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Your home... lighting

Fast & Easy Info

  • Lighting accounts for 5-10% of the total energy used by the average American home.
  • It costs $50 - $150 a year in electricity to light our homes.
  • It takes approximately 394 pounds of coal to keep a single 100-watt incandescent light bulb burning for 12 hours each day for one year.
  • Burning all that coal creates about 936 pounds of carbon dioxide - one of the biggest causes of global warming, climate change, and air pollution.
  • An ENERGY STAR compact fluorescent light bulb uses 66% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb and lasts up to 10 times longer.
  • If every household in the U.S. replaced one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL), it would prevent enough pollution to equal removing one million cars from the road.

Dollars & Sense Options

  • Use daylight whenever possible. Remember - it's free. And it doesn't pollute!
  • Focus light on the task at hand. Use dimmers for background lights.
  • Turn lights off when you leave a room; occupancy sensors will turn your lights off automatically.
  • Replace fixtures that use two or more low-wattage bulbs with one that uses only a single bulb. A single 100-watt bulb gives off 20% more light than two 60-watt bulbs and uses less power.
  • Keep light fixtures and bulbs clean.
  • Replace incandescent bulbs with Energy Star compact fluorescents. You can save $30 in energy costs over the life of the bulb for every 100-watt incandescent bulb you replace with a 32-watt compact fluorescent bulb.

How does a compact fluorescent light bulb work? Here's how General Electric explains it:
Fluorescent light bulbs (including compact fluorescents) are more energy-efficient than regular bulbs because of the different method they use to produce light. Regular bulbs (also known as incandescent bulbs) create light by heating a filament inside the bulb; the heat makes the filament white-hot, producing the light that you see. A lot of the energy used to create the heat that lights an incandescent bulb is wasted. A fluorescent bulb, on the other hand, contains a gas that produces invisible ultraviolet light (UV) when the gas is excited by electricity. The UV light hits the white coating inside the fluorescent bulb and the coating changes it into light you can see. Because fluorescent bulbs don't use heat to create light, they are far more energy-efficient than regular incandescent bulbs.

Incandescent vs. Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Bulb type

100W Incandescent

23W Compact Fluorescent

Purchase price



Life of the bulb

750 hours

10,000 hours

Number of hours burned/day

4 hours

4 hours

Number of bulbs needed

About 6 over 3 years

1 over 6.8 years

Total cost of bulbs



Total cost of electricity
(8 cents/kilowatt-hour)



Total cost over 3 years



Total savings over three years
with the Compact Fluorescent:


Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration

For Your Shopping List:

Compact fluorescent light bulbs

To save the most energy and money, replace your highest used fixtures or the light bulbs in them with energy-efficient models. The 5 highest use fixtures in a home are typically the kitchen ceiling light, the living room table and floor lamps, bathroom vanity, and outdoor porch or post lamp.


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In My House

I only change the compact fluorescent light bulbs in my house every five or six years. I love not having to spend my time buying and changing light bulbs given how many other things I have to do. I have probably been using CFLs for over 20 years!

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What Else?

  • Some CFLs may take an extra second to warm up before they reach full brightness. Co mpact fluorescent bulbs are best used in fixtures that are left on for longer periods of time, rather than in fixtures that are turned off and on frequently. CFLs may generally be used in enclosed fixtures as long as the fixture is not recessed. Totally enclosed recessed fixtures (for example, a ceiling can light with a cover over the bulb) create temperatures that are too high to allow the use of a compact fluorescent bulb. Because of electronic interference, compact fluorescent lights should not be used with dimmers, in "touch" lamps, with photocells or with electronic timers.
  • Because CFLs contain minuscule amounts of mercury (significantly less than what is found in a fever thermometer), most municipalities prefer that they be disposed of as household hazardous waste. If you happen to break a CFL at home, be careful not to inhale as you sweep the broken pieces into a plastic bag you can seal for later disposal.

Buy compact fluorescent light bulbs here or here.

Buy compact fluorescent light fixtures here:

You can find a store near you that sells CFLs here:

If you want more info on CFLs, stop by EarthEasy.com.

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