Are you ready for an easy project to save you money and help the environment? It is fairly easy and takes a relatively low investment. Change your light bulbs.
Thomas Edison's famed incandescent light bulb uses electricity to heat a metal filament inside of a glass bulb. When the filament heats to a high temperature, it emits a bright light. Those are the light bulbs most of us grew up with.
The cost of an incandescent bulb is cheap compared to the energy it uses. While the bulbs cost about $1.25 each, the cost of electricity is about $300 over the life of the bulb. They might be cheap to put all over the house, but they are not cheap forever.
Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) cost much more up front than their incandescent predecessors. At about $4.00 each, they cost four times an equivalent power incandescent bulb. However, over the lifetime of the bulb, they only use $70 in power over their lifetime.
But the lifetime of the two bulbs is not the same. The life of 42 incandescent bulbs is the same 5 CFLs. Each CFL lasts more than eight times longer than the average incandescent bulb and uses far less power.
I can see why it would be tempting to fill a new home with incandescent bulbs. But let's say you have a big home that requires 25 bulbs to fill all of your lamps, overhead lights, outdoor lights, and closets around your home. The cost of those 25 bulbs, if you buy incandescent, is about $30 up front, compared to $100 for CFLs.
But, look at the long run costs. 25 incandescent bulbs cost $8,812 over their lives, where the CFLs cost $2,244. The CFLs will save you over about $6,570 over their lifetimes.
There is also an environmental cost. Aside from the .10 per kilowatt-hour savings, you are saving real kilowatts and the fossil fuels that create them. CFLs save 75% power and pay for themselves in an average of 6 months. The 75% power savings is huge. According to the Energy Star program, if every home in America replaced one incandescent bulb with a CFL, it would be the same as removing 800,000 cars from the road.
The Future of Lighting
Many homes and businesses around the world still have old incandescent light bulbs. If you buy a $4 CFL bulb today, it will have paid for itself in savings in six months! After that, you are “profitable” on the investment.
So the next time you need a new pack of bulbs, go out to Walmart or your favorite discount retailer and invest in savings and the environment. I personally would not bother to change closets or laundry rooms until the bulbs there go out, but I definitely would change bulbs in the most used parts of the house right away.
Incandescent bulbs are no longer legal in many parts of the world. Our northern neighbors, Canada, have already made the switch. The US has begun phasing out incandescent bulbs and will be making the change final by 2014. You, however, can be ahead of the curve. The savings are real. Change your bulbs today.
Originally published December 14, 2008. Updated April 10, 2013. Image by Cea. / flickr