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October 7, 2012

YOUR GREEN VALLEY: The differences — and savings — of CFL and LED bulbs

If every American home replaced just one light bulb with a light bulb that’s earned the Energy Star, we would save enough energy to light three million homes for a year. Plus, we would save about $600 million in annual costs and prevent nine billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to around 800,000 cars on the road. These data come from the EPA.

Start saving now

While the aforementioned statistics may seem unbelievable, what is more realistic is the difference you will notice in your utility bill. Take the curly CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light) bulb. While it may cost more up front than an incandescent bulb, it may take only about one year to recoup the savings by consuming less electricity. The good news is, I have been seeing a lot of low-price CFL’s at stores like Walgreens and Menards. I recently received about eight free CFL’s from Duke Energy, just by filling out a survey that took about 15 minutes. Be on the lookout for deals and contact your utility provider for special offers.

LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) cost significantly more, at $20-$60 per bulb, but most of them last up to 50,000 hours. Depending on how many hours per day you keep the lights on, they can last more than four decades. Plus they use on average 75 percent less than a traditional incandescent bulb.

Pros and cons to making the switch

When you flip the switch, incandescent bulbs light up right away. The energy efficient CFLs take a few seconds to reach their full brightness. This can come as an inconvenience to those who are flipping the switch to grab something from a dark closet real quick. LEDs, on the other hand, can reach their full brightness instantly, even in frigid temperatures.

A great concern to many is the mercury in many energy-saving bulbs. CFLs contain between one to five milligrams of mercury. Although, most CFLs sold today have significantly less mercury than the first-generation CFL bulbs. Another drawback is if a CFL bulb breaks, it requires a special multi-step cleanup procedure. CFL’s rival, the LED, do not contain mercury.

Both LED and CFL manufacturers make bulbs that can dim and work in a three-way fixture. Look for these features on the packaging.

How to choose

the right bulb

The simple days of picking out a bulb by wattage are ending. Now there are terms on the energy-saving bulbs’ packaging, unfamiliar to most consumers. For starters, incandescent bulbs are sold by wattage. The wattage measures how bright the light will be. CFLs and LEDs measure brightness by lumens. For example, if you are replacing a 60-watt bulb in your home, you will want to now purchase an 800-lumen bulb. If you are in the market for a flood light, look for a lumen count 10 times the wattage of the bulb you are replacing.

Another thing to look at is the number of kelvins. The whiteness, yellowness or blueness of light is measured by kelvins. Incandescent bulbs produce a yellow light, at around 2,700 kelvins. At 3,000 kelvins you get a whiter light. At 5,000 kelvins and above, the bulb mimics natural daylight. Be cautious when a manufacture labels its product soft-white, as each company has its own definition of soft-white.

As a final point, keep your receipts and UPC codes. CFLs and LEDs are supposed to last for years. You will need proof when you return the bulb to the manufacture or retailer if it burns out sooner than expected.

Finally, when you flip the switch you may not think about what resources are used to get that power into your home, only the fact that you have to pay for it. To learn more about where your energy comes from, Our Green Valley Alliance will be hosting a sustainability conference at Indiana State University on Nov. 9 and 10. More information can be found at ourgreenvalley.org.

Jane Santucci is an environmental freelance writer for the Tribune-Star. Santucci is a proud volunteer with TREES Inc. and Our Green Valley. She also sits on the Wabash Valley Goodwill Industries Board of Directors. Share your environmental stories and tips with her at JaneSantucci@your

greenvalley.com.

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