What would the holidays be like without the colorful lights decking our halls, yards, homes and businesses? Who doesn't enjoy seeing the beautiful Christmas trees, Santa and the raindeer, and the twinkling light displays virtually everywhere around town at Christmas time?
Personally, I am always excited for the holidays, and one of our family's favorite holday treats is to take a tour around town to see all the beautiful holiday lights. But even while I'm enjoying the visual feast of all these wonderful displays, there's a grinchly thought picking at the back of my mind, asking "well just how much extra electricity is being consumed by all these lights?"
Normally, saving energy isn't one of our priorities during the holidays, but have you ever stopped to think about how much it costs to power all these holiday lights? There are some estimates that household energy consumption goes up by as much as 40% during the month of December. If you would like to find out how much more your holiday lights are adding to your electricity bill, there are handy calculators such as the one below to help you figure it out.
And while we are thinking about how much extra holiday lights are costing us, let's not stop there. What about how much lighting in general is adding to our monthly electric bills? The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that lighting our homes contributes an average of 12-14% of the home's total electric bill. There are tremendous savings that we can all enjoy just by switching from our old incandescent light bulbs to either compact flourescent light (CFL) or light emitting diodes (LED) bulbs.
So why should we change from regular incandescent light bulbs, not just on our Christmas trees but all throughout the house? According to the US government's Energy Star program, 90% of the energy coming from a regular incandescent light bulb is producing heat, and only 10% is producing light. Imagine buying a gallon of bottled water, and pouring 90% of it down the drain so you could drink the other 10%! To make things worse, not only are you paying for energy you will never use, but in the summer time, the extra heat produced by these bulbs actually makes your air conditioner work harder and cost more money to cool your home.
Many people are hesitant to make the switch because of bad experiences with the earlier versions of the CFL and LED bulbs, things they have heard from others. Take a look at these facts:
- CFL's are 4 times as efficient as incandescent light bulbs, last up to 10 times longer, and save the homeowner money over the lifetime of the bulb.
- Newer CFL's give off a very pleasant, warm and inviting light, and don't flicker or hum like some of the older versions did.
- CFL's are very versatile, fitting in almost any light fixture; they are available for 3-way and dimmable light fixtures
- While some people are concerned about the mercury content in a CFL bulb, the average bulb contains 5 miligrams of mercury (about 1/5 the amount in a regular watch battery, and 1/100th of the amount found in the average dental amalgam filling). Furthermore, a power plant will emit more than twice the amount of mercury contained in the CFL bulb to provide the energy needed by an incandescent light bulb. Switching to CFLs actually puts less mercury in the environment than staying with incandescent bulbs.
- LEDs last 10 times longer than CFLs - and much, much longer than incandescent bulbs
- LEDs convert most of their energy into light, with very little wasted as heat.
- LEDs are extremely efficient and cost effective. Although they are initially more expensive, they save the homeowner over the life of the bulb. The cost of LEDs have come down a lot, and offer a very cost effective and versatile lighting alternative for homes as well as businesses.
- Many advances have been made in LED lights, including a vast array of beautiful and cost effective indoor and outdoor holiday lights.
Here is another fact to consider. According to the Energy Star website, if every home in America replaced one - just ONE - light bulb with an energy efficient CFL or LED bulb, it would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year, and save about $600 million in annual energy costs.
This being the season for gift-giving and all, it seems to me that the one gift that should be on everyone's list is the gift of energy efficient lighting. What better way to celebrate the holiday season than to replace our inefficient lighting with new, longer lasting, cost saving, energy efficient lighting! Happy Holidays to all!