Trim The Fat Tuesday: The Light Bulbs

Back on Patriot's Day, we didn't just watch the marathon and enjoy the gorgeous weather. We also had a long-overdue energy audit done on our drafty old house.

Turns out that we have a LOT of room for improvement, starting with

Replacing incandescent lightbulbs with more energy-efficient choices.

If you live in Massachusetts, it's super-easy to sign up for a home energy assessment online. It's sponsored by the local energy companies, so all you need is your most recent electric or gas bill, and you're good to go. The Mass Save program will send out a technician to go through your house and figure out all the places you can improve your energy efficiency (and save money).

After testing your heating system and scouting out all the drafty spots, they also offer you free lightbulbs to replace all your incandescent bulbs.

That's right, FREE light bulbs.

If you don't think that sounds like a good deal, you probably haven't been light bulb shopping in a while. CFLs cost about $5 apiece, and LEDs are twice that. All told, they gave us $168.91 in free lightbulbs.

And that's exactly the kind of incentive it took to pry incandescents out of my cold, not-quite-dead-yet hands. I love incandescent bulbs, and am uncharacteristically incensed that the government is forcing manufacturers to phase them out. And anyone who says you can't tell the difference between a "color-corrected" CFL and an incandescent is either a liar or an idiot.

But.

This opportunity has caught me at just the right moment--a moment in which I am willing to at least give new bulb technology a try in order to trim some money out of our electric bill each month. So, yes, I can totally tell the difference in the quality of light, but I'm willing to give it a go to see if I can learn to live with it.

And.

The LED lights are much, much better than the CFLs. They come on at full strength right away (no dim, annoying warm-up period), and the color and quality of light is much closer to an incandescent. I find them much less fatiguing on my eyes, and they just feel brighter.


Alas, they are expensive, although good sales can be found. For example, in Massachusetts Home Depot stores right now you can get a Cree 60 watt LED that looks and acts just like a regular old Edison lightbulb for $4.97. That's an incredible price for a very highly-reviewed bulb (and if I'm putting in my two-cents, I'm impressed so far!), so I stocked up on a bunch. Eventually I think we'll replace all the CFL freebies with these LED bulbs, since they look so much better and are just as efficient. But we'll probably wait until the old ones die first.

The other cool thing that they gave us is a couple fancy surge protectors for the TV. It's a Smart Power Strip that saves electricity (and cash!) by allowing you to plug your peripheral devices (DVD player, VCR, Wii) into sockets that only come on when you turn on your TV (because they TV is plugged into a special receptacle on the strip). That keeps the other devices from drawing power 24/7, which is what they do right now on our old, dumb power strip. These can cost $20-$40 a pop, so hooray for more
freebies!


We used one with the TV and I am trying the other one as a charging station. I have the laptop charger on the "control" switch, and the phone chargers on the peripheral switches. When the laptop isn't charging or in use, it will shut off the phone chargers. This will ensure that while we are sleeping or out of the house, the phone chargers aren't pulling their phantom load of electricity out of the wall. The laptop will still draw some extra electricity, but getting the chargers under control is a step in the right direction.

According to the number-crunching done by the Mass Save guy with our electric bill, switching out all these bulbs and using the Smart Power Strip should save us $145.83 per year. That's $12.15 per month, and I'm going to say that's worth me letting go of my light bulb Luddite ways.

Savings per month: $12

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