Make a plan for new light bulbs

Last week’s Green story, “Online activism”, reported on how there’s a lot people can do to help the environment without getting into their cars and driving to the latest oil spill or flying to the rainforest to chain themselves to trees. The idea is to work smarter, not harder.

But being “green” requires more than occasional assistance through pressing keys on the laptop. Sometimes it requires actual changes in lifestyle.

How many times have you read in the last two years about compact fluorescent bulbs and the need for replacing home and office incandescent light bulbs? It seems the message still isn’t getting across. A story titled, “Edison’s Dimming Bulbs: How Wal-Mart and the government are killing the incandescent light bulb,” brought this point home once again. That story said that the reason people aren’t making the change is because they suffer from sticker shock at the cash register: CFLs cost more. However, over its projected lifespan, a CFL saves the consumer $62.95 per light bulb in energy costs. One RN&R staffer calculated he has 55 bulbs in his house, a potential energy cost savings of $3,462.25 if all the bulbs last an average amount of time. And yes, we acknowledge there are problems with the bulbs longevity guarantees.

There are other aspects to the issue. One, people believe that the quality of light from CFLs is not as good as from incandescent. This was true to some extent in the past, but now, certain brands of CFLs actually produce better light than incandescents. One of these bulbs is the N:Vision Soft White, which is available at the Home Depot. In May, Popular Mechanics rated these bulbs No. 1 in a comparison of eight popular types, including incandescent. A two-pack of 100-watt equivalency bulbs costs $6.97, as does a four-pack of 60-watt equivalency bulbs. These bulbs frequently can be found on sale.

This kind of change requires planning. Many of us can’t afford to swap out all our incandescent bulbs at once, and many of us can’t rationalize throwing away perfectly good bulbs despite the future savings. However, the thing not to do is to buy a bulb on the spur of the moment. For example, at your local grocery store, a single CFL bulb can cost as much as four from other sources, like the big box retailers. The bottom line is to know what you need as far as wattage and placement the next time you shop for home improvement items. Make a list and be specific, for example, the number of bulbs for ceiling fans, recessed cans (in kitchens, for example), or floodlights. Then, buy the minimum to replace dead bulbs plus one of each type. This keeps the sticker shock lower and allows for the price of CFLs to drop even further in coming months.

For the real hardcore penny-pinchers who wish to immediately reap the benefit of energy savings and lower their carbon footprint, old but still good incandescent bulbs can be donated to a variety of charitable organizations. Also, speculators in this office suggest that in the near future, when incandescent bulbs are no longer manufactured in this country, those old but working incandescent bulbs will fetch a bright penny on Ebay.

Now, have we mentioned that an average Energy Star rated electric clothes dryer costs $85 a year to run? Even just used in the spring, summer and autumn, a jump rope and a couple of eyehooks for a clothesline may save $400 over the life of the jump rope.