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Light Bulb Savings a Real "Turn On"
by Stuart Lieberman

Here is a great way to accomplish a lot of good with very minimal effort. Buy new light bulbs. Not just any light bulbs will do. You need to buy compact flourescent light bulbs.

These bulbs are readily available at most large retail chains, hardware stores and home improvement centers. Also, some utility providers may sell them at discounted prices.

The good news about these bulbs is that they cost much less to use than traditional incandescent bulbs because they require much less energy for light production. Also, since less energy is required, the need for energy production is reduced, which means that the bulbs are less taxing on the environment.

The bad news is that the bulbs have a mangled pitchfork look that some people may not appreciate. Since the bulbs have a distinct appearance, homeowners may not want to use them in more visible locations.

Also, some reports have suggested that manufacturers tend to overstate the light production generated by compact fluorescent bulbs. If light output is a real concern at a particular location, you might wish to purchase a compact bulb with an advertised higher light output than you think you really need for the spot.

I suggest that you begin a light bulb replacement program. Don't replace every bulb at one time. Rather, begin with the bulbs that are most frequently used. For example, you might want to start with outdoor porch lights, hallway lights, and central room lighting fixtures. Then, gradually replace other bulbs when they burn out.

According to a study by "Wattwatchers," a research group at the University of Texas, the amount of energy wasted by incandescent light bulbs is substantial. Quite startlingly, only 10 percent of the energy consumed by an incandescent bulb actually produces light. The remaining 90 percent generates heat, that is wasted. If you doubt this, try touching an incandescent bulb that has been on for a short while. You cannot.

In contrast, compact fluorescent bulbs use nearly all of the consumed energy for light production. This is why you can touch a fluorescent bulb after it has been in use for a while.

These newer bulbs cost more than the tradition bulbs, generally $10- $15 per bulb, but usually pay for themselves in one year and last several years. According to Wattwatchers, homeowners may save about $57 per year for every 10,000 hours in which a compact fluorescent bulb has been in use rather than a standard incandescent light.

For several years, the federal Department of Energy has actively promoted these bulbs for commercial and residential use. According to one of its studies, homeowners can save 35% in lighting costs if they make the switch. Indeed, the DOE has recently embarked on a program to convert bulbs used in its Washington headquarters to compact fluorescent lighting.

Many state governments also have laws and programs which require state office buildings to take similar measures to reduce energy savings and lighting costs. In addition, some utilities offer cash savings to customers purchasing these bulbs. For example, the Interstate Power Company in Iowa had a $7.00 per bulb cash program. In New Jersey, Public Service Electric & Gas sold the bulbs at discounted rates in one recent promotion.

If your utility has not done anything to promote light bulb replacements, call and complain. Utilities are often given incentives to reduce energy consumption in their service areas. There is no question that a bulb replacement program is one efficient way to accomplish this goal.