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a lot of light, a lot of savings

January 20, 2008

Very surely we’ve been trying to make our lighting in our house more energy efficient. Our foyer fixture has been on a dimmer for a number of years now, any new fixture we get has CFL bulbs in it, and old incandescent bulbs are being replaced with CFLs on a sporadic basis. There has been one light in the house that wasn’t being changed, and it was the one light that I really didn’t like: the 300W halogen ceiling fixture in my kitchen.

Yes, 300W. It’s a shameful amount of energy in terms of lighting, but when the original lower-wattage (“only” 200W, I think) burned out, 300W replacement bulbs were all I could find. The intensity of the light became simply too much, and I’d turn it off whenever possible. Truth be told, I hated the light it gave off.

On a recent trip to Ikea, my eagle-eyed wife spotted a new fixture similar to what we had, but instead of requiring a halogen bulb it had 3 standard sockets inside. Ikea being one of the first early full-scale adopters of CFL bulbs, they have a huge selection of same, which meant we were able to pick up a 3-pack of 11W CFLs (equivalent lumen output to a 60W incandescent) to go along with the new fixture.

Now we have the new fixture installed, and it gives off a wonderfully diffuse light that I love. What I love even more is the fact that we’ve trimmed our power use from 300W all the way down to a measly 33W. Is that great or what?

Well, it is… but at the same time, consuming our way to sustainability simply can’t happen. Did I do the right thing?

Let’s do some math. The new light fixture and bulbs cost $45 together. At the current rate I pay for electricity (5.3¢/kWh) that would have purchased 849 kWh. Having gone from a 300W light down to a 33W light, I’m saving 267W for every hour I have the light on. That means that I’ll have broken even when the new fixture and lights have been used for 3180 hours.

On one hand, that good. The CFL lights in there are good for 6000 hours, so they’ll last well beyond having paid for themselves and the light fixture. On the other hand, it may take me between 2-5 years to use the light that much.

So I did the right thing… sort of. Obviously, if it’s taking me a matter of years to recover spending $45, focusing on lighting efficiency improvements is hardly worthwhile. Yes, it’s “low hanging fruit”, and swapping out an old bulb with a CFL is something anyone can do. If you improved your vehicle’s efficiency by 1% you’d save way more in fuel than if you swapped out all of your lights for CFLs. Reducing your shower time, and/or installing a drain water heat recovery system would save a lot more energy in hot water heating. Turning down your thermostat, driving less, eating more local food… there is lots we can do, but for some reason swapping out our lights for CFLs is what we’re being told to do. I don’t get it.

At least I like the light fixture in my kitchen now.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 12, 2009 3:18 pm

    What is not being made public is the fact that the cf bulbs have mercury in them. In the end, what we MAY possibly save in electricity, gets quickly squandered with a pollutant in our land fills that doesn’t go away.

    Added to that is the fact that the ‘guaranteed’ life span of the cf bulbs is not always what they are billed for. We may be told that they last for 6000 hours, but I have had some of those bulbs last less than one! I think that there has to be an improvement over these bulbs.

    Another issue with the cf bulbs is the noise factor. Many of them will create white noise, that can interfere with other radio equipment, such as short wave and ham radio signals. Perhaps not a major issue, but certainly an irritant.

    To push these cf bulbs… are they really the best alternatives for the price? Would I stop purchasing the old incandescent bulbs and replace with cf bulbs exclusively? Right now, I really don’t think that they are the perfect solution and more research should be put into the alternatives.

  2. February 28, 2009 12:28 pm

    I love your site!

    Experiencing a slow PC recently? Fix it now!

  3. stacymulrain permalink
    January 13, 2010 6:04 pm

    ok, so it’s not a lot, but don’t forget the costs you save going forward!

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