The current energy crisis has made
conserving electricity a hot topic nationwide. No wonder. The energy emergency
is not just a short-term phenomenon. The North American Electric Reliability
Council (NERC) predicts that all segments of the country could experience
electricity shortages as well. The result? Double-digit price increases for most
of the nation and higher than expected demand for electricity.
Fortunately, homeowners can
slice their electric bill without being left in the dark. "Today, lighting
technology permits you to enjoy a comfortable, pleasing and elegant lifestyle
without wasting precious natural resources," says Dan Blitzer, consulting
technical lighting expert for the American Lighting Association
(ALA), a non-profit organization of leading manufacturers, retail lighting
showrooms and sales representatives in the U.S. and Canada dedicated to
expanding public knowledge about lighting.
"Energy conservation is not simply a
pocketbook issue," adds Blitzer. "It's socially responsible to not use more than
According to the American Lighting Association, lights
account for 25% of a homeowner's electric bill. "There are a lot of other energy
guzzlers in the house besides lighting," says Monty Gilbertson, CLC, manager and
buyer for Lighting Design by Wettsteins in Lacrosse, WI. "But everyone thinks of
lighting first because that what you see."
In addition to trimming your lighting bill,
Gilbertson suggests checking the energy efficiency of other appliances as well.
"Put your electric water heater on timer," he says. "Look at your washer and
dryer, freezer, refrigerator, heat pump. All these compressor-driven devices
push the electric bill up."
Your home itself can also run up the bill.
"Older homes built prior to 1990 are not near as energy efficient as newer
models," says Linda Pavletich, owner of Premier Lighting, in Bakersfield,
In addition to
simply turning off lights when not using them, the ALA offers the following
Consumers can cut costs quickly by switching
from incandescent bulbs or fixtures to compact fluorescents.
"This is a good idea for
lights in closets, workrooms, home offices, kid's rooms, security area,
kitchens," says Blitzer. "Plus it's very easy to replace a bulb or even a
fixture that is not fluorescent compatible -- it doesn't require electrical
rework of wires."
While incandescent bulbs are inexpensive to
buy, they consume more energy than any other type of bulb and have a relatively
short life, making operating costs high. Fluorescent lighting is now available
in over 200 colors, ranging from the warm white tones of incandescent light to
cool white tones similar to daylight. Energy-efficient fluorescents use
one-fifth to one-third the electricity of a comparably bright incandescent bulb
and last 10-20 times longer.
The dollar saved amount depends on how long a
light operates. According to Blitzer, if you operate a security light from dusk
to dawn or 4,000 hours/year and replace the 100 watt incandescent light bulb
with a 32 watt compact fluorescent lamp the savings is about $26/year per
operate a 100 watt incandescent bulb 12 hours/day, on average, that bulb will
have to be replaced six times/year," he says. "Fluorescents usually last 2.5
years, so you also save time and inconvenience of not having to change bulbs,
particularly if they are in hard-to-reach places."
Pavletich decided to experiment in her own
home. She added frosted glass globes to her outside fixtures and switched to
watched my electric bill for four months and averaged a savings of $20/month,"
she says. "Visually, there was no difference in the light quality."
Pavletich agrees that time
is money, too. "Consider what it "costs" to change those bulbs," she says. "You
have to buy them, go outside, get a ladder, put them in the fixture. I was
changing incandescent bulbs four times a year. Those fluorescents have been in
place for two years so far!"
Dimmers allow you to reduce lighting when you
don't need it, which saves both energy and light bulbs. Occupancy sensors turn
lights off after you leave the room or shut the closet door -- even if you
"It's easy to
replace regular light switches with dimmers or occupancy sensor switches," says
Blitzer. "These cost more than standard switches to buy, but there is no
difference in cost of installation."
Gilbertson is also a fan of dimmer switches.
"These are often overlooked, but will save energy," he says. "If you reduce your
voltage 10% on a dimmer, you will double the bulb life and save energy and
customers who are always burning out bulbs," adds the lighting expert. "The
three nemesis of bulbs -- voltage fluctuation, vibration and heat build-up --
create wear and tear on light bulbs. But you can protect against all three with
a dimmer control. I have 14 dimmer controls in my own house and my electric bill
is moderate now."
dim fluorescents, use a special dimming ballast, as well as a dimmer that is
compatible with fluorescents.
Motion detectors offer
another bright idea for snipping the electric bill. "These are great for outside
lighting," says Gilbertson. "You have security, but the light shuts off when not
new homes for the first time might consider a less is more approach. "Think of
lighting in layers," says Blitzer. "Start with the spots where lights are most
important -- where tasks are performed, like reading. Don't accent everything in
the living room, just the important stuff. This allows a thinning of lights
without the house looking dark and will save energy."
"Ceiling fans are a great way to conserve
electricity year-round," says John Pearson, Vice President, Marketing, of Casablanca Fans in Pomona, CA. "They are
economical and energy efficient, utilizing about the same energy as a 100 watt
fans don't actually lower the temperature of a room like an air conditioner. But
by spinning the air, they create a wind chill effect that makes you feel up to
eight degrees cooler.
According to Pearson, running a ceiling fan
costs about one cent per hour, or pennies/day, vs. the several dollars/day to
run an air conditioner. Fans can be used alone or in conjunction with an air
conditioner. "When used with an air conditioner, the thermostat setting can then
be raised, resulting in reduced cooling costs of 40% or more," says
raising a thermostat setting two degrees will save about 14% on energy
consumption. Studies show that setting ceiling fans to spin in a
counter-clockwise pattern, will save as much as 40% off summer cooling bills --
without sweltering. Simply set the thermostat a few degrees higher and flip on
winter, ceiling fans move warm air back to the center of the room, pushing it
down from the ceiling and helping homeowners save as much as 10% on their
heating bills. Simply switch the direction of the blades to spin clockwise and
turn on the fan.
lighting specialists at your local ALA showroom can help you compare light
sources, choose bulbs and cut your energy costs. While there, be sure to ask for
a demonstration on how lighting controls can help create a scheme with multiple
uses and effects.