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Saving money with light bulbs
Instant gratification via smart meter

Posted by Shane McLaughlin on 01/22/2014 at 4:54 PM

Winter is a great time to tackle energy-saving projects. During the summer, it's difficult to see a change in electric usage from lighting or appliances when your home is using so much electricity day and night from the air conditioner.  

January is a great opportunity to see your non-air conditioner electricity usage and, in turn, make simple changes. Using the smart meter attached to your home, you will be able to see measurable changes within a matter of days instead of months.  

My home has an open floor plan, and my family of 5 spends a lot of time in the kitchen-living-dining area. Prior to making changes, this general space was equipped with the following:
  • 4 can floodlights
  • 5 candelabra base 40W in a fixture above the sink
  • 5 60W regular bulbs in a fixture above the table
  • 3 40W candelabra base in a ceiling fan in the living room
When all of these lights are running, they total approximately 1 kilowatt, which happens to be most of the time my family is home.

To reduce the electricity use of these items, I replaced the four floodlights with compact flluroscent light bulbs (CFLs), reviewed the energy usage and decided to implement the change for all.

The rest of the bulbs are light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. In the image below you will see two bulbs, the bulb on the far right is the old bulb from above the table while, on the left is the new LED bulb.  

shane led comparison
In addition to the changes in the general use space, I also elected to replace some of the other lights around the house that are used less with CFLs, such as the kids' bathroom, hallways, etc.  Our strategy was to install the most expensive, high-efficiency LEDs in those locations that receive the most use and the cheaper CFLs in those locations that see only moderate use. These were bought in bulk.  

shane cfls installed

In total, I spent about $200 on light bulbs. Crazy, right?

Our home's average daily usage for the 8 weeks before the bulb changeout was 29 kWh. Average daily usage after the change has been 16kWh.  

meter data for the month of January

To determine total savings, we first consider that the use of light bulbs in the house is not seasonal; we use them every day we are home. If you consider the average savings of 13 kWh/day at a factor of 9 cents each, we are realizing savings in excess of $400 per year! And, in relation to the amount spent on the light bulbs, just higher than $200, we would consider this experiment pretty successful.  

And, if the savings were only 50% of the expectation, we would still consider it a victory and would break even on our investment.

A few key takeaways:
  • Changing light bulbs can save you money, and you can use your smart meter on TrueCost to get immediate feedback as you make changes.
  • The light color of the LEDs looks really good. If you didn't like the CFL "whiteness," give the LEDs a try. They have a warmer color.
  • LEDs do get warm, but it's the base, not the bulb that's heating up. If you've gotten used to CFLs, you may not be expecting that.
  • Check your LED packages. One store I went to had LEDs in boxes, but someone had replaced them all with CFLs. Make sure you're getting what you're paying for. The LED packaging shown above is plastic sealed, so you won't have the same issue as with boxed bulbs. 

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