Energy Saving? Lightbulbs

sameboatJanuary 31, 2009

DH replaced every light in the house with those new twisty lightbulbs (that take a while to brighten up). We were extra careful turning off lights in the house and using electricity. Our bill was $3 HIGHER the next month! He spent about $300 on all the new lightbulbs. What could be happening here? We're trying to save money.

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Likely it's due to something other than the bulbs. My bill can vary by more than $40 (higher or lower) from one month to the next as a matter or normal course due to weather conditions and other factors. Check the KWH usage stated on your bill for comparison to the previous bill, not the $-amount ... your rate may have changed.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 1:31PM
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I'm not a big fan of those bulbs. They're supposed to last SO much longer than incandescents--BUT we put in a few last summer, and we've already had THREE of them burn out!

I also hear they are most efficient if you leave them on--turning them on briefly, then off, isn't supposed to be that good an idea.

I don't care for the length of time it takes for them to come on--especially if using them in a cool area. If I need light on my porch, because there's a stranger at my front door, I don't want to have to wait several seconds for a dim glow.

DH did put an LED light in our front post lamp. They're supposed to take the least amount of energy of all. It seems to be quite satisfactory--gives a nice bright light for a little bulb.

And don't forget--if you break a twisty bulb, be sure to check the correct clean-up instructions. Because of the mercury in them, there are special procedures that need to be followed. And be super careful NOT to break them--it's not worth contaminating your house just to try to save a few cents.

As to your electric increase--if the ONLY electrical items you run are light bulbs, then yes, something's wrong. But it's probable something else caused the increase. Maybe you did more wash this month than usual, maybe your heater clicked on more often (they have electric ignitions, usually, even if they're oil or gas). Maybe you cooked more. Maybe you've been spending more time on the computer. Maybe someone in your house has been using tools, or games, or other appliances more than usual.

Or maybe your usage didn't go up. Maybe the fuel adjustment or societal benefits charges went up (very likely--that's the hidden charge the electric company tacks on to your bill to pay the bills of those who aren't paying). How did the kilowatt hours compare this time to last?

    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 4:00PM
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I will check out all the variables you've both mentioned - all make sense. I never thought about the heat using electricity but you're right we need the electricity in order for it to click on and it's been way cold here up North. I'll let you know about the kilowatt usage and the rate. It also didn't occur to me to check if the rate was raised.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2009 at 7:49PM
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Not all brands of CFL can be used up-side-down AND right-side-up (check the package), which can account for a short life. Not all will work efficiently in areas where it's really cold, or in ceiling fans that have a lot of vibration. If they are placed where they are turned on and off for brief periods of time, that will shorten the life (like in a bathroom where you run in, do your job, and run back out in less than a minute). They work best where they can remain on for longer periods of time.

Where we've noticed the big PLUS is in our recessed lighting. Around our kitchen sink we have 2 recessed lights overhead. The temperature was 5-6 degrees hotter in that area when we had incandescent lights in it, rather than CFL that are designed to be used in recessed lights. The heat emited from incandescent lights is a big negative when you are trying to cool your home...

I don't think it should be either/or. Both types of bulbs have their usefulness and place. We need high-impact incandescent bulbs in our garage door opener. We need incandescent lights in our appliances and porch lights (because CFL don't work in them when it's cold).


    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 2:33PM
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"We need incandescent lights in our appliances and porch lights (because CFL don't work in them when it's cold). "

Hmmm... we have had CFLs in our exterior lights (porches and lamppost) for years now. And the cold does not bother them at all, even when we go into the negative, temperature-wise.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 2:52PM
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I have CFLs outside - work fine here in Minnesota. But it doesn't get that cold here. I think Grainlady put it well that each has their purpose. I purposely did not change my hallway lights to CFL since they're on a short period of time and off quickly. Sometimes only a matter of seconds. Not a good use for CFL.

I really stress when people get so concerned about CFLs. When one educates themself on the facts, and the whole truth rather than just scare tactics you'll soon realize they won't cause a black hole to suck in the universe. Use common sense. One thing that is never stated though is you should not handle them by the glass part, rather on the base, for screwing in too. With any lightbulb it's not good to get fingerprints on them but on certain bulbs (halogen especially) it's more important to not touch it. Just using common sense says if you twist on the glass part of the CFL it's more likely to break.

