Change a light, change the world

Changing the world starts with simple actions. When you replace a light bulb or fixture in your home with one that is energy efficient, you contribute to a cleaner environment while saving yourself energy, money and time buying and changing lights in your home.

On these dark winter days, let there be Light that is good for the soul, eyes and the pocket book. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), 20 percent of a residential electric bills can be directly tied to lighting. If you replaced all your bulbs with the energy-efficient Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs), you can eliminate at least 12 percent of your electric bill. All our local hardware stores sell energy-efficient Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) that use a quarter to a third of the energy of a conventional incandescent bulb and CFLs last six to 10 times longer. If you have bought a CFL before and didn’t like them due to them flickering, or them taking a long time to warm up to their full light output, or the weird harsh light they put out, or the unusual shapes they came in: you should definitely try the newer, much improved CFLs on the market now.

A little primer on good energy lighting: I will be focusing on the regular screw in Compact Fluorescent Lights called CFLs.

A few tips on CFL bulb buying … First, the bad things: most of the readily available CFLs can’t be put on a dimmer or three-way switch. This special type of CFL is available, but I haven’t seen them in any of our local stores yet, but they are new. Remember that there is also a limited amount of on/offs. CFLs can prematurely die where it is persistently turned on and off. All good CFLs are now instant on, but do work more efficiently after a minute of warming up.

Now you need to check how many hours (or life) the bulb you are considering buying has. A good CFL will have 10,000-hour life. I have noticed a trend toward shorter life expectancy CFL bulbs like 4,000- or 6,000-hour life. These bulbs are still energy efficient but have shorter life expectancy. Generally, you will pay about $1 per 1,000 hours. A regular incandescent has a life expectancy of 900 hours.

While you are at it, check the warranty, I have noticed that some of the better bulb companies actually give a 6- or 7-year warranty based on which life expectancy bulb you buy.

Always check the lumen output. A lumen is equal to a candle. Generally, a good 60-watt bulb (uses 60 watts an hour) puts out 890 lumens. I have seen a CFL that used 23 watts to produce the same 890 lumens while there are super energy-efficient CFLs that do the job using only 15 watts.

There is also a new bulb on the market called a sub Compact because it is smaller than the old CFLs. These sub CFLs fit anywhere a regular bulb would fit. CFLs also come in candelabra (mini), and many different types of decorative bulb shapes.

Next, check the Kelvin (K) or light temperature. A regular incandescent burns at 2700K for a warm yellow light. The higher the K, the closer you are to natural or full spectrum lighting. A good bang for your buck is a 5100K bulb, which is like 90 percent natural light. Not nearly as expensive as a full spectrum bulb, but still a very good “blues buster” for those gloomy winter days.

Finally, be on the lookout for the older lower quality bulbs. There are a lot of these still out there for sale.

So to recap, check bulb hours (life), look for the most lumens per watt, make sure you get a bulb that fits, and look for a higher Kelvin temperature.

Thanks to the Rebuild America’s Carbondale Energy Management Center, when you buy two CFLs you can now get one FREE at area participating vendors. An information site is

Aur ‘da energy mon’ Beck first published this article in the Muddy Media in Carbondale, Ill. For questions, phone (618) 893-1717 or e-mail

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