When a person mentions ways to save on electricity, the first thing that pops into most people's heads is to cut lighting costs. Lighting makes up about 11% of an average households electric bill according to the US Department of Energy. Although, a search of the Internet reveals this can be anywhere from 7 to 25% depending on the site.
Turn off the lightsThe easiest way to cut back on lighting costs is to turn the lights off. While this goes without saying, I have seen plenty of households leave the lights on in every room of the house, even though no one was in the room or there was no need to have them on because of natural light. My wife tends to leave the lights on when a room is fully lit by sunlight and it drives me nuts.
Dim the Lights
Use the Proper Light for the JobAnother way to handle over powering lights is to put lesser bulbs in. Many light fixtures have a few sockets in them for lights. Instead making them all 60 or 75 watt bulbs, consider trying a couple of 40 watts mixed in with some 60 watts. The lighting level might still feel comfortable without all the extra light.
Another idea would be to use a 30 to 40 watt light that is close to a person instead of illuminating a whole room. This could be while working on the computer or reading a book. At night we read and finish surfing the Internet in bed with a single 40 watt bulb.
CFLsWhen thinking about saving money on lighting, an average person thinks of using Compact Fluorescent Lights or CFLs to lower their bills. CFLs consume about a 1/4 to a 1/3 less power than an equivalent incandescent light bulb. For me though, that is where the benefits really stop. My biggest complaint is they are very inconsistent in lighting from one brand to another and one model to another. Some take a second or two to turn on, which can be annoying. Some take 20 to 30 seconds or so to warm up. Of course, if these are in a pantry or closet, 20 to 30 seconds is all they are on for so the whole light experience is sad. Some CFLs also give sub par lighting. I have found them to put a strain on my eyes and there are reports of people getting headaches from CFLs, though, I never have gotten one. I also noticed that some CFLs get dimmer as their life wears on.
Other CFL complaints I have that are not related to light quality are that some CFLs do not handle cold weather at all. I have bulbs die within a few weeks of being out in the cold, others I have had last a decent amount of time, but no where near the 10,000 hours as promised. The ones that did last were flood lights. The 10,000 hours promised by CFL manufactures is also not true if they are in a light that is turned on and off quite frequently. Such places would be the kitchen pantry, laundry room, the bathroom or the closet. A normal CFL cannot be dimmed. To dim a CFL a special CFL is required which will cost more. Finally, the big concern is if a CFL bulb breaks. Inside the bulb is mercury a very toxic substance. This is something to really worry about with young kids running around and fixtures that can get knocked over like lamps.
Even with all my complaints, I still use CFLs in the celling lights in rooms where the lights stay on for at least a couple of hours a day. This is my kitchen with recessed lights, for we like to cook a lot, and the living room lights. I also have a set in my kid's ceiling fixtures since he tends to leave the lights on all the time.
LED LightingLED Lighting is my favorite lighting technology, well maybe second to BMW's new laser lighting. About 7 years ago I tried an LED bulb in a reading lamp. It was terrible, the light was very bright but also very directional only covering upwards. Since then I have used LED night lights, flashlights and under cabinet lights and liked them all. Just a few months ago I bought a motion sensor light that was LED and runs on batteries for under my stairs. LED lighting works great in these situations. In the last two years I have seen 40 watt bulb equivalents in stores, but for the money just could not justify them.
Two weeks ago, in need of some chandelier lights I came across a deal at Costco. I bought a set of 3, 200 lumen chandelier lights for less than $15 for the set. These were to replace some burned out 25 watt bulbs in my dining room table chandelier. My chandelier uses 18, 25 watt bulbs or 450 watts of lighting. It stays on for about 4 hours a day through dinner, kids activities, breakfast, lunch and homework. Therefore, I figured I was burning about 1800 watts a day or 15 cents of energy each day or $54 a year from this one light. I installed three bulbs under one of the lamp shades, 3 bulbs fit under one of the shades. Lamp shades on chandelier hides the bulbs so what they look like does not matter and the light is reflected from the shade back down unto the table. The light from the LEDs was actually brighter, albeit a little whiter than the existing bulbs. Amazon has bulbs that are a bit more yellower but cost twice as much. I went back to Costco and bought 15 more bulbs on the deal. In total I spent less than $90 on the bulbs.
Each bulb uses less than 4 watts of energy so about 1/6 the energy and should save me about $45 a year giving me a 2 year payback on the bulbs. LED bulbs are supposed to last 15 to 20 years. They do come with a 2 year warranty so I am saving the receipt on that one just in case. The advantages over a CFL is that an LED can be turned on and off without issues unlike CFLs. They do not get hot. They come in all sorts of different shades of colors. The lights come on right away, they do not have to warm up and the quality of lighting feels much better. LEDs also contain no mercury or deadly toxins if they are broken. The drawback is that like a CFL, because of their initial cost they must be put into a light that is on quite a bit, 4 to 5 hours a day. Otherwise the payback on the light will take forever. Another drawback is like a CFL special more expensive dim-able bulbs must be bought if wishing to dim the light. The light pattern has gotten a lot better on LED lights. They are getting close to an incandescent bulb.