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ENERGY STAR®-rated light bulbs | A Bright Future

Incandescent light bulbs are extraordinarily inefficient. Of the energy they consume, just 10% emits as visible light and a whopping 90% emits as waste heat. According to ENERGY STAR®, if every household in the United States changed one incandescent light bulb for an ENERGY STAR rated bulb, the annual energy cost savings would approach $600 million and greenhouse gas emissions would drop by 9 billion pounds. This would be like taking 800,000 cars off the road.

ENERGY STAR-rated light bulbs save energy by using 75% less energy and by emitting 75% less heat, thus reducing home cooling costs. These bulbs include compact fluorescents (CFLs) and light emitting diodes (LEDs). When buying, look for the ENERGY STAR logo.

CFLs come in various shapes and fit most incandescent bulb lighting fixtures. CFL light color varies; for the most incandescent-looking light, choose 2700-3000K CFLs. CFLs last six times longer than incandescent bulbs, but have drawbacks—they are fragile, they take as much as a minute to come to full brightness, and they contain mercury (a heavy metal and toxic pollutant), classifying them as household hazardous waste. Spent CFLs must be recycled; see Earth 911 for local CFL recycling information.

Mercury-free LED bulbs last 22 or more years in a typical home, are more durable, come on instantly, and are more energy efficient than CFLs, but they are also cost more up-front that CFLs. A new Phillips 60 watt replacement bulb arriving in stores in 2012 is most like an incandescent bulb in brightness and color, lasts 25,000 hours and uses 9.7 watts to produce the 60-watt equivalent luminosity.

Dimmable CFLs have limitations: they are more expensive, have shorter lifespans, require special dimming switches, and multiple bulbs on the same dimming switch may not have differing brightness levels. Dimmable LEDs are also a bit more expensive but do not share the limitations of dimmable CFLs.

For more information:

on CFLs and LEDs, see


Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®

A recent report to our state utility commission indicated that demand for electricity could outstrip local supply as early as 2014. Consequently, our region could see rolling power outages during summer peak demand. Citizens can help the state meet this challenge by reducing electrical demand. Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®, a partnership between utilities, the EPA, and the Department of Energy, is a program designed to assist homeowners become more energy efficient. We liked this because we could save money, reduce our carbon footprint, and contribute to the energy sustainability of our region.

Our ENERGY STAR audit started with a visit from an Energy Starcertified contractor that managed the entire process; first by conducting an assessment of our home for just $99.00. The assessment included a full audit of our air conditioning system, ductwork, insulation, and building envelope that took approximately 6 hours. Then, a representative walked us through what they had discovered and recommended steps for improvement.

According to the report, “shell leakage” was our biggest issue. The shell is the part of the home that separates the cooled and heated interior of the home from the outdoor air. Our shell was so leaky that the inspector could not properly conduct the test to determine the extent of our problem. Upon further inspection, he found that a major culprit was “ceiling penetrations” from 80 can (ceiling) lights we had installed to reduce floor and table lamps to create a more open floor plan. My bad.

Our contractor recommended replacing 60 of the can lights with new LED units that would not only seal the holes, but also provide us with more efficient, mercury-free lighting and considerable savings in energy (9 watts LED vs. 60 watts incandescent each) at a cost of $3,650.00.

Our total bill for this and the other recommended actions (including rebates) was $12,000. If their estimates are correct that we could save 50% on our electric bills, we should see repayment in less than 5 years.