Fluorescent bulbs offer as much light as incandescent bulbs but at a fraction of the electrical consumption rate, because they generate about 70% less heat. (The fact that you can cook in an Easy Bake oven with a standard lightbulb as the sole power source should tell you something.)
Although they cost more than regular lightbulbs, fluorescent lights can save you $30 or more in energy costs over each bulb's lifetime, because in addition to efficiency, they last six to 10 times longer.
When buying fluorescent bulbs, choose ones that uses 1/3 the wattage of your current lighting. (For example, a 20-watt bulb in the new and improved style gives the same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent one.)
Don't assume that you'll be compromising quality. EnergyStar compliant blubs must turn on instantly, produce no sound and fall within a warm color range (unless labeled as providing cooler color tones -- such as the typical flickery green fluorescent glow).
Regardless of which type of bulb you use, it is generally better to use a single bulb with a higher watt rating than to use multiple low-rated bulbs. Why would this matter? It's because the higher watt bulbs are more efficient than those offering a lower wattage.
Installing dimmer switches in place of conventional light switches can help reduce electricity consumption. It allows you to control the amount of light given off, based on the consumption needs.
Keep in mind that the higher the switch is turned, the more electricity is being consumed, so keeping the daily level at about two-thirds capacity will help decrease the overall electrical use.
Note that if you want to use fluorescent blubs with a dimmer, you will need to look for specially-marked packages.
Light sensors can be incredibly helpful when used throughout the home. First of all, they are on timers, which automatically turn the light off after a certain number of minutes have passed. This is great for those areas of the home where lights are left on even when there is no one in the area.
They also ensure that a forgetful family member does not cause your electrical bill to escalate due to lights being left on. Sensors also add an element of convenience because they come on automatically when you walk into a room. Indoors, these are great for laundry areas and garages when your hands might be too full to hit the light switch. Outside, they can light up your porch or driveway - helpful when you get home at night, and also (if placed high enough to prevent tampering) can help thwart vandalism and break-ins. See some products at SmartHome.com.
Also look for dusk-to-dawn lights - they automatically come on when it's dark, and shut themselves off by day.
One of the best defenses against high electricity bills is monitoring your family's habits. As hard as it can be to accept, we are often our own worst enemies in this area. For example, we forget to close the door behind us, wasting our heating or air conditioning. We don't remember to turn off the light when we leave the room. We turn up the furnace when we could easily put on a sweater.
You might also want to check with your power company to see if they offer a flexible-rate plan, based upon how much electricity you use at certain times of day. For example, running the dishwasher and dryer at night (off-peak times) could save you cash.
Watching your family's habits can create a rather extensive list of electricity wasting infractions. Not to worry, though -- habits can be changed with a little support and cooperation from the family members. The best approach is to have a family meeting and discuss ways of reducing the overall energy bill. When everyone is included, it feels more like teamwork and less like a reprimand. Also, it is amazing the energy saving ideas that can be presented. With everyone on board, you are sure to be successful in creating new, energy-wise habits.
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