May 082010

Everybody knows that lighting consumes electricity. Based on statistics, lighting is responsible for about 12% of the energy used in a typical American home. That’s a huge chunk of your bills! Is there any way you can reduce your lighting bills?

Make no mistake about this, you cannot completely eliminate this need for lighting in the home at night, after all, what is life without light? You need to brighten up your nights with lights, perhaps to move around the house, doing your chores, guard against intruders, and enjoy some reading and so on. But let’s try our best to reduce that energy use.

Nearly every home can benefit from improved lighting efficiency. No matter what the type of lighting in your home, there are opportunities to lower your monthly energy costs by reducing your electricity use. You can also improve the quality of light at the same time.

On the average, every home has nine lights left on for more than three hours every day. Any light bulb burning more than two hours per day on average is a good candidate to be replaced with a compact fluorescent lamp (CFL).

Below are some simple techniques to lower lighting costs and improve lighting quality. Most of them can be done with little or no skill and with low cost:

Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents

Compact Fluorescent Lamps, or CFLs, use one-third to one-quarter the energy of incandescent bulbs, and last up to ten times longer. They screw into standard light bulb sockets, and are available in many sizes and shapes to fit almost any fixture. They are more expensive to buy than incandescent bulbs, but save several times their purchase cost because of reduced electric use and longer life (less frequent replacement).

The packaging for a CFL usually indicates the equivalent wattage of the incandescent bulb it replaces. For example, a 20-watt CFL gives off about the same amount of light as a 75-watt incandescent bulb. Note that CFLs take up to a minute to reach full brightness.

Look for ENERGY STAR qualified models, which carry the ENERGY STAR logo on the product or the box. These models are among the most energy-efficient units sold.

For the purpose of calculating savings from a compact fluorescent bulb, here are some facts:

If you replace one 75-watt incandescent bulb (that costs 75¢ and is on for four hours per day) with a 20-watt compact fluorescent lamp (that costs $5 and is also on for four hours per day), you’ll save about $3 by the end of the first year, and more than $50 over the expected seven-year life of the CFL. Well, it depends on your electricity tariffs, but you get the idea?

In addition to this, by replacing the incandescent lights with fluorescent bulbs, you will also save on your cooling bills. This is because incandescent lights give off a tremendous amount of heat that can warm up the interior of your house.

Install energy-saving controls on exterior lights

Outdoor lighting should be off when it’s not needed. You can switch them off manually or automatically. Here are some ways you can do it automatically :

  • Install photocell switches. These can automate lights by shutting them off when the sun comes up. Be careful though to locate them away from street lighting, automobile headlights from the street and lighting from your own home. Also protect them from dusts and weather so as not to give false activations.
  • Install timers to automatically turn off outdoor lights in the evening, such as patio lights that are no longer needed when you go indoors. You may have to adjust these as the season changes to longer or shorter daylight hours.
  • Install motion sensors to turn on lights when they detect movement. These are excellent when people are moving around a lot. However, they have a drawback – they will switch off when a person remains motionless like when they are sitting down reading a book. These sensors are also prone to accidental operation by the movement of rodents and other nocturnal animals.

These devices are available at hardware stores and home improvement centers for as little as $15. Most of them come with installation instructions. Hard-wired fixtures may require an electrician.

Clean fixtures

Dust settling on lamps reduces the light intensity. Keep lamps, lampshades and light bulbs clean to maximize their light output. You may even find that once a fixture is clean, it gives off the same amount of light as a higher-wattage bulb.

Use low-wattage light bulbs

In some fixtures, it’s possible to use lower-wattage light bulbs and still get the amount of light you need. Sometimes locating a light source nearer to the needed area is all that is necessary.

Turn lights off

This is the best tip of all. The lamp that is switched off uses no energy. Turn off the lights when you don’t need them. This takes some discipline to make it work. Once the action has become a habit it becomes easier. If you need to, just put a sticker or sign to remind you to switch off when you are not using the room. Get your family to cooperate.

Finally, you might even consider a drastic change in your lifestyle – go to sleep earlier! It might even improve your health and lower your doctor’s bills!

Thomas Yoon specializes in cartoon illustrations at that will make an impact on people’s opinions. More information on Marine and M & E engineering.

Author: Thomas Yoon
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Thomas Yoon

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