Saturday, January 06, 2007

Trying To Cut The Electricity Bill

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Nov. 29, 2006 – Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the world’s leading retailer, today announced an ambitious campaign to sell 100 million compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) at its Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club locations by the end of 2007. If achieved, this goal has the potential to save customers as much as $3 billion in electrical costs over the life of the CFLs. In addition to saving money for consumers, these innovative products conserve up to 75 percent more energy than traditional light bulbs and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

My apartment has six lamps that I have used 60 watt bulbs in. The light is sufficient for my needs, though a 75 watt bulb is much brighter. But I rarely need that much more light, so 60s have been my choice. When I read the Wal-Mart release about pushing low-energy flourescent bulbs ... I shrugged. Yeah, okay, so what, I thought. After a few weeks I started wondering though. After all, a normal incandescant bulb uses a fraction of the electricity it sucks for light. The rest of that electricity is poured into heat. Any of you try to change a bulb that just went out? Pretty danged hot, huh?

So I wandered past the light bulb aisle at the store and looked them over. Then I wandered away. These suckers are more expensive than standard bulbs. Why would I want to put out that kind of change for a different bulb? Well, since my electricity bill hits $70 to $80 each month, I have to consider the possibility that I can save some money this way. I can't blame the AC for the high bills. My AC broke in early May and I have yet to get the landlord to fix it. But my bills are still fairly stiff. And this is a one bedroom apartment!

GE CFL Bulbs

So a few days ago I wandered back, compared the different prices (Phillips versus GE) and bought a six-pack of 60-Watt-equivalent bulbs. And I put one in the ceiling light - that seems to burn out so often - which hovers over this computer in my living room. After I put the step-ladder away (gotta be neat!) I flipped the wall-switch. Now with an incandescant bulb the light comes on NOW! Well, the light didn't come on! Oh Damn! And then it did! There's a momentary hesitation with a flourescent bulb. I wasn't expecting that, but it's maybe a half-second. But it lights up just fine.

Now ... next time around I will go for the 75-watt-equivalent. The 60-watt is a tad less bright than a regular bulb. But it is sufficient. And I'm more interested in whether or not my electric bill goes down after January ends.

With nearly 20 percent of all home electric costs stemming from lighting alone, CFLs can have tremendous benefits. Converting one conventional 60W bulb to a 13W CFL can save: $30 in electric costs over its lifetime; 10 conventional bulbs from being produced, transported and discarded in a landfill; 220 lbs. of coal from being burned; and 450 lbs. of greenhouse gases from reaching the air. The average home has more than 30 compatible sockets, which means even more potential savings.

Most of the lampshades I use are the type that rest on the lamp's socket, not the bulb - the bulb screws right in and you can lift the shade a bit (if that's your idea of a good time), and I have two lamps with harps that hold the shade. I only have one lamp, which I rarely use, that has the kind of shade that slips over the bulb. I'm not changing that bulb. So I don't know if the new bulbs will work with it, but they probably will.

I'll let you know if my bill drops any. In the meantime why not take a look at these newer "energy smart" bulbs? That six-pack I bought cost less than ten bucks. Six flourescent bulbs, that should last ten times longer than the regular bulbs, for less than $10. Not a bad deal, I think. By the way, the GE box that held the new bulbs says "LASTS 5 YEARS" so I'm looking forward to that! And the wattage listed for these 60-watt-equivalent bulbs is ... 13 watts! Oy!

By the way ... I don't recommend holding a lit flourescent in your hand for too long. They do get warm. But not like a regular bulb, Folks! Not even close! If I remember corrrectly a standard bulb can reach 300 degrees. That's a tad warmer than I want in my hand, y'know?

So check it out!

PS: From General Electric:
Why does my compact fluorescent light bulb flicker or appear dim when I first turn it on?
The first compact fluorescent bulbs flickered when they were turned on because it took a few seconds for the ballast to produce enough electricity to excite the gas inside the bulb. Thanks to the refined technology in our new GE compact fluorescent bulbs, there is now no significant flicker (less than 1 second). However, these bulbs do require a short warm-up period before they reach full brightness, which is why they may appear dim when first turned on. Compact fluorescent bulbs are best used in fixtures that are left on for longer periods of time, rather than in fixtures that are turned off and on frequently.

How much heat (or infrared radiation) is emitted by regular, halogen, and compact fluorescent light bulbs?
Regular light bulbs, known as incandescent bulbs, create light by heating a filament inside the bulb; the heat makes the filament white-hot, producing the light that you see. Halogen light bulbs create light through the same method. Because incandescent and halogen bulbs create light through heat, about 90% of the energy they emit is in the form of heat (also called infrared radiation). To reduce the heat emitted by regular incandescent and halogen light bulbs, use a lower watt bulb (like 60 watts instead of 100).

Fluorescent light bulbs use an entirely different method to create light. Both compact fluorescent bulbs and fluorescent tubes contain a gas that, when excited by electricity, hits a coating inside the fluorescent bulb and emits light. (This makes them far more energy-efficient than regular incandescent bulbs.) The fluorescent bulbs used in your home emit only around 30% of their energy in heat, making them far cooler.


Anonymous said...

After living for a year in an 800 sq ft 2 bedroom apartment in Florida, we moved in to a 1700 sq foot house. I was worried our electric would really shoot up because it is so much bigger area to cool so we went out and bought the florescent bulbs. I am happy to report that my highest utility bill here is comparable to the highest in the apartment. After 2 years of using them and not needing to change ANY, I am a believer! Hope you have much luck!

benning said...

That's great! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I have been using these things for over a year now, and buy the higher wattage versions. After you get used to the light being whiter, their great. My average electric bill is about 40.00 compared to 55.00 before, and doesn't reflect the increase in prices in the past year. This is on a 1000 sq. ft. condo.

The only problem I have with them is the lose in heat they generate... it gets cold up here .. :-(

camojack said...

I'm waiting for the LED versions to get a bit less expensive...they'll last forever!

Joubert said...

I used them for years. I've never compared if they save money but it's nice not having to change bulbs constantly.

Brooke said...

I'll have to try this, especially since our energy company just gave us a 10% increase starting next month!

Do let us know if you notice the difference, Benning!

Jack Steiner said...

I use fluorescent. They have been working out just fine.

WomanHonorThyself said...

Hey Benning..I have those too..but dang they are bright!.lol

Anonymous said...

Wow, okay, I will try them then, because I am short (5'3") and I have 8.5 foot ceilings which I cannot reach in a chair! So I have to get a step-ladder, or Gunz to change my bulbs! haha...

Thanks Benning!

Anonymous said...

We changed out all of our bulbs in our lamps with these bulbs and it is nice not to have to change them all the time. Like you, the ones in the ceiling light in the kitchen go out all the time...not anymore! We even got the more "decorative" ones for the "open" bulbs in the dining room light and the bathroom lights. I haven't compared the cost savings, but I would think in our house it would be a noticeable difference.