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How to Calculate Your Light Savings From Replacing Incandescent Bulbs

News about saving money and lighting by replacing old light bulbs is old news (unless you’ve been living under a rock). But the issue of saving light has not yet increased. Assume that every household in the United States will switch to energy efficient light bulbs (such as compact fluorescent bulbs). This will reduce the country’s energy consumption in the residential sector by 10 percent. The residential sector, by the way, accounts for about 20% of all energy use in the United States. It is very oily.

Still not sure about replacing energy efficient light bulbs? No tricks about saving light? Don’t believe the positive effects on the pocketbook or the environment? Want to calculate and test the light savings for yourself? OK, let’s tackle the cost savings and easy payment below. (The simple deduction refers to how much you recoup the cost of the new bulbs from the savings).

To calculate the bottom line, here is the information needed:

• The wattage rating (watts) of the current bulb
• The wattage rating (watts) of the new bulb
• The number of hours we use the light bulb every day
• The rate we pay for electricity in kilowatt-hours or kWh. You can find your electricity rate by looking at the electricity section of your utility bill.
• A kilowatt is 1000 watts, so we must remember to divide our answer by 1000 to convert it to kilowatt-hours.
• Original bulb cost
• The price of a new bulb

For example, let’s replace a frequently used light bulb in a living room that is constantly on for 5 hours a day. A device has a 100 Watt light bulb that costs \$050. It should be replaced with a single 25 Watt fluorescent or CFL (provides equivalent light output), costing \$2.50. Let’s assume an electricity rate of \$0.15 per Kilowatt Hour (kWh), the national average in the United States.

To calculate the cost savings, first calculate the energy use of the current bulb, then that of the replacement bulb. Hopefully, the energy use of the replacement bulb will be lower than the current one. The difference between the current and the new is the savings. Here is the formula for calculating the cost of energy used per year:

Annual Energy Cost (\$) = number of bulbs X watts per bulb/1000 watts X hours of use per day X 365 days X electricity rate

So, for example:

Energy Cost per current bulb (\$) = 1 bulb X 100 watts X 5 hours per day X 365 days X \$0.15 per kWh/1000 watts = \$27.38 per year

Energy Cost per replacement bulb (\$) = 1 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 the simple payout over the years:

Simple Payback (Yrs): (New Bulb Cost (\$) – Old Bulb Cost (\$)) / Annual Savings (\$)

For our example, the simple payment is:

Simple Payback (Yrs) = (\$2.50 – \$0.5) / \$20.54 = 0.1 year or 1.2 months

That’s not a bad return on investment for modest savings. An average house has about 15-20 light bulbs. If they were all like the example above, that would result in a savings of about \$411 a year. You can use the same method to calculate the savings for each room in your home, and add all the room savings to get your total annual savings.

You can control your finances by monitoring your utility bills from month to month, provided your rates stay the same and you don’t change the hours of operation on the bulb. Even with proven savings, the appeal still seems to be to replace light bulbs with compact fluorescent (or CFL), or light emitting diodes (or LEDs), otherwise, this would be a “done deal.”

LEDs provide even greater savings (light savings of over 90%), and longer lifespans (25,000-50,000 hours) and will be the dominant technology of the mid-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 lumen) compared to light bulbs. However, technology is advancing very quickly, and once prices drop to reasonable levels, these issues will become a valid memory.

CFLs, on the other hand, are much more accessible and affordable, and have come a long way from closely matching light bulbs and incandescent bulbs. A recurring complaint about them is that CFLs need to warm up to reach full brightness, but that’s usually in the range of seconds to a minute for professional bulbs. They are also affected by moisture and humidity.

While the cost of CFLs is still higher than a \$0.50 light bulb, the price for replacement has dropped to affordable levels, typically \$1.50-\$4.50 per bulb depending on the type. The average lifespan of CFLs is 8,000 hours (or about five years at four hours of daily use), while light bulbs are rated for 800-1,200 hours. Something worth considering for light savings accounts. The life of CFLs is reduced if they are switched on and off frequently. If you plan to install them in areas where they will be changed frequently, then reduce their lifespan by 20% to 6,400 hours.

What about mercury in CFLs? The amount of mercury in a CFL is 5 mg or about 1/100th the amount of mercury in a dental filling (500 mg in a dental filling). More to the point, the mercury used by a power plant to make a light bulb is 10 mg, but for a compact fluorescent it is about 2.5 mg. Broken bulbs should be handled with care and burned out bulbs should be disposed of at home centers such as Home Depot and Ikea.

No matter how we look at it, saving light from changing blinds is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to incorporate energy efficiency and achieve home energy savings. Many countries have started systematically phasing out the production of light bulbs. The economics are there, and the environmental benefits will only improve as technology advances.

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