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June 18, 2018  |  Login
Lighting Controls and Features to Save Energy
By Eric Corey Freed

Lighting accounts for one-third of the energy used in the average home. By changing bulbs, adding some sensors, and bringing in sunlight, you can cut this energy use in half.

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

Compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs are a type of fluorescent lamp that fits into a standard light bulb socket. Traditional incandescent bulbs waste energy, give off a lot of heat, and constantly burn out — all of which adds up to added maintenance and air-conditioning costs.

CFL bulbs use a fraction of the energy of their incandescent counterparts, produce 70% less heat, and last ten times longer. All this saves you $30 or more over the life of each bulb.

If every American home replaced just one light bulb with a CFL bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 2.5 million homes for a year and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of nearly 800,000 cars.

Tip  Some things to consider before you run out to the store to buy new CFL bulbs:

  • Most fluorescent bulbs use a tiny amount of mercury in order to work. Because mercury is unhealthy, make sure to purchase low-mercury fluorescents. Several manufacturers (including Philips and Sylvania) now offer them.
  • Mixing and matching bulbs from different manufacturers can create color issues. One bulb might be yellowish, while the one right next to it might be more bluish. This presents a challenge if you’re slowly upgrading the bulbs one at a time as they burn out.
  • Many people complain that CFL bulbs cannot be dimmed. Dimmable CFL bulbs are available — for a little more money.
  • Because they contain mercury, CFL bulbs should not be thrown away. Send them to your local hazardous waste disposal program (where you send batteries and tires).

LED Bulbs

A light-emitting diode (LED) is a tiny semiconductor that emits light. It looks like a small bulb but contains no filament to burn out. Although LEDs are twice as energy efficient as incandescent bulbs, they’re still not as efficient as CFL bulbs.

LEDs have an incredibly long life — 30,000 to 50,000 hours. (The typical CFL bulb lasts about 10,000 hours; the typical incandescent bulb only 800 to 1,000 hours.) New types of LED bulbs are being released, making them affordable for common household use.

Occupancy Sensors

Occupancy sensors turn on the lights when someone enters the room and shut off after a set period of no movement. Switch sensors replace the traditional light switch and fit into the same space. Occupancy sensors are perfect for mud rooms, powder rooms, kids’ play rooms, garages, basements, and anywhere else you may forget to turn off the lights.

Kill Switches and Plug Strips

Even when they’re turned off and not running, appliances still continue to use energy. Always-ready devices like TV sets, stereos, DVD players, and microwaves use even more energy while waiting for you to click your remote. If you plug those appliances into a power strip with an on/off switch, and you switch off the power strip when you’re not using the appliances, you could save $50 a year. more


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