Welcome to our energy advice column. Here we summarize publicly available information on the many ways you can save money on your energy bills as well as general topics on renewable energy. We try to keep our advice short and to the point.
Revolutions do happen, and in the world of home lighting we may just be witnessing a revolution.
When we consider that the light bulbs invented by Edison in 1879 - which we still use - provide only 10 percent light compared to 90 percent heat, we can appreciate why some of the new technology in lighting is revolutionary.
Here’s how the standard light bulb works. It creates light by heating a small wire filament in a vacuum filled glass bulb. As the wire filament heats up, it changes color. At one point in this process we get white light, or incandescent light. If you don't believe that most of the energy that goes into lighting an incandescent bulb turns into heat, try touching it after it's been on for a few minutes.
Try this comparison. You know those small tabletop coil burners? You plug them into a 110V outlet and the coil turns red hot. Most of these burners consume 1000 watts of energy per hour—the same amount consumed by ten standard light bulbs rated at 100 watts each. However, unlike the burner, which is used for heating, these ten light bulbs are making good use of only 10 percent of the energy they consume. This is waste, big waste.
Compact fluorescent bulbs offer a welcome alternative to the traditional light bulb.
Slightly bulky and odd looking in appearance, these lights are showing up in all the stores where lights are purchased, and the price is dropping rapidly. Only a few years ago, one of these lights would cost as much as $8.00 to $15.00. Today they sell for as little as $2.00.
What’s the difference? A 20 watt compact fluorescent light is equal to a 75 watt incandescent. You get the same light for one-third the cost.
Some of the issues that plagued traditional fluorescent lights, such as flickering and poor light color, are gone (think of those long white tubes in your basement). The new generation of fluorescent bulbs provides almost the same light intensity and color as the incandescent ones. The lighting industry gives them a rating of 82 versus 90 to 95 for incandescent. (A perfect rating would be 100.) The old fluorescents had a rating of only 51.
There’s another bonus: fluorescent lights outlast incandescents by a factor of ten.
Like solar hot water, compact fluorescents make a lot of sense for those of you who have decided to go green. Replace all of your lights with these new compact fluorescents and watch next month's electric bill decrease.