As far as the electric bill going up, do you have forced air furnace? That uses lots more electricity. My bill was about $10 higher this last time compared to November and most of it would be the furnace fan. Other use was about constant. Are you comparing the bill during the period after you actually changed the bulbs? Check the dates on the bill. Unless you replaced nightlights with the CFLs there's no way power consumption would have gone up. And if you have a furnace vent next to the refrigerator your refrigerator will run a little more too. You can't take one month and judge a return. You're probably running more lights for a longer period of time than before. Take a year and see for a more accurate look and look at the Kwh used. Again it will vary with temperature, if you have an electric dryer and use it more, run a/c more in summer, etc. so you need to be careful on flash judgements. Face it, it's simple math. You're using 1/4 the power in that bulb of a comparable incandescent if that were on. You WILL save money with them, more, the more you use compared to incands but not as much when seldom used. Now if you took a 10 bulb fixture that only had one working bulb in it before and now have 10 working bulbs, yes it'll use more power, but I'm sure that's not the case. And $300 worth of bulbs???? Did you replace your airport's runway lights? They should be $1-$2 and a few might run $4 for specialty. That's a lotta bulbs! I'm sure I haven't spent a total of $50 on bulbs and I have at least 8 or 10 left in the basement!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 7:44PM
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Grainlady, I never knew that about using them upside down. I checked my packaging and there is nothing on it about 'right side up/down' on them. This may expalin why my bathroom wall sconce, bottom upside down, ones keep going wonky - they dim and flicker annoyingly. I replace them and the new ones go wacky in a short time. I thought it was my new fixtures that were faulty.

Thanks for the tip. I'll check better when I shop from now on.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 11:01PM
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Experience pays.

And when it can be shared, so much the better.

As Dad used to say, "Hard to put an old head on young shoulders".

I hope that this week brings some interesting and fine experiences and/or insights to you.

Poor day that you don't learn something.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 1:12AM
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Cynic--$1-2 for CFL's? WHERE do you live? They're considerably more than that here. Often $4-5 per bulb, even the non-fancy ones (we have one fixture that takes EIGHT bulbs that run $7-9 EACH). That may be one of those things that varies greatly regionally.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 7:56AM
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I've bought CFLs at Walmart for ~$1.50 (3 pack for $4.50). You may also want to check your utility company. My electric co offers discounted bulbs for $1 a piece (only good for our service area).

Here is a link that might be useful: CFLs from utility co.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 1:19PM
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I was one who always turned off a light when leaving a room or area. Moving to a house with a mix of fluorescent and incandescent lighting was a big adjustment - especially since flipping the light switch was an automatic habit, not something I thought about. After 2 years, I've about reached the point where my subconscious knows which lights to leave on and which to turn off, and it works fairly well.

I only regret one fixture. Our hall closet has a fluorescent light with a door-activated switch. It would be better for the bulb to leave that one on awhile before turning off, but the open door is in the way. When that bulb wears out, I'll look into the cost of replacing the fixture.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 2:24PM
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With a little more study, I may need a "cold-cathode CFL" since standard CFLs don't work well below 40°F (according to one "expert"). Another "expert" says they "achieve their maximum luminous flux at an ambient temperature of 5 °C. This is dependant on the fitting and application." Followed by a "not all CFL is of the same spec or quality". Which accounts for the ones at the Dollar Store not working as well, or for as long, as other's we've purchased for a much higher price.

I wasn't aware of a "cold" variety, and I also wasn't aware that they don't work in hot temperatures - 120°F. I also don't leave outside lights on constantly after dark, so by the time cold CFL get bright enough to see something (or don't come on at all when extremely cold), you're already back in the house and the light turned off. Leaving it on constantly at night would defeat the purpose of the energy-savings aspect. I also wondered if there were outside lamps that have a balast so there's no wait-time?

Here's a pretty good link for anwsers about CFLs.


Here is a link that might be useful: Compact Fluorescent Lighting FAQ's

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 3:07PM
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Liz H

The electric/fire codes are pretty strict when it comes to closet lighting. That is probably why a fluoreescent fixture was installed. The clearence requirements make incandscent fixtures prohibited in most standard closets (non-walkin). During a recent remodel, we were limited to fluorescent fixtures in the closets do to size.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 12:56PM
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I live in Minnesota and I bought at Menards often after rebate they'd have them free to about $1 each. Occasionally on sale for $1-$1.50. They're often selling for about $6.50 for a 4 pack, either on sale or even regular price. A quick look at Home Depot's website shows at least a couple different 4-packs for $6.88 and there's a lot of Home Depots around. I haven't even done an internet search for buying them. Where have you been looking?

I put the cheapie 13w CFLs in my outdoor lights too. They were whatever I had on the shelf. We've had nearly -40°F temperatures here several times this winter (and other well below zero temps) and they worked fine for me. I will say that when I first turned them on at that temp, they were probably 60%-70% brightness but within a minute or so they were full brightness. And I certainly live happily with that considering I'm using 26 watts instead of 150 watts on the bulbs they replaced. I like to turn the lights on as a courtesy to the paper carrier and for people when I'm expecting company. This makes it cheaper. And I'm all in favor of saving money.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 10:49PM
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I gave up on compact fluorescents. Some of them buzzed or hummed, some wont work with inline switches, others caused interference with my wireless headphones, some cant be dimmed, some only lasted about 3,000 hours instead of the 12,000 advertised. I went back to incandescents.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 2:25AM
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How do you dispose of them? Our disposal co. has a link to a recycling container for $17. It holds 13 bulbs. I really don't need another piece of junk laying around here waiting to accumulate 13 bulbs. So far I've got 3 burned out bulbs and I'm getting tired of looking at them. And don't like paying extra to buy and then dispose of them.

