Can something as simple as a lightbulb help preserve the environment? Manufacturers like Philips, GE and Sylvania think so. These manufacturing giants are promoting new types of bulbs designed to consume as much as 75 percent less electricity than standard incandescent models, according to the U.S. Green Building Council. It’s a move that promises to help homeowners curb their household energy costs while being good to the environment.
“Operating your lighting more efficiently is not just about dollars and cents,” says Phil Scheetz, home systems marketing manager for lighting control manufacturer Lutron Electronics. “It’s about conserving the natural resources required to fuel electrical power plants.” When those plants produce less electricity, fewer toxic emissions are fed into the air and water.
“By replacing three incandescent bulbs with three CFL (compact fluorescent) bulbs, over the course of 10 years you can eliminate the emission of one ton of carbon dioxide,” says Susan Bloom, a Philips spokesperson. Such statements have made CFLs part of a nationwide movement that has homeowners rethinking how and when they use their lights and utilizing a variety of innovative technologies to curb their consumption of electricity. Safe disposal of CFLs is important because they contain a small amount of mercury, so it is recommended that you look into available local recycling options.
Switch to Better Bulbs
While there’s no denying CFLs are a more efficient light source than traditional incandescent bulbs, they’re not the end-all solution to efficient lighting use. Even manufacturers of CFLs advise against replacing every bulb in your house with these energy-saving models. “CFLs are great, but only when used in the right application,” says Bloom. “Being green, to us, means using a combination of CFLs, halogens and incandescent lights,” adds Gary Meshberg, chairman of the Home Lighting Control Alliance. Advocates of energy-saving lights agree that CFLs are ideal for areas like garages, laundry rooms, utility rooms and the outdoors—places where the fixtures typically stay on for extended periods of time and where you need strong light. “Because CFLs can last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, they’re also a good choice for hard-to-reach places like great rooms with cathedral ceilings.”
The good old incandescent bulb, meanwhile, still excels at producing soft, warm light, making it the right choice for areas where ambiance is important, like family rooms, bedrooms and media spaces. Plus, unlike some CFLs, incandescent bulbs can be dimmed to create a variety of effects. And when set at a dim level, they use less energy and last longer. “Dimming a lamp by just 10 percent doubles its life and saves 10 percent on energy costs,” says Meshberg. Heinz Roy, product development manager for Lightolier Controls, can testify to that. By placing all but a few of his home’s lights on a dimming system; using occupancy sensors to control the fixtures in the attic, guest bathroom and laundry room; and installing programmable thermostats, his monthly energy bills have been 12 percent lower, on average.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.