The electricity consumed by light bulbs adds up - really. Although a light bulb may
not use much electricity, quite a few are used in a typical house and they can be
switched on for long periods. Taken together, the power can add up to a sizeable
proportion of your electricity bill. We were amazed to discover how much electricity
we have saved just by using a combination of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs)
and Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs).
Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are much more energy efficient than the traditional
filament-type bulbs. For the same light output, they only use about a fifth of the
electricity. Don't get put off by the fact that they contain small amounts of mercury.
The energy you save far outweighs the disadvantages of the mercury. In fact, a filament
bulb can release more mercury into the environment via the chimneys at a coal fired
power station. These bulbs have a long life: when they finally do give up, simply
ask how to dispose of them at your local dump. CFLs come in various ‘shades’ of
white - usually the warmer whites look better in a home environment, although the
cooler whites can work well in working areas. Be careful to pick the right white
Light Emitting Diodes are a comparatively new technology. They are very efficient,
and are great at providing directional light. We put these in ceiling downlighters
(they screwed right in, like a normal bulb) and they use even less electricity than
compact fluorescents (CFLs). We tracked down warm white LEDs, which give a better
quality of light than the bluish-white light that many LEDs produce. LEDs are still
quite expensive ($35 per bulb, or even more), but they last for 50,000 hours. Compared
with a conventional bulb, they can recover many times their original cost in energy
savings. LEDs also work well in cold locations, where CFLs can struggle (for instance,
over the front porch).
Remember dark-sky-friendly light fittings for outside. From our house in Maine, we
can see the Milky Way. Bright, star-lit nights are a big draw for visitors to this
state. However, badly placed security lights can shine straight up into the sky,
ruining the night sky over a wide area for those who wish to enjoy it. In many parts
of the US the night sky is no longer visible, except for a few of the brightest stars.
This may not sound like a big deal, but it is part of our heritage, and it could
be lost forever.
A simple solution is to buy external lights that only shine downwards.
This also makes economic sense, because light that shines up into the sky is wasted
energy that you have to pay for. Fixtures that only shine downwards can provide
the same amount of illumination, with less glare, using a smaller bulb. We got our
external light fittings from Starry Night Lights
These fixtures light up our front entrance porch and decks, without shining any direct