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My Energy Journey – Week 8

By Mary Ripley on  August 31, 2017


You probably already know why you should be using energy-efficient light bulbs. According to Energy Star, if every American home replaced one light bulb with an energy-efficient bulb, it would save enough energy to light three million homes!

But before you unscrew all of your light bulbs and head to the hardware store, make sure you know what you need. First, stop thinking in ‘watts’ and start thinking in ‘lumens’.

Wattage refers to the amount of energy a bulb uses. Brightness is measured in lumens. So with energy-saving Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs, you’ll want to look at the number of lumens to know how much light it will actually produce. If you wanted to replace a standard 60 watt incandescent bulb, for example, you would purchase a CFL bulb that produces 800 lumens. That’s the same amount of light, but uses less than 15 watts of energy.

Don’t worry, you won’t have to remember all of this. Bulb packaging is labeled with all of the important facts you need to make an informed purchase, including details like lumens and kelvins. Kelvins measure temperature and indicate the color of light emitted. (The lower the Kelvin number, the more “warm” or yellow the light. Bulbs with the highest Kelvin temperatures appear “cooler” and more like natural light.) The package label also will include information on the annual cost of the bulb’s energy use and its expected life span.


Now that you know how to select a bulb for its color and brightness, you can start thinking about what style you need. If the spiral-shaped bulb doesn’t appeal to you, you might prefer the ‘Covered A-Shaped’ bulb, which feels and looks more like a traditional incandescent. For ceiling pendants and bathroom vanity bars where the bulb is exposed, a ‘Globe’ bulb (a spiral bulb with a decorative cover) may be the solution.

Here is a list of other common types of household lighting and the CFL bulbs recommended to suit them:

  • Table and floor lamps: Spiral, Covered A-shape or Tube bulbs
  • Pendant fixtures: Covered A-Shape or Globe bulbs.
  • Ceiling fixtures: Spiral or Tube bulbs.
  • Ceiling fans: Spiral, Covered A-Shape, Indoor Reflector or Candle bulbs.
  • Wall sconces: spiral, Tube or Candle bulbs
  • Recessed Cans: Indoor Reflector bulbs.
  • Track Lighting: Indoor Reflector bulbs.
  • Outdoor covered light: Spiral, Covered A-Shape, Tube or Candle bulbs.
  • Outdoor floodlight: Outdoor Reflector bulbs.

Photocells, lighting on a motion sensor or lights on a timer may not be compatible with energy efficient lighting, so be sure to check the manufacturer guidelines before purchasing.

To get the most out of your CFL, be sure to use only dimmable bulbs in dimmer switches and three-way bulbs in three-way sockets. Keep in mind that CFL bulbs can take 30 seconds to 3 minutes to reach full illumination. It can be even longer with globes or other decorative covers. Also, if energy-efficient bulbs are turned on and off frequently, they tend to have shorter life spans and are less efficient. So use them in places where they will be left on for at least 15 minutes at a time.

Once they reach their full potential, they outshine incandescent in just about every way!


Tags: Energy Tips

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