Energy Efficiency Week: Lights and Water
Do you know how much you spend in electricity every month? I can tell you what my bill is down to the dollar, but we are fortunate enough to have levelized billing. Do you know how much water you use every month? Now that I couldn’t tell you. Electricity and water usage can make or break your budget depending on how much your utility company charges you. They are two things that you can’t live without and so if you can save money on them it’s always a great idea.
Did you know that every bulb in your home could be costing you more than $1 per month to run them? If you have the older type of light bulbs (which I can’t find at my local big box store btw), then using a 100-watt bulb costs you at least $1.20 a month.
Now think about how many light bulbs you have in your house. I know I have 4 in the sets in the kitchen, 3 in the fixture in the living room, 2 in the hall, 2 in each of the bedrooms (times 3), 2 in the laundry room, 6 in one bathroom, 2 in the other bathroom and 2 in our walk in closet. Let me do some math. That’s 27 light bulbs in my little 1,000 square foot home. That’s $32 a month in just lighting, not to mention the tv’s and radio and stove and refrigerator etc.
Types of Light Bulbs
There are five basic types of light bulbs. Each one has its pros and cons. Within the basic types of light bulbs, you are going to find many different styles and colors and each grouping is going to have its own level of light output or lumens. Let’s look at them and how they might affect your utility bill.Incandescent
This is the most commonly used type of light bulb. They are the oldest type of light bulb available today. We all grew up with them and, in fact, the shape of the incandescent light bulb is the quintessential form we all associate with it.
These are also usually the least expensive to buy. These lights have a warmer light that lends an inviting quality and is complimentary to skin tones. It is also psychologically appealing. They usually last between 700 and 1,000 hours. You can also use these types of bulbs with a dimmer. The biggest problem with this type of light bulb is that they are not energy efficient.Halogen
I’ll admit something. When the halogen headlights came out a couple of years ago, I hated them. They are too bright, and they hurt my eyes when I meet someone using them in traffic. I recently drove a rental car that had those lights and I could see a profound difference between the traditional bulbs my car has and the newer lights that the rental car had. It was much easier to see. I have gotten a little less in my feelings about them, but I still dislike them.
Now halogen bulbs in the house? That I can get on board with. Halogen bulbs are actually a variation of incandescent light. They are the closest that we can get to natural daylight using artificial means. Instead of the “warm" light that older incandescent bulbs put out, halogen bulbs produce a “white" light. This allows colors to stand out more vividly.
Just like their incandescent predecessors, halogen bulbs can be used on a dimmer. This gives you the option of having a softer light without sacrificing the light itself. They are a little more energy efficient than the traditional incandescent bulbs but are more expensive in the beginning. They also burn at a higher temperature.
The main thing to remember about halogen bulbs is to not touch them with your bare hands. When you are changing the bulbs or installing them, make sure that you are wearing gloves and you touch the bulb as little as possible. Oil from your hand can make the bulb heat up too quickly and could even create a risk of explosion.Fluorescent
We all have a love-hate relationship with fluorescent lighting. They have been the hallmark of offices, stores, hospitals and schools for decades. That cold, blue light that illuminates everything perfectly and gives us all those wonderful headaches. Yep, fluorescent lighting has been a staple for years to light large buildings effectively.
The light from a fluorescent is equivalent to natural sunlight. It is just as bright as the sun on a clear day. There are newer lights that you can get that will give you an option to have a “warm" light or even a special colored light, but you still can’t put them on a dimmer. They are great for large buildings, not just because of the light that they produce, but because they last longer than fluorescents and halogens.Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFLs)
These are great for energy efficiency. They consume a quarter of the energy that incandescent bulbs do and last 10 times longer. These newer fluorescent bulbs have many improvements on the old standby that we grew up with.
They produce a warmer light and have been color corrected. So, no more of that sickly blue/green look to your skin. (Like absolutely all of my high school candid photos.) They are quieter than the older ones. Remember that old hum that the older fluorescent lights used to make. No more of that creepiness. The new ones also turn on instantly, so no more waiting on the light to warm up.
You can use CFLs anywhere you would use an incandescent bulb. The downside to them is that CFLs contain a trace amount of mercury. That means that you should be careful if a bulb break. Mercury can cause all sorts of health problems. When the bulb burns out, you will need to recycle it. Don’t just throw them away.>LED
This is the newest kid on the block. LEDs are lights that provide a clean, bright, focused light for very little energy consumption. They are also incredibly long lasting. There are two major problems with LED lighting. The first is that the light can’t be diffused. It is a light that can only be used to focus or train on something. The second is that they are expensive. LED lights can cost up to 6 times more than a CFL bulb.
So obviously, the easiest thing that you can do to minimize your light bill is, well, turn off the lights. As a mom of two, I know the struggle is real. Getting the kids to consistently turn the lights off when they leave a room is like a cat volunteering to go to the vet.
There are other things that you can do. You can replace your older, less energy efficient bulbs with newer bulbs that don’t waste as much energy. While this could be a large project, the best part of it is that you can do it slowly over time. Another thing that you can do is to use dimmers and timers. The timers are especially beneficial. You can set the lights to go off at a certain time and to turn on at a certain time. This is great for outdoor lights or holiday displays.
Another wonderful invention that we simply can’t live without. The convenience of having hot water from your tap is something that most people today don’t realize is a relatively recent development. Up until the 1800’s all the water that was used in the home was brought in one bucket at a time. If you wanted a hot bath, you brought the water in bucket by bucket and then you heated it up and transferred it the same way. Can you imagine carrying scalding hot water up a flight of stairs?
The idea of a hot water heater comes from an older invention called a “copper". Let me put my historical hat on for a second. A copper was simply a large pot, commonly made from copper, that was set into a holder that allowed you to keep a fire going underneath it day and night. These were typically found in laundry areas of homes that did not have indoor plumbing. There were also smaller ones that were typically attached to stoves. The water was kept warm without boiling so that they wouldn’t lose any of their hard work filling it up.
Types of Water Heaters
Today there are 2 basic types of water heaters; a storage water heater and a tankless water heater. Storage water heaters are the classic type of water heater that is used in the United States. They are the large cylindrical water heaters that stores the water and keeps it warm until you use it. A tankless water heater doesn’t store the water, it actually heats the water right before you use it.Tankless Water Heater
A tankless water heater is typically a gas-powered unit and is much more energy efficient than a storage water heater. One of our corporate sponsors is a leader in the tankless water heater industry. Rinnai has been making tankless water heaters for nearly a century and they have continuously innovated to maintain the highest level of quality and service for their products and customers. If you are looking at buying a tankless water heater, go check out their website.Storage Water Heater
A storage water heater comes in two types. They can either be gas powered or electric. Either way, they work the same. Cold water comes into the tank, it is heated and then when you turn on the tap the hot water is pulled from the tank.
These water heaters are much less energy efficient than their tankless counterparts but there is a quick and inexpensive solution to help with that. You can purchase an insulation jacket or blanket for your water heater that can fit over it. They are usually less than $20. If you have an electric water heater, go ahead and install the jacket yourself. If you have a gas water heater, then you are probably going to want a professional to come in and install it.
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