Lighting and Energy Efficiency
As a former educator and former psychotherapist, I have continually
had a common notion about people reinforced: We are creatures of habit
and change doesnít come easy for any of us. With respect to our living
environment, this is particularly true. It generally takes some kind of
jolt or ďsmack in the faceĒ to get us to consider making changes in
where and how we live.
One of the strongest motivators in prompting people to change comes from
information on how to save money particularly when we find we can get
the same benefits from using things that are more efficient and
This article is a brief synopsis of ways that you can save money on your
lighting costs. Implement some of these suggestions and you will notice
a change in the bottom line of your electric bill. Remember, that these
savings add up month after month and at the end of the year, a tally
will prove that youíve made a wise move.
For many people, the way they light their homes and businesses hasnít
changed much since the invention of the incandescent light bulb by
Thomas Edison. Granted, these bulbs have evolved into more
energy-efficient devices, but technology can only go so far with an idea
that, by its very nature, is inefficient in terms of its basic function.
The incandescent light bulb is really more of a heat than a light
producer and compared to new lighting technology they just arenít very
The latest and greatest lighting innovation is the compact fluorescent
light bulb also known as the CFL. The first CFLs had some definite
drawbacks. Like most new technology, they were more expensive than their
incandescent counterparts, had separate tubes and ballasts and were
available in just a limited number of shapes, sizes and the amount of
light that they generated. These limitations made the early CFLs
somewhat limited in terms of popularity and applications were typically
limited to just the right circumstance and need.
The great competitive nature of our culture soon began to prompt
significant changes in all aspects of the CFL. If you havenít been
hanging around the lighting department in your local home center or
hardware store, you may be in for a surprise with respect to what is
currently available to homeowner and business owners and why you should
seriously consider making some changes in the way you light your
First, letís consider expense. Modern CFLs use about one-third the
electricity and last as much as ten times longer than their incandescent
counterparts. For example, if you consider one single 18 watt CFL in
place of a comparable 75 watt incandescent bulb, over its lifetime, the
CFL will save you as much as $30-$40 at an average kWh unit cost.
Remember, we are talking about just one bulb. Multiply the number of
bulbs by the average savings per bulb and you will be in for a real
Related to the cost savings provided by the CFL, letís also consider
efficiency. The typical CFL is up to four times more efficient than its
incandescent counterpart and will last on average ten times longer.
Taking a 22-watt CFL as an example, it will generate the same level of
illumination as a 100 watt incandescent. Translated into energy
efficiency, the CFL uses about 60% less energy than a comparable
The quality of the light generated by the newer CFLs has improved
considerably over the earlier versions. Everyone is familiar with the
cool white look of the early fluorescent. While this type of color found
many applications in factories and offices, it just wasnít conducive to
the type of lighting most people desired in their homes. Newer CFLs use
rare earth phosphors that can provide a wide variety of colors including
those that emit a warm, soft light that is desirable in a living
environment. In addition, the newer CFLs include technology that
eliminates the annoying hum and flicker of the older versions.
The big news is that todayís CFLs can be used just about anywhere that
the traditional incandescent bulb is used. They can be used in table and
floor lamps, on track lighting, in recessed fixtures, in ceiling
fixtures and even outdoors. The newest technology also provides 3-way
CFLs that can be used in lamps with high, medium and low settings and
CFLs that can be used with a dimmer switch are also now on the market.
For the environmentally conscious individuals, CLFs have been proven to
reduce both air and water pollution. For example, replacing just one
incandescent bulb with a comparable CFL will reduce about one-half ton
of CO2 over the life of the bulb. If using CFLs became the lighting
method of choice for the entire country, we could eliminate a large
number of electric power plants and their toxic by-products.
While the news about switching to CFL lighting is nearly all-positive,
there are a few drawbacks or limitations that should be mentioned. Not
all CFLs are dimmable. This technology is fairly recent and the models
that are available are therefore limited. Be sure to carefully check the
package before purchasing a CFL that you intend to use with a dimmer or
in a 3-way light. If you plan to purchase a CFL for use on a timer, be
particularly careful in making your selection. While the standard CFL
will function with a timer, its life will be considerably shorter.
Unfortunately nearly all CFLs are not as durable when they are
frequently turned on and off. Consider where you plan to install CFLs
and stick with an incandescent bulb if this is an issue (such as in
closets, laundry rooms, etc.).
Many CFLs donít produce their rated light level when used in an outdoor
setting. The package should let you know if the CFL is suited for
CFLs are not designed to function as spotlights so if you have a need
for accent lighting in your home or in a retail setting, itís best to
consider other alternative lighting.
Finally, CLFs contain small amounts of mercury, which is classified as a
toxic material and may be released if the bulb is broken or when it is
disposed of. Take care to observe local, state, and federal regulations
with respect to the disposal of this toxic metal. If you happen to break
a CFL use a wet rag and dispose of both the bag and the pieces in a
tightly sealed plastic bag. Your local recycling center may accept this
waste but if they donít, use your local trash container making sure to
cleanse your hands after disposal.
Under no circumstances, send the waste material to an incinerator
because it will simply release the mercury into the atmosphere.
Some final words about CFLs:
These fixtures are available in a wide variety of sizes, styles and
shapes and have from two to six tubes. Some CFLs have the ballast
permanently fixed and must be replaced as a unit while others have a
separate bulb and fixture which permits you to replace just the bulb.
These CFLs are available with standard sockets, which are easily
installed, in most household fixtures:
Triple tube lamps provide greater lighting in small areas using shorter
bulbs. These lamps are ideal for table and reading lamps as well as for
open hanging lamps. Spiral lamps are just as described and are typically
used as replacements for incandescent light bulbs. Globe lamps look like
standard incandescent bulbs and have a diffuser that will provide a soft
and pleasing light. Globe lamps are typically used on bathroom vanities
and add the benefit of reducing the heat in this area, which is usually
lighted by multiple bulbs. Flood lamps are designed for track and
recessed lighting and can generally be used both indoors and outdoors.
They provide a soft light, which is diffused and generates considerably
less heat than their incandescent counterparts. Candelabra style CFLs
are screw-in fixtures that have a small base designed primarily for
chandeliers. Socket reducers, available at most hardware stores, may be
needed to adapt these bulbs to certain chandeliers and sconces.
While the majority of this article focuses on the benefits of CFL
lighting, another light source is becoming more and more popular. Iím
talking about natural sunlight. Some DIY will consider installing a
skylight(s) a major project and for the most part, they are correct.
However, when considering new construction, skylights are certainly an
option to seriously consider. While they may be somewhat more expensive
to install, they will more than make up the additional cost over the
years in reduced electrical bills. If you decide to tackle the job
yourself, be sure that the skylight is a tight fit and well caulked.
Finally, and beyond the scope of an extensive discussion in this
article, solar panels (depending on where you live) can provide
significant a significant savings in your electrical costs. The models
and options available in solar panels have significantly increased over
the years and there are models available that will fit just about
anyoneís budget. There are some state and federal programs that provide
financial incentives for homeowners considering solar panels and I
suggest you look into these.
I hope the information in this brief article has been useful and will
prove beneficial to you as you continue to look for better and more
economical ways to light your part of the world.
Chuck Lunsford is the content manager for
LightnBreezy.com, a well-known source for indoor lighting fixtures from
Westinghouse. LightnBreezy.com features hundreds of products to choose
from. To order your discount lighting fixtures made by Westinghouse,
visit us at LightnBreezy.com.
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