Last month, we embarked on a mission to swap every light bulb in the house for more energy-efficient CFL bulbs. We were thrilled to reduce our energy usage, both to make our home more green and lower our energy bill. It’s something we slowly started a few years ago, but a whole house switch — it was quite an undertaking.
We learned a lot about making the commitment to change out more than 50 bulbs in our house. Here are 10 things you need to know about making the switch.
- CFL Bulbs Can Be Recycled – Unlike their incandescent counterpart, CFLs can be broken down and recycled making them an even greener choice. Since there is mercury in these bulbs, they should NOT be thrown in the trash. You can easily recycle CFLs by taking them to Home Depot or Lowes. Find more places to recycle those bulbs at Earth911.com.
- Math - CFL bulbs use about 75% less electric energy than incandescent bulbs, which is why a 13 watt CFL bulb vs. a 60 watt equivalent incandescent bulb. When shopping for CFLs, look for the equivalent of the bulb you currently use, for example for a 75 watt bulb get a 14 watt CFL.
- The Color - My biggest hangup on switching to CFLs previously is the color these bulbs produce. It is just a little bit yellower. Very bright, just different. Since we were already a fan of GE Reveal bulbs in the bathroom, I replaced those with GE Reveal CFLs. WOW what a difference. If color is an issue – get Reveals. Just as white as my incandescents, perfect for putting on makeup.
- Warm Up Time – It takes some time getting used to the warm up time for CFL bulbs. We were used to walking into a dark room and getting instant light, now there is a one-two second delay. It isn’t much, but it takes getting used to. We placed GE Bright From The Start bulbs that come on bright (although even these warm up brighter) in the bedrooms for instant light.
- If It Doesn’t Fit, Adjust – What should have been a quick bulb swap turned into hours of “fixing” the light fixtures. Older model recess lighting fixtures are not made wide enough to fit the electric components of a CFL. Never fear, you can modify these easily buy cutting them. (See previous post for details.)
- Dimmable Issues – The biggest obstacle in our home is our love for dimmed lighting. There are several areas were we use dimmed lights daily. Dimmable CFLs are problematic. You can’t dim a normal CFL (could cause a fire) and dimmable bulbs cost a lot more. Plus, you are supposed to buy special dimmable CFL switches. And even when all is said and done, CFLs don’t dim as smoothly as an incandescent. It is more like set levels than a smooth dim. (For now our dimmers still have incandescents.)
- Longer Is Better – I was surprised to learn that in order to really be more energy efficient, CFL bulbs need to be left on for at least 15 minutes. That’s not to say you can’t flip them on for a quick second, but they are more efficient when left on for long periods of time.
- Breakage – I was under the impression that if a CFL broke we had to evacuate the house – that’s an exaggeration. While most sources recommend ventilating and leaving the room for 15 mins or so, you don’t have call for an evacuation. Just ventelate and use caution in the clean up.
- Buy in Bulk – Swapping one bulb at a time is the easy way to make the switch, but buying one bulb at a time is the most expensive way to convert. Save on the upfront cost by buying multi-packs. You will also be prepared when an old incandescent burns out.
- How Many People Does It Take… – You’ll never know. With CFL bulbs lasting five – nine years, once you switch you won’t have to change a bulb for years.
When I started the project, I used GE’s CFL Savings Calculator. I discovered that swapping all of the bulbs in my house (58 bulbs 60 watt bulbs) would save my family $381.06 per year. WOW! (You can calculate your savings here.) The plan was to come back a month later to compare my energy bill and see the savings in action. Unfortunately, I don’t have a big number to share with you. In fact, my May 2012 bill was $4 more than my May 2011 bill. EKK! Boy, did that disappoint me.
After a little more research into my bill, I leaned that there were actually more billing days in this bill than last year’s (something I still don’t understand!). So when I actually looked at the breakdown of kilowatts uses, we used one kilowatt less this year than last. Whooo hooo! Still not the big savings I hoped to show – we saved $0.04. But there are other factors to consider as well. The biggest issue to consider is that we installed the new bulbs in my house on May 13, which meant they bulbs were in my home for approximately half of the billing cycle for last month (and we are currently half way through a new cycle). So, we aren’t looking an even comparison.
Plus we’ve had a major household change, the addition of a person since last year! I know baby girl is small, but she makes a of laundry. I am sure she contributes to our household energy usage. LOL!
While I don’t see a huge savings this month, I have faith that our savings will add up penny by penny over the lifetime of the bulbs.
Wondering what happened to all those old bulbs?
Never fear, I could never waste them. They are being passed along to family members who have not yet made the switch – I’ll work on them next..
Disclosure – I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and GE, however, all thoughts and opinions are my own. #CBias #SocialFabric #GELighting