I know every little bit helps but I can't believe the general population will buy these kits.

Here is a link that might be useful: bulb kit

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 1:50AM
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I'm really surprised at the number of people that have issues with CFL's. While I will admit that when I first tried them (they were NEW then) that I had some of the same issues. However, I have started buying the newer generation of GE CFL's. These are sold at Walmart in a 6-pack box for about $9.88. I find they work the most like "regular bulbs". I use them inside and out. Some are in enclosed fixtures, some in ceiling fans and some in a fixture on a dimmer, some right side up, some upside down, some sideways. The worst is the ones on the dimmer "flicker" a bit. I am removing the dimmer anyhow, since I don't need it where it is anyway. I have had most of these about 3 years (when this version was introduced) and have never replaced one yet. Not that I expect to yet. While I have seen CFL's for less, this may be one of those cases where you get what you pay for.


    Bookmark   March 19, 2009 at 3:08PM
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There was an article in our local paper written by a builder/interior decorator. He tries to build green homes and in fact he has built one that passed the inspection for green. He said he spent a lot of money on fluorescent bulbs and his wife promptly removed them all. He agreed with her that it makes the room look a sickly green and dim. He said they weren't going over very well with anyone he does business with. He gave instructions for cleaning up after one breaks. Every time I read instructions for cleaning up, there are new regulations added. The instructions in this article said to leave the home for 15 minutes to be safe. It also said by 2012 there will only be fluorescent.

I noticed a few months back I couldn't find any incandescent bulbs except ones that had been changed, no 60 watts only 55. But now I see the reg incandescent are on the shelves again. Maybe they are figuring out that they are more dangerous than they thought.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2009 at 4:05PM
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Considering all those florescent tubes that have been used in nearly every place of business and homes for years and years, I don't know why everyone didn't get up in arms about mercury in them? Anyway - we take our burned-out CF and tubes to a toxic waste recycling place.

I recently replaced the CF bulb in the recessed ceiling light, over my desk in the kitchen, with an LED light and am MUCH happier with the light output, but they aren't appropriate for everywhere. I hope the next generation of LED bulbs will put CF out of business. I understand all CF bulbs are made in China - yet one more unintended concenquence of manditory use and elimination of incandescent bulbs.


    Bookmark   March 19, 2009 at 5:33PM
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I was just at a local grocery store and the 15w CFLs were $2.99 for a 3 pack. Finding them shouldn't be a problem.

When a CFL burns out, most larger places take them and recycle them. Menard's, Home Depot, Lowe's all recycle them and a number of other places like hardware stores and such take them. Just drop them off when you go there. Course some people think it's too much of an invasion to recycle something. And that really annoys me.

It never ceases to amaze me how people get so paranoid when they WANT to be afraid of something. The amount of mercury in a CFL is so little when you check it out. A coal fired power plant puts more mercury into the air in one day than all the mercury in all the CFLs. So geez people... Pick your battles.

LEDs will likely be the next generation in energy efficiency. I hope it happens soon. There's another significant savings but some people will still say a few dollars is insignificant to them. And then people will scream about the bluish tint they put off and how they "can't stand" the light from them. They'll be proudly going to their pole barn filled with Y2k duct tape, bottled water and incandescent light bulbs to keep the g-men from telling them what kind of bulbs to use.

I'd like to do a poll sometime. See how many of the people who refuse to use CFLs use front load washers "to save money". I think that could be interesting.

People are strange. They get a burr in their bonnet over the thought of a light bulb being regulated, yet having the feds listen to phone calls or reading emails doesn't seem to bother anyone. It's amazing.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 1:19AM
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Well, regarding the person who built a "green home" only to let his wife remove all the CFL's because they were "icky green and dim", it appears that to save $ he bought discount brand CFL's. Maybe they are all made in China, but, the GE's that I buy LOOK LIKE REGULAR BULBS (only twisted). They are not dim, they are not giving off a tint. They look to me almost identical to the light the old bulbs gave off...if not a bit brighter.

As far as mercury, how many people still have old oral or rectal thermometers that have mercury in them? Guess what. They contain MORE mercury than a CFL.

I feel that even if I pay a bit more for the GE bulb, I'm happy with the results. Yes it cuts into my savings, but, I'm using less electricity and still saving some money. That still helps us all out.

Well, guess I should get off my CFL soap box. Maybe I can start a recycling thread and jump on that soap box for a while. LOL


    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 10:22AM
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