Energy Conserving Light Bulbs: cut your power bill
Energy conserving light bulbs are a great ind inexpensive way to reduce both your home's power bill and greenhouse gas emissions. Lighting in the average Australian home can account for upwards of three quarters of a tonne of greenhouse gases and costs in the vicinity of $au 100.
One immediate way to reduce this is to change incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescent (CF) ones. This can slash the power consumption from lighting by as much as 80%. With this reduction in energy use both your home electricity bill and your carbon emissions also fall.
CF light bulbs are available just about everywhere in developed countries so obtaining them is a snap. There are however thing to look for, as with any other product.
You get what you pay for.
As with all popular products there are many brands, some cheaper than others. I have had CF bulb blow after a few weeks, whereas others have lasted years to date with no change in performance.
Personally, I view buying CF bulbs in the same way I view going to the hardware store. I can buy a $2 plastic rake that looks like the others or I can pay $30 for a really solid one that I know will last for ages. On occasions I do go for the $2 option (foolish optimism, as shown by my solar lawn light set), only to find myself throwing away that broken rake in a month's time and replacing it with the $30 one that will last for ages. Had I purchased the better rake I would not only have saved $2, but there would also be one rake's worth less landfill in my local dump.
I have no proof for this other than personal experience, but I think buying CF bulbs from known, proved light bulb manufacturers is the best idea. They usually state that they will provide a minimum number of hours of operation. They cost a few dollars more, but I think it is money well spent.
Check the fitting type.
This is more an annoyance reduction measure than anything else. Here in Australia there are two types of fittings: bayonet (push in and twist) and the screw in variety. These seem to have no noticable pattern to their use; we have both types distributed throughout our home. You may also have older bakelite ceiling light fittings in your home; these can be easily modified to accept CF bulbs.
To make matters more complicated, there are both large and small sizes in each of these types of energy conserving light bulbs. This means that if you go to the shop and just pick a bulb, you have about a 25% chance of getting the right fitting type.
The easiest way to avoid hassle here is to take the old bulbs with you to the store and make sure you get the right type. Then it's easy installation and you are immediately having a positive effect on the global environment.
Clean light fittings.
As with all other electrical devices, dirt on the contacts interferes with electricity flow. This results in less than optimal performance and is certainly true of light fittings.
I recently cleaned out one fitting and was treated to lots of dust, spider webs and dead bugs. How on earth all that stuff got in there I do not know, but after a wipe with a DRY cloth the fitting was as good as new.
If you intend to clean some or all of the light fittings while installing energy conserving light bulbs in your home PLEASE make sure the light in question is OFF, and ONLY USE A DRY CLOTH. If you are uncertain about how to proceed with this, ask a family member or friend who is adept at fixing things to do it.
Finding the Right Bulbs
Compact Fluorescent bulbs are available in just about all supermarkets, hardware stores, thrift shops and so on. I have even seen them for sale at a newsagent. The price of these seems to have bottomed out and they are now very affordable, especially if bought in bulk. Remember though to look for quality brands as the slightly greater up-front cost will pay off in the long run.