One of the easiest things a family can do to lessen their carbon footprint is to swap regular (incandescent) bulbs for compact florescent (CFL) bulbs. It is as simple as, well, changing a light bulb. And while a few blonde jokes come to mind, it is something anyone can do.
Because of the significant energy savings from each CFL bulb, we made a decision a few years ago to begin switching to CFL bulbs. We don’t seem to replace bulbs often in our house, to date we had swapped four bulbs in our house to CFLs. So when I was challenged with a whole house lighting swap to CFLs I was ecstatic. It was just the motivation I needed to fully convert.
After taking a lighting inventory, I learned that our home contained 30 regular 60 watt bulbs and 28 flood bulbs in 65 watt (for our recessed lights), plus various other bulbs. That’s a LOT of light bulbs.
We headed to Walmart to research and stock up on GE Bright from the Start CFLs. (Check out my Google+ story to see my entire trip.) There are a lot of lighting choices. I think we spent about 45 minutes in the lighting aisle trying to figure out what we needed and the best options for our house. There are many subtle differences between bulbs, even after all of our research I am still not sure I understand everything. But we finally settled on what we needed.
The only problem, Walmart doesn’t carry that many bulbs at one time! We wiped out the inventory without being able to get enough to cover our house. HA! We will be headed back this weekend to get the rest of what we need.
While CFL bulbs cost a bit more upfront, they have come down in price drastically over the last few years. Comparing prices at Walmart for 60 watt bulbs I found that incandescent bulbs cost about $1 – $1.50 per bulb while the CFL equivalent was about $2 a bulb for spiral bulbs (about $5 if you want enclosed bulbs that look more like traditional bulbs). Save even more with this printable $2 off coupon. The initial cost difference is nothing compared to the annual energy savings of a CFL bulb. Using GE’s CFL Savings Calculator I discovered that swapping all of the bulbs in my house (58 bulbs 60 watt bulbs) will save my family $381.06 per year. WOW! (Calculate your savings here.)
That savings is the idea behind this GE commercial for energy efficient bulbs.
My husband was just as excited about this project as I was, so we were ready to start swapping bulbs as soon as we came home from the store. This is where we hit a HUGE snag. When he went to replace one of the incandescent bulbs in our recessed lights with a CFL he discovered they didn’t fit. The fixture for the recessed light was installed seven years ago, and I guess they didn’t consider CFLs because the hole is too small for the large base of the CFL bulb to fit through. I was crushed.
As we stood in the kitchen debating what to do (Should we buy all new fixtures? How much would that cost?) I asked my husband if he could cut the fixture to make it fit. After some consideration he grabbed a pair of metal cutters and set to work. It worked! We were both thrilled, although the task just became much more involved than simply switching a light bulb. (Thank you hubby for all your hard work converting our light fixtures!)
After tackling the issue of making the bulbs fit, we discovered another issue that we have yet to solve. In general, CFL bulbs are not made to be dimmable. Unlike incandescent, you cannot just stick a CFL bulb on a dimmer switch and be good to go (in fact, doing so could cause a fire). There are dimmable CFLs available (for about $15 a pop), but they have to be used with a special dimmer made for CFLs. Because there are several areas in our house where we use dimmed lights daily, we realized that we could not convert these bulbs (at this time). For us that means four recessed lights and eight regular bulbs. While we hope to convert these dimmable bulbs in the future, at this time that project would cost well over $200 and still would not work as well as the incandescent bulbs we use now.
In addition to the dimmers, there were other bulbs we were unable to replace. Above the showers in our house we have enclosed lights incorporated into a fan. Because CFL bulbs can cause a fire when enclosed, we decided it was safer not to replace these. (Plus we rarely use those lights as evidenced by the original seven-year-old bulbs still in place.) Our dining room chandelier proved to be another challenge. While a mini CFL fits, the shades are made to fit on top of the bulb and do not work with CFLs (plus we dim this fixture too). Finally, there are no CFL options for nightlight bulbs. Since we really want to be more energy efficient, we opted for LED nightlight bulbs.
While the move from incandescent to CFLs is voluntary at this time, the government has mandated the phasing out of incandescent bulbs. I hope that as production of incandescent bulbs ceases, light bulb manufactures will work on solving the dimmable issue with a more affordable option.
I am excited to see the energy savings that our whole house conversion will mean for our family. I will follow up next month with another post to compare my bill from last year at this time with this year’s bill to track those savings. I will also share tips on using CFL bulbs.
Say good bye to our incandescent light bulbs…
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