Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Comparing CFL Light Bulbs to Incandescent Light Bulbs

Okay, rarely am I shocked about something - especially about something concerning frugal living. It seems that a lot of frugal ideas are really just common sense when you get right down to it. Saving money usually equals spending less, and there you go, but today I was shocked - shocked to my core, I tell you. And it had to do with CFL light bulbs.

So, here's the thing: I try to be environmentally friendly in much of what I do but I have always had a bit of a problem with CFLs. I have never liked the bright white light of CFLs, I tend to be partial to the soft glow of incandescent lighting. I knew that CFLs used less energy and lasted longer, so I put them in all of my outdoor lights and my basement light fixtures, but for home lights and lamps, I stuck with good old incandescent. Yesterday I saw something that has changed my mind.

Going through my blog roll, I ran across Financial Rambling's post "How Much Do You Save with CFL or LED Light Bulbs" which addressed one of the other problems with CFLs - the relatively high unit cost. FR then compared that with the potential savings, by referencing Milk Your Money's Light Bulb Comparison tool, found in Milk Your Money Tools. This was where my mind was blown.

There are a bunch of nifty tools on the page, but the light bulb comparison was what I was after. It is an excel spreadsheet comparing Incandescent Bulbs vs CFL vs LED. Holy cow!!! After looking up the average retail cost of electricity for my state (using the link below) I found that $.10 (as was used in the comparison chart) was spot on for my state. Then I looked at the numbers - the estimated savings are incredibly impressive!

Now, unlike the chart, I don't know that I have 30 bulbs to replace. In my house much of the lighting is LED track lighting, with a few "can" lights in the kitchen. However, I know there are several lamps and other light fixtures that still have incandescent lights. I am also sure there are a bunch of them up at the cottage. One of my goals tonight is to take a tour through the house and write down the different lights I have so I can start shopping for deals on bulbs.

One of the other reasons I have hesitated in buying bulbs was that many of my lamps have smaller wattage bulbs. I didn't realized (I guess because I never looked) that CFLs actually come in all shapes and sizes. For example, I was surprised to find out that there are even CFL for candelabra style lights. Did you know that?

Check these out:
4 Watt Flame Shape Candelabra CFL