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How to Calculate Your Light Savings From Replacing Incandescent Bulbs
The news about saving money and electricity by replacing old light bulbs is out (unless you’ve been living under a rock). But the topic of light conservation is not overdone. Suppose that every household in the United States will switch to high-efficiency light bulbs (such as compact fluorescent bulbs). This will reduce energy consumption in the national residential sector by 10%. By the way, the residential sector accounts for about 20% of all energy use in the United States. That’s a lot of oil.
Still not sure whether to switch to high-efficiency light bulbs? Don’t believe the hype about energy savings? Not convinced of the positive impact on your wallet or the environment? Want to calculate and test power savings yourself? Okay, let’s tackle cost savings and simple ROI below. (Simple payback is the time it takes you to recoup the cost of new bulbs from the money you save).
To calculate the bottom line, the following information is required:
- Power Rating of Existing Bulbs (Watts)
- Power Rating (Watts) for New Bulbs
- The number of hours we use light bulbs per day
- The rate we pay for electricity in kilowatt-hours or kilowatt-hours. You can find out what your electricity rate is by looking at the electricity bill section of your utility bill.
- A kilowatt equals 1,000 watts, so we must remember to divide the answer by 1,000 to convert it to kilowatt hours
- Cost of Original Light Bulbs
- The cost of new light bulbs
For example, let’s replace a heavily used light bulb in a living room fixture that stays on for 5 hours a day. The lamp has a 100-watt incandescent bulb and costs $050. It will be replaced with a 25-watt compact fluorescent lamp or CFL (which provides equivalent brightness to an incandescent bulb) at a cost of $2.50. Assume electricity costs of $0.15 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which is the national average for the United States.
To calculate the savings, first calculate the energy use of the existing light bulbs, then the energy use of the replacement bulbs. It is hoped that the energy consumption of the replacement bulbs will be lower than the energy consumption of the existing bulbs. The difference between existing and new is savings. Here is the formula to calculate the annual cost of energy used:
Annual energy cost ($) = number of bulbs X wattage per bulb/1,000 watts X hours of use per day X 365 days X electricity bill
So, for our example:
Energy cost of existing light bulbs ($) = 1 light bulb X 100 watts X 5 hours per day X 365 days X $0.15 per kWh/1,000 watts = $27.38 per year
Energy cost to replace light bulbs ($) = 1 light bulb X 25 watts X 5 hours per day X 365 days X $0.15 per kWh/1000 watts = $6.84 per year
Annual Savings ($) = $27.38 – $6.84 = $20.54
Here’s how to calculate simple return years:
Simple Payback Period (Years): (New Bulb Cost ($) – Old Bulb Cost ($)) / Yearly Savings ($)
For our example, the simple return is:
Simple payback period (years) = ($2.50 – $0.5) / $20.54 = 0.1 years or 1.2 months
That’s not a bad return on investment for a small amount of savings. An average house has about 15-20 bulbs. If all of these are the same as in the example above, that’s an annual savings of about $411. You can use the same method to calculate savings for each room in your home and add up the savings for all rooms to arrive at your total annual savings.
You can check your savings by monitoring your utility bill each month, provided your rates stay the same and you don’t change the hours your light bulbs operate. Even with the proven savings, there still seems to be some opposition to replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (or CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (or LEDs), otherwise, it would be a ‘certainty’.
LEDs offer greater energy savings (90% light savings) and longer lifetimes (25,000-50,000 hours) and will be the dominant technology in the medium-term future. They are also more environmentally friendly to produce and are less prone to breakage or moisture. But at this point, their main disadvantages are their high price and lower light output (or lumens) compared to incandescent bulbs. However, technology is developing very rapidly, and once prices come down to reasonable levels, these problems will become a thing of the past.
CFLs, on the other hand, are more accessible and affordable, and have come a long way in closely matching the light output and practicality of incandescent bulbs. A recurring complaint about them is that CFLs need to warm up to reach full brightness, but with dedicated bulbs this usually takes a few seconds to a minute. They are also affected by moisture and humidity.
While CFLs still cost more than $0.50 incandescent bulbs, prices have come down to affordable levels and can be replaced, typically $1.50 to $4.50 per bulb, depending on the type. CFLs have an average lifespan of 8,000 hours (or about five years with four hours of daily use), while incandescent bulbs are rated for 800-1,200 hours. There is one thing worth noting about power saving calculations. If switched on and off frequently, the life of the CFL will be shortened. If you plan to install them in a frequently switched area, reduce their lifespan by 20% to 6,400 hours.
What about mercury in CFLs? The mercury content in the CFL is 5 mg, which is about 1/100 of the mercury content in a dental filling (500 mg dental filling). What’s more, power plants use 10 milligrams of mercury to make incandescent bulbs, while compact fluorescent lamps contain about 2.5 milligrams of mercury. Still, broken bulbs must be handled with care, and burnt bulbs should be disposed of at home centers like Home Depot and Ikea.
No matter how we look at it, the energy savings achieved by replacing incandescent light bulbs is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to combine energy efficiency and achieve energy savings in your home. Many countries have begun to systematically phase out the production of incandescent light bulbs. The economics are there, and the environmental benefits will only improve as technology improves.
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