Illuminating the Great Outdoors with Energy-Saving Light Bulbs

“Electricity Prices Plummet,” The Wall Street Journal, August 12, 2009

Hey, is there a recession going on? This timely article details how
slack demand for electricity in 2009 may lead to the first consecutive
year decline in electricity use in the U.S. since 1950. Such news may
tempt some consumers to relax an otherwise robust commitment to
reducing home and business electricity consumption. Conservation and
energy efficiency are hard work, and harder still to turn into regular
habits, especially when energy costs are low.

However, with days growing shorter and nights growing longer as
we head into autumn, lighting costs will be on the rise for consumers,
even if rates per kilowatt hours are ticking down. Now may be the best
time to make a switch to more efficient, energy-saving light bulbs to
reduce energy consumption, but there is no need to get carried away.
Instead, we suggest folks start slowly with a deliberate approach that
targets fixtures that are lit most frequently and for the longest
periods. This often leads our customers who want to reduce energy
consumption outside.

Green Light Bulbs Reduce Energy Consumption

Exterior fixtures come in as many configurations as indoor
lights and they mainly serve three purposes: security lighting, accent
lighting and convenience lighting. In some cases, single fixtures
perform double or even triple duty.

The greatest savings, in both dollars and reduced carbon
emissions, are most easily realized by installing energy-saving light
bulbs in any fixtures which are lit from dusk-to-dawn but aren’t
controlled by a motion sensor. This could be a floodlight above the
driveway or back deck or a pair of decorative sconces or lanterns
straddling the front entrance. Post lights are commonly lit all night
as well. If you’re like us, you get peace of mind knowing that these
lights make the home look very much occupied while you sleep.

Choosing energy-saving light bulbs with the highest efficiency
ratings for the amount of light desired will reduce energy consumption
and have the greenest impact. Consider this comparison: on one hand, we
have a traditional (incandescent) bulb and on the other, an
energy-efficient bulb. At 60 watts and 850 lumens, the efficiency of an
incandescent bulb would be only 14 lumens per watt, with an annual use
of 2,920 hours (8 hours/day). The annual cost to light? – approximately
$20, but with a CO2 emission level of about 349 lbs. Now take a 15 watt
energy-efficient bulb. Even though it has a lower wattage and uses less
energy, the output of light is the same. Lumens are less at 825, and
efficiency has improved to 55 lumens per watt. The annual cost to light
drops $15, and CO2 emissions are nearly three-fourths less.

$15 annual savings per socket is more than enough to upgrade to
energy-saving light bulbs in order to reduce your energy consumption.
Your energy efficiency investment will be paid back in less than one
year. As for CO2 emissions, a 75% reduction won’t do your
eco-conscience any harm.

For homes, Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) are a solid choice
for dusk-to-dawn lighting scenarios. They’re available in a wide array
of wattages, shapes (including decorative), sizes and colors and are
typically designed to last 8,000 hours or more. One drawback of
energy-saving light bulbs in an exterior setting is that they’re
affected by ambient temperature. Our advice: if you live in a colder
climate, look for lamps with “amalgam” technology for best performance
or buy ones with the next higher incandescent watts equivalent
(example: if you’re replacing a 60 watt incandescent, buy a CFL
equivalent to a 75 watt bulb). Also if a fixture isn’t weather
protected, be sure to select a bulb rated for use in a wet location.

Light Emitting Diode (LED) lamps are hitting the market at a
rapid pace and are also worth considering for their superior ability to
reduce energy consumption and extremely long life. Interestingly, LEDs
don’t emit ultraviolet light and don’t attract insects. For an
overnight fixture near a door, an LED would be a good alternative to a
yellow bug lamp. Advice: insist on UL listed LEDs (not easy to find)
for safety’s sake.

Energy-Saving Light Bulbs for Motion Sensors and Electronic Timers

For multiple reasons, energy-saving light bulbs, such as CFLs,
are a poor choice for fixtures that light automatically by motion
detection. These are typically used for security purposes but are also
a feature of garage door openers. CFLs are not engineered to produce
short bursts of light. Thus, a traditional incandescent bulb is a fine
choice (and probably what’s in the fixture now). Advice: when the
existing bulb burns out, consider a high-efficiency halogen lamp to
reduce energy consumption. Currently, these energy-saving light bulbs
are 30 to 40% more energy efficient than traditional incandescents.
Expect these savings multiples to grow as lighting manufacturers
continue to improve their halogen technology in anticipation of
lighting efficiency requirements that go into effect in 2012.

As for LEDs, while they do reach maximum brightness instantly,
they are still very pricey and thus not a good investment for the short
bursts of light delivered by motion control sensors. Prices will come
down as demand increases for energy-saving light bulbs. My advice:

Some people rely on electronic timers to switch on exterior lights as
darkness settles in. Again, CFLs aren’t suited for this application. In
this application, where once on, the light may remain lit during
overnight hours; an LED lamp, which generally works with electric eyes
(check with the manufacturer) would be an excellent choice to reduce
energy consumption and extend bulb life versus an incandescent bulb.

Fall’s the Time to Make the Switch to Energy-Efficient Exterior Light Bulbs

They say that the cheapest, cleanest kilowatt hour of
electricity is the one that is never produced in the first place. As
the shorter days of fall approach and your energy demands grow, put on
your green glasses and look at the lighting fixtures outside your home.
You’re almost certain to find opportunities to reduce energy
consumption and live more lightly with energy-saving light bulbs.

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