NDSU Extension Service, Published January 03 2012
Changing bulbs can save more than a little changeFARGO - One of the easiest ways to save money on energy bills is to replace inefficient light bulbs with bulbs that produce just as much light but use less energy, according to Carl Pedersen, North Dakota State University Extension Service energy educator.
The federal government has attempted to encourage the increased use and technological development of more efficient bulbs. In 2007, President Bush signed into law a bill that required any light bulbs sold to meet minimum efficiency standards. Traditional incandescent bulbs do not meet these standards, so these bulbs are being phased out of production.
While the bill has been met with resistance and efforts to repeal the bill, it also has caused significant changes in the lighting industry.
States have addressed the bill in a variety of ways. In Texas, the federal standards have been exempted. On the other hand, California implemented the federal standards a year early.
Whatever personal feelings one has about the law, energy-efficient light bulbs do save money and energy.
"People often do not think about the two costs that electronic equipment has," Pedersen says. "There is the original purchase price and also the price of using the electronics. While it is true that an energy-efficient bulb will cost more to purchase, consumers easily will recoup the initial costs in energy savings."
Pedersen uses his home as an example.
"If I assume a light bulb in my house is on eight hours a day, at my current electricity rate, a 60- watt bulb will cost me $14.02 a year," he says. "If I replace that bulb with an equivalent compact fluorescent light (CFL), I will pay $3.04 in energy costs for that light, which is a savings of almost $11 a year on just one bulb. My kitchen fixtures have 10 bulbs, so that is a potential savings of $110 in just one room."
CFLs are not the most efficient bulbs being sold in stores. Light-emitting diode (LED) lights use roughly half the energy of CFLs. LED lights that can be used in traditional light fixtures are being added to retail store shelves more often. While they are expensive ($20 to $50 per bulb), they are rated to last for years under normal use and will pay for themselves many times over in energy savings.
Other options that have developed are halogen bulbs that meet the new standards but are not nearly as efficient as CFL or LED bulbs. The advantage of the halogen bulbs is that they perform similarly to a standard incandescent light bulb.
"Replacing every bulb in the home is not recommended," Pedersen says. "It would not make sense to replace all the bulbs with more efficient lights because some lights do not get used enough to warrant replacement. However, replacing the most heavily used light bulbs does make sense, but consumers need to be careful when shopping."
As with any purchase, there are issues with the quality of the product and making sure the right bulb is purchased for a particular situation. For example, CFL bulbs are not recommended for use with dimmer switches, in enclosed recessed-light fixtures or in ceiling fans with high vibrations. There are efficient lighting options for dimmers and recessed-light fixtures, but consumers need to educate themselves on the purchase they are making.
The U.S. ENERGY STAR program provides more information on determining the best lighting options at http://www.energystar.gov/lighting. A link is provided on the NDSU energy Web page as well at http://www.NDSU.edu/energy.