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Compact Fluorescent Lightbulb Changeover Complete

Written by Nickel - 14 Comments

This weekend marked the completion of one of my major electricity-saving projects — the conversion of our house from incandescent lighting to compact fluorescent bulbs. We still have (I think) four incandescent bulbs in closets, but those get so little use that it wasn’t worth switching them over. All in all, I ended up swapping out 107 bulbs. In terms of energy savings, we reduced the total wattage of lights in our house by nearly 80%, broken down as follows:

60W ‘Regular’ Bulbs (74 Total)
Before: 4440 combined watts
After: 962 combined watts (using 13W CF bulbs)
Savings: 3478 watts (78.3% reduction)

60W ‘Chandelier’ Bulbs (9 Total)
Before: 540 combined watts
After: 63 combined watts (using 7W CF bulbs)
Savings: 477 watts (88.3% reduction)

65W Recessed ‘Spotlight’ Bulbs (16 Total)
Before: 1040 combined watts
After: 256 combined watts (using 16W CF bulbs)
Savings: 784 watts (75.4% reduction)

150W Exterior ‘Floodlight’ Bulbs (8 Total)
Before: 1200 combined watts
After: 184 combined watts (using 23W CF bulbs)
Savings: 1016 watts (84.7% reduction)

The only place that we traded down in terms of intensity were the ‘chandelier’ bulbs and the exterior floodlights. We replaced the 60W ‘chandelier’ bulbs, which light our front porch and the garage service door with 30W equivalent bulbs. However, when bunched in threes (as they are in our fixtures) they cast more than enough light to get the job done. As far as the floodlights go, we have two on every corner of the house, and we replaced the 150W bulbs with 90W equivalent bulbs. Again, these are more than enough to get the job done.

From a financial perspective, it’ll take us quite awhile to break even — after all, these bulbs aren’t cheap. However, they last far longer than incandescent bulbs, meaning reduced replacement costs, and the power savings will really start to add up over time. Hopefully all of this will make a dent in our recent high electric bills. Yes, air conditioning is our main summer expense, but lighting isn’t trivial, and the two aren’t completely unrelated… After all, incandescent bulbs generate an awful lot of heat which makes your AC work even harder.

Setting aside the financial considerations for a moment, we’re also doing the right thing with regard to scaling back our energy usage, so we’re getting a bit of return in terms of warm fuzzy feelings.

For more information on moving, check out my Roadmap for a Successful Relocation.

Published on August 28th, 2006
Modified on April 25th, 2012 - 14 Comments
Filed under: Energy, House & Home

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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14 Responses to “Compact Fluorescent Lightbulb Changeover Complete”

  1. 1
    Blaine Moore Says:

    I got lucky; shortly after I bought my house, we went to a home show where they had a promotion for you to buy compact fluorescants for 50 cents each. We bought around 70; 50 for my uncle, and the rest for our house.

  2. 2
    Matt Says:

    In my experience, the longevity thing isn’t as big as it’s touted (I replaced the overhead bulbs in the dining room with CFs this spring, and only one of them is still burning today, despite the fact that those lights are rarely turned on), but they do very definitely throw off way less heat, and that’s always a good thing.

  3. 3
    NCN Says:

    Nickel,
    I have about a dozen of the cf’s not in use… would you suggest waiting until the traditional lights go dead, and then replacing them, or replacing the traditional lights now, and using them as back-ups for when / if the cf’s go dead?
    NCN

  4. 4
    nickel Says:

    Matt: While I’ve found that they probably don’t last 10X as long (or whatever) as a regular incandescent bulb, I’ve never had them burn out quickly like that. I’d take them back to the store where you bought them and complain.

    NCN: If you already have the bulbs in hand, I’d go ahead and put them in.

  5. 5
    Golbguru Says:

    107 light bulbs !! woah..you got one big house there.

  6. 6
    jim Says:

    My strategy with the bulbs has been to use up the regular bulbs on places where you want instant light, instant on and instant off, because you won’t use them for a long time. Closets are a prime example. I just the CFs for my hallway lights and room lights where I know the bulbs will be on for an extended period of time.

  7. 7
    Mike Says:

    When the cold weather sets in, you may find that the exeterior lighting is dim. The efficiency of CF lighting is very temperature dependent.

  8. 8
    Norm Says:

    Those of you that have put in CF bulbs…did they have more of a yellow hue to them than regular bulbs? I recently replaced the bulbs in our living room and went with the CF bulbs but things are looking dingier. Now, it could be just because the old lights we had in there were the “white light” bulbs which are less yellow than normal bulbs but it seems like a much bigger switch this time.

    Interested to see how these hold out. The white light bulbs were burning out in the living room in just a couple months….

  9. 9
    nickel Says:

    Norm, it really varies from brand to brand. I’ve found the cheap multi-packs at Lowe’s and Home Depot to give off pretty good light, and they’re pretty much ‘instant on’ (unlike some that require a bit of warm up). We have a number of ’spotlight’ type recessed lights, and I switched those over, too. Unfortunately, those lights start up kind of slowly, and so it’s a couple of minutes before you get full intensity. No real problem with yellow light, although I’ve run across some like that in that past. If you don’t like them, return ‘em and try a different brand.

  10. 10
    Elbo Cenvari Says:

    I think the warm-up of the cf bulbs is a bonus feature. It’s nicer on the eyes to have it brighten up gently rather than instantly, especially first thing in the morning.

  11. 11
    Lindsey Says:

    good job doing your part in saving energy!
    A buddy of mine, who is a teacher, came across this company that works with schools to do environmentally friendly fund raisers. Not only do the schools make extra money but they help the environment and make people more aware of global warming as well. They also offer lesson plans for teachers who are interested in teaching their students about the environment as well as lesson plans for An Inconvenient Truth with Vice President Al Gore. Their main product is compact fluorescent light bulbs which save a ton of energy and money compared with incandescent bulbs. They are called One Plant Fund raising and their website is http://www.oneplanetfundraising.com. Definitely worth checking out!

  12. 12
    Thomas Says:

    I switched over 14 bulbs back when I bought my house in August 2005 and of those 14, I still have 13 original CF bulbs. I have a 766 W or 76.6% reduction, but that amounts to almost $20 off my bill each month. The rest are T12 flourescent bulbs. Of the two, the flourescent bulbs are slower on than the CFs. There *might* be a 1/4 or less second difference between the CFs and the old IC, and you don’t even notice it after a while. Here in coastal GA, where we only get down to maybe 20 degrees a few nights out of the year and average maybe 40 most winter nights, the exterior lights actually work better than the flourescent ones in my uninsulated garage with maybe a 1 second hesitation at most, and within 5 seconds they are full brightness.
    I second the comment about taking the short lifespan bulbs back. That is not normal and there might have been a bad batch because my experience has shown they should last an average of 3 years if used daily for extended periods of time.

  13. 13
    Mary Says:

    Could you please tell me how much it costs to run a 100 watt incandescent lightbulb 8 hours/day for a year? Then compare the cost for a year with a CF bulb? Which wattage would I buy of the CF to replace the 100 watt? I’m new at this. Thanks for your response.

  14. 14
    Curt Says:

    Hello all, just so you know most utilities have programs in place to off set some of the costs. As a matter of fact just about anybody that pays an electric bill funds these programs. When you get to the 2nd page look for public purpose programs, this goes to rebates and funding low income users. I currently work with SDG&E and a very surprising thing is that very few people actually use the rebates they help fund. I say get every penny back that you can.

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