulbs you'd need.
Free and discounted CFL bulbs often are offered by utilities and power agencies. Look for in-store instant rebates: You'll see a sticker on the package.
CFLs reduce your home's energy needs, and that lowers demand for energy production from coal- and oil-based sources. It's a simple way to whittle down your carbon footprint and go green. Consider: If every U.S. family replaced one regular light bulb with a CFL, it would eliminate 90 billion pounds of greenhouse gases-the same as taking 7.5 million cars off the road. And switching to CFLs is one of the easiest ways you can reduce your utility's need to construct more power plants.
Mercury and CFLs: CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, a toxic substance. The amount varies, but it is about 4 milligrams on average-about the size of the tip of a pen. That means they must be recycled properly and disposed of carefully.
From an environmental impact standpoint, CFLs reduce net overall mercury circulating in the air and water, because they draw less power from power plants. This ultimately reduces the need to build more coal-fired power plants that emit mercury.
Disposing and recycling CFLs: If a CFL bulb breaks in your home, clear out the room, open a window to air out the room, carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper and place them in a glass jar with metal lid or in a sealed plastic bag. Use sticky tape to pick up remaining small glass pieces and powder. Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels and place them in the glass jar or bag. Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.
CFLs can be recycled, but usually not with your curbside recycling collection. They are considered electronic waste by environmental agencies, so don't put them in the trash if you can avoid it. Contact your local utility or waste collector to find the nearest CFL-recycling facility. Or bring them to a retailer that collects them for recycling such as The Home Depot. You can also order a CFL-recycling kit that includes a box with a prepaid return shipping label.
How to choose
Today's CFLs have improved over the old tube fluorescents. No more flickering or buzzing, CFLs now produce warmer light, and they come in dimmable versions. If you buy CFLs and find they buzz or flicker, return them to the store.
1. Look for the ENERGY STAR® logo on the packaging. ENERGY STAR-qualified CFLs have met key performance standards set by this government program. ENERGY STAR bulbs must note if their light output is different than that of a soft white incandescent. If you choose a CFL that is not ENERGY STAR qualified, you might not get the performance you were looking for.
2. Choose a CFL with the wattage and light output you need. The packaging will show this information and how it compares to a standard incandescent. For example, a 25-watt CFL bulb equals the light output of a 100-watt lightbulb.
3. Note the "color temperature." CFLs are available in a range of color temperatures, from soft white warm tones that are like an incandescent bulb, to cooler blue tones and bright bulbs for reading and working task areas.
4. Do you have dimmers or motion sensors? Dimmers and motion sensors are great ways to control the amount of light you need when you need it. Choose CFLs that are compatible with them. If the package doesn't state this, it's not.
Get enlightened about energy savings: Replace your old-style incandescent bulbs with CFLs today, if you haven't already.
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