Back in November, when we talked about the new light bulb legislation, I shared a little bit about our family’s transition away from incandescent bulbs. I created a homeschool Math lesson for our kids to decide if alternatives to incandescent lights made budget-sense, and if so, which ones were right for us. We worked, together, to discover which bulbs made the most sense for our “personal economy” and still produced functional light. Calculating our current energy costs for lights, we were able to compare it to the energy costs of other types of bulbs that were available, namely the GE Energy Efficient Soft Whites (halogen), GE CFLs (compact flourescent lamps) and LEDs. We, actually, learned how to find the annual energy cost of ANY bulb, (any electric appliance, too), if we knew the number of hours per day it would be used, the wattage and the price being charged per kWh (kilowatt our) by the local utility company. With that information in hand we were able to calculate the impact on our budget that simply switching out our light bulbs could make. While initial cost and energy cost were certainly critical factors, the quality of the light produced was also weighed into our decisions. I really enjoyed doing this project with our kids and I learned as much as they did. And if I’m honest, I have to admit to you, no one was more surprised than me, at what we discovered. I really didn’t believe that light bulbs were the big energy guzzlers in our household; and secretly, I have always thought the big fuss about shutting off the lights when you leave a room was a little theatrical. Now, bring on the drama! 🙂
The first surprising revelation was the sheer number of light bulbs in our home – 73 incandescent and 6 fluorescent tubes! Oy! The next big shocker was how much of our electricity cost was coming from them. And keep in mind, these figures do not include the cost of our fluorescent tubes, only the incandescent bulbs. I shared an information sheet with you, in my last post, that showed how to calculate energy cost for your own light bulbs. If you missed it, here is the formula.
To get the number of kWh (kilowatt hours) your bulb is using in a day, multiply its wattage times the average number of hours it is “on” in one day and then divide by 1000.
kWh (per day) = watts x hours ÷ 1000
Multiply the kWh you get in that equation, by the cost your utility company charges for a kWh. (The national average is $ .11/kWh.)
Daily energy cost = kWh (per day) x your utility’s charge for 1 kWh
Annual Energy Cost = Daily Energy Cost x 365
With the help of this formula and a calculator, we estimated what we were spending each year to operate all 73 of our light bulbs. We based our calculations on the national average of 3 hours per day. Sadly, I know there are a couple of rooms that exceed that 3 hours, substantially, but that makes these figures even more significant. I wonder if you’ll be as blown away by them as I was. What I’m hoping is it will inspire you to take your own light bulb inventory and calculate what you could be saving on your electricity every year.
When we started this project, I hadn’t even included LEDs in our original spreadsheet. Having checked them out online, I was convinced that the bulbs were not affordable enough to justify the small savings between them and CFLs. After a little further research, I decided to add them into our math lesson. Here’s why. Typically I spend around $2 for a package of 4 incandescent bulbs. (I noticed them on clearance for $1, last night, at our local Walmart.) So, when I saw that LED replacement bulbs for my living room ceiling fan were $47.74 each, and not even available in any stores, locally, you can understand why I crossed them off my list. I was satisfied that the CFLs would provide such a significant savings over what we were currently using. They were only about $4 each and I could grab them right off the shelf when I did our grocery shopping at Walmart. Here’s why I decided to go ahead and consider them – the replacement cost per year for each type of bulb.
The other factors I considered were:
- Did we like the light they produced? – We really didn’t have a problem with any of the bulbs not producing enough light to be comfortable. As a matter of fact, some of the new alternatives did such a good job, we would need to scale back the wattage even further. A good example of this would be over the vanity strip lights with the globe bulbs. We have always used 60W bulbs in those and for makeup plenty of light is a necessity in the bathroom. So, I bought the CFL equivalents of a 60W bulb. It’s almost too bright, so we could probably get by with an even lower wattage when we replace them. None of the bulbs we tested had difficulty adequately lighting the area in which we were using them. So, on that score they all tested equally.
- Disposal – CFLs contain small amounts of mercury and Argon gas to make them operate, which is no big deal, unless you break one, or it’s burned out and you need to throw it away. Unlike incandescent bulbs, you can’t just toss a CFL bulb in your wastebasket. If you break one, you need to follow special instructions for cleaning up the area to avoid risk of exposure to the mercury, especially for children. While the chances of that are slim, it’s still a consideration. I live in a small town, not a city, so it was important to me to know how I would be able to dispose of CFL bulbs. It looks like some larger chain hardware stores offer free disposal services by simply taking any unbroken CFLs to their customer service desk. I checked out a website called Earth 911 and wasn’t able to find anything local for CFL recycling, but did find two places in the city, (about 35 miles to the store that takes them). LEDs don’t contain any heavy metals or gases and can be disposed of just like an incandescent bulb. That is a HUGE factor for our family.
- Instant On – Some CFLs take a little bit to warm up and reach their full light potential. Others are called Instant On and have a halogen tube inside that allows the light to come on instantly and then shuts down once the CFL is warmed up. LEDs are instant on.
- Sound – Though it is slight in most of them, that tell-tale CFL buzz or hum is still evident in quite a few of the CFL bulbs we tested. We didn’t get that with the LEDs we tried.
When we tested out new bulbs for this project, we replaced 18 of our 73 bulbs. Our local Walmart only carried CFLs, in the sizes and styles we needed, so we started with those. I did purchase 4 LED bulbs as 40W replacements for our living room ceiling fan, after a few weeks, switching them for the CFLs we had put in there. I wanted to see for myself how they compared. So, we have 14 CFLs and 4 LEDs. After almost two months using the bulbs, I am completely convinced that light bulbs ARE a significant factor in household energy costs. Even though we only replaced 1/4 of our bulbs, our electric bill has reflected just over $13 savings, each of the last two months. That’s remarkable! I really didn’t expect to see that so soon. Imagine when the other 3/4 are changed out! I’m so motivated to do more, now.
With my husband not being able to work, since July 4 of 2012, this project really got me thinking about new ways to cut our monthly budget – ways that I previously believed were simply static, reduced as low as we could get them. After all, we use electricity every day and we need it. It costs what it costs and there’s not much I can do about it, right? I don’t believe that anymore. Groceries aren’t the only place I can add some savings into our budget, now. Our dishwasher has to be replaced, this week, and now that I understand wattage and kWh, you can bet I will be tracking the energy use of any appliance before making a purchase. And without a doubt, I am going to be setting aside a little money each month to switch out every incandescent bulb in our house. I’m going to spring for the GE Energy Smart LEDs. The long life, easy disposal, less risk around kids if one is broken and the incredible savings in energy make them the best option for our home and for our family’s budget.
To learn more about all three of GE’s light bulb technology types available at Walmart/Sams, find out about the new light bulb legislation, and scope out your own available alternatives and energy savings, try some of these online resources:
I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and GE Lighting . A positive review was not required. As with all Busy-at-Home reviews, the views and opinions expressed are wholly my own and based on my personal experience with the product. #CBias #SocialFabric #GELighting