Saturday, September 23, 2006

CFLs and how you can change the world

I don’t often author posts like this, but if you read the whole thing, you will find out not only how to save yourself money, but also how you can change the world for about the cost of a coffee at Starbucks.

Let’s talk CFLs — here are the opening paragraphs of a recent Fast Company article that got me focused on CFLs:

Sitting humbly on shelves in stores everywhere is a product, priced at less than $3, that will change the world. Soon. It is a fairly ordinary item that nonetheless cuts to the heart of a half-dozen of the most profound, most urgent problems we face. Energy consumption. Rising gasoline costs and electric bills. Greenhouse-gas emissions. Dependence on coal and foreign oil. Global warming.

The product is the compact fluorescent lightbulb, a quirky-looking twist of frosted glass. In the energy business, it is called a "CFL," or an "energy saver."

CFLs can be had for less than $3 at both Lowes and Home Depot when purchased in the 60W equivalent, non-dimmable, contractor packs — the more that you buy, the more that you save.  There are higher equivalent wattages, decorator-style bulbs, flood bulbs, 3–way bulbs, and dimmable bulbs that all cost more or less than $3, but you can replace nearly every light in your house with CFLs.

I replaced almost every (more on why I didn’t replace every light later in this post) light in my house today at a cost of around $100.  On average, the CFLs that I purchased at Home Depot draw 1/3 the wattage of incandescent bulbs to produce an equivalent wattage.  For example, the 60W equivalent CFL coil lights that I used in the majority of my fixtures draw only 14 watts; the packaging estimates a $46 savings per year per bulb.  Do the math yourself: if you spend $3 per bulb with a first year savings of $46 and a sunk cost of the bulb that you are replacing of about $2, the net savings to you in year 1 is $41.  Oh, and there is a warranty that, under normal usage conditions, guarantees the operation of the bulb for 9 years.

Consider this statistic from the Fast Company article:

. . . if every one of 110 million American households bought just one ice-cream-cone bulb, took it home, and screwed it in the place of an ordinary 60-watt bulb, the energy saved would be enough to power a city of 1.5 million people. One bulb swapped out, enough electricity saved to power all the homes in Delaware and Rhode Island. In terms of oil not burned, or greenhouse gases not exhausted into the atmosphere, one bulb is equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the roads.

I just replaced around 70 sockets worth of bulbs — consider the impact if everyone replaced even half of the sockets in their home instead of just one socket.

But I didn’t replace every socket and here’s why: neither the Lowes nor the Home Depots close to my house carry dimmable 60W equivalent bulbs and I have several dimming switches installed in the house.  Searching online, I did find dimmable bulbs, but the cost is hovering between $16 and $18 per bulb, which is quite expensive for all of the bulbs that I need to replace.  Fortunately, the places where I have dimmers are used very sparingly (i.e., formal dining room that is used maybe 4–6 times per year).  Once the dimmable bulbs are more available and/or come down in price, I will probably go ahead and replace the bulbs in those sockets as well.  Consider that I replaced around 70 sockets with CFLs and the dimmable sockets represent only 8 sockets in my house.

Oh and I forgot to mention that after reading this article, me and my team replaced every indoor incandescent bulb at my work with CFLs — that was something like 180 fixtures.  Then we replaced every outdoor flood fixture with outdoor CFL bulbs — that was something like 120 fixtures.

Want to change your impact on the world?  You can start today.  Skip Starbucks on Monday morning, take your coffee money and buy a 60W CFL, take it home, and replace just 1 incandescent light in your house, apartment, RV, etc.

Link — Fast Company

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