I spoke with someone the other day in a store who insisted that “those twisty bulbs don’t do any good, and don’t save any money.” As I love a good debate, I insisted on explaining every reason why CFL bulbs not only save money on your electric bill, but need to be changed less often and improve the environment through efficient operation.
Here is an overview of benefits from CFL bulbs:
Save Money: An incandescent bulb that uses 75 watts can be replaced with a CFL bulb that only uses 20 watts. The average cost of a kilowatt is 8 cents, and the average CFL bulb lasts 8000 hours. Over 8000 hours, a 75-watt incandescent bulb costs $48.00 to run, while a 20 watt CFL (putting out the same amount of light) comes in at nearly a quarter of the cost at $12.80! That is a savings of $35.00 over the life of the light bulb.
Less Energy: Replacing one incandescent bulb with one CFL bulb keeps 450 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere over the life of the bulb. If everyone in America used energy-efficient lighting, we could retire 90 average-sized power plants, reducing CO2 emissions, sulfur oxide, and high-level nuclear waste.
Less Frequent Changes: The average lifetime of an incandescent light bulb is less then a year. The average lifetime of a CFL is 8 to 10 years.
Each CFL over the course of its life saves 450 pounds of carbon from being produced. This is a powerful savings considering that the average home has between 30-50 sockets, according to the EPA. If only thirty sockets were replaced with CFLs that would be a savings of 13,500 pounds or 6.75 tons of carbon. The average small car uses 3.55 tons of carbon per year, changing your light bulbs would be like almost taking two small cars off the road for a year.
Mercury and disposal
CFLs do contain 5 milligrams of mercury according to the EPA. The mercury is used to make the CFLs more energy efficient, but can be harmful if released into the environment. CFLs actually reduce mercury because mercury is a byproduct of power generation. Since less power is needed for CFLs the total mercury is less then if an old incandescent light bulb was used.
Where to use CFLs
CFLs can be used anywhere an old fashioned incandescent light bulb is used. Special CFLs need to be used in three way lights, dimmers or outdoors. Putting a traditional CFL in these places will shorten the life of the bulb. There is some anecdotal evidence that CFLs may even explode when put in dimmer bulbs because they can not handle the energy surge.
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