Electricity costs for lighting in the typical home can reach 12% or more in terms of your annual energy costs. So if you would like to know how to save electricity, you can conserve just by focusing on lighting. Energy Star qualified compact fluorescent lamps (CFL’s) are the right energy saving light bulbs to save money on electricity bills and conserve electricity in the home.
To put this into perspective, that percentage is about the same that the average home uses for cooling and electronic appliances. I personally feel that estimate is conservative; I seem to spend more and more time reminding people in the house to turn of the lights when they are not in the room, etc.
That is the on-going challenge of awareness and guiding people to change behaviors.
So why are compact fluorescent lamps (CFL’s) so great?
Just take a glance at our incandescent bulbs on the right, they have not really changed during the history of electricity which has a long timeline of many milestones, discoveries and inventions.
Essentially they combine the energy efficiency of fluorescent lighting into energy saving light bulbs that can fit into incandescent fixtures.
Energy star qualified CFL’s use approximately 75% less electricity that standard incandescent bulbs. These low energy light bulbs have a lifespan that is up to 10 times longer than standard bulbs. Therefore when you install energy efficient light bulb in your home, the resulting energy savings (electricity) is compounded over a longer period of time.
It is estimated that you can save on electricity costs by $30-50 over the lifetime of the bulb. If you start adding that up through-out the house, well, you will quickly find you will surely reduce your electricity costs and have a fairly positive impact on your electricity bills. This in itself explains why CFL’s are one of the best means for saving electricity for the home. They are also one of the more simple ways to conserve electricity without having to make a significant investment.
In any case, replacing light bulbs must be done anyway, right? Why not take the opportunity to install an energy efficient light bulb.
So what is the difference between energy saving CFL light bulbs and normal incandescent? The bottom line is CFL’s are more cost effective and energy efficient than incandescent light bulbs. They generate less heat and are considered to be safer to operate, not to mention a potential energy savings on your cooling. The good news is they do not require changing very often once they are installed; the average lifespan is 10,000 plus hours.
In general CFL’s function like normal fluorescent lighting that has been highly used in commercial facilities for years. If you are familiar with fluorescent lights, they have two basic parts which are the tube filled with a gas and some form of ballast. When electricity flows the tube emits ultraviolet light which become visible light via the surface of the tube.
There are two different forms of ballasts, one being magnetic and the other electronic. The magnetic ballasts can flicker somewhat when initially started (like normal florescent lighting). The electronic ballasts light up immediately, are more efficient than magnetic ballasts but can be slightly more expensive. For the most part CFL’s today are mainly electronic.
Where are energy saving CFL’s appropriate?
They are most energy efficient when used in locations requiring lighting for extended periods of time. So the first place to for installing them would be in the living room, bedrooms, kitchen, etc. You may not want to install them in a location where lights are only turned on for a few minutes (closet). You can do so; however the payback on efficiency (electricity savings) will be slower in comparison to other areas. If you are not sure, ENERGY STAR recommends using qualified CFL’s in lighting fixtures that are typically used at least 15 minutes at a time.
It is important to mention that CFL’s are sensitive to temperature ranges (specified normally on packaging) in which they work more optimal. Most common CFL’s are for indoor usage. There are models applicable for outdoor usage; in this case it is suggested to enclose them in fixtures in order to minimize the effect of the temperature sensitivity. This is not a must although you just need to check if they are weatherproof and can resists cold outside temperatures.
What are the types of Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL’s)?
Today, CFL’s come in a wide variety of shapes and forms to address common needs. In general, the total surface area of the tube(s) will determine just how much light is produced by the energy saving light bulbs. There are other characteristics such as the number of tubes (2, 4, 6) in the bulb. Some CFL’s have circular or spiral-shaped tubes.
Here is a diagram of the different forms of energy saving light bulbs and where they can be used .
When choosing an energy efficient light bulb for your home, you will need to take into consideration the wattage and with the right amount of light - color range of the light (warmth). For the CFL wattage, is essentially 3-4 times less that of incandescent bulbs. In most cases, the equivalent wattage is mentioned on the packaging. A reference point between incandescent and energy saving CFL lights bulbs are:
50 watt = 9 watts
60 watt = 15 watts
75 watt = 20 watts
100 watt = 25 watts
150 watt = 39 watts
You will also need to take note and purchase the correct model if your energy saving CFL bulbs are to be connected to a dimmer switch or require three-way socket fixture.
The shade or warmth of white light from CFL’s is identified by a color temperature measured in kelvin (K). The lower the kelvin number the warmer the color of the light, a higher Kelvin number implies the light has a cooler color. For reference, incandescent light bulbs offer a soft white light (2700K–3000K), a higher kelvin color temperature (3500K, 4100K, 5000K,...) will emit a more white (bright white, natural, daylight) similar to perhaps halogen lamps.
In terms of disposal, you will need to treat them differently than normal bulbs. It is recommended that you place the bulb in a sealed plastic bag when disposing. The best bet is to check locally on the proper disposal practice to be used.
It is quoted that if every single American home replaced only one incandescent light bulb with an Energy Star qualified CFL bulb, it would result in energy savings that could pay for lighting more than 3 million homes for a year. This alone explains why it is one of the best ways to conserve electricity, not to mention the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
To conclude, introducing energy saving light bulbs in your home will allow you to conserve electricity and save money on electricity bills. If you choose properly the correct CFL bulb for the intended area you should not notice a difference (other than saving electricity). It will require a small investment beyond the price of incandescent bulbs. However the long term reduction of energy costs makes this one of the most obvious energy saving tips. Think about this the next time you need to replace a bulb, start conserving electricity and then reduce your energy costs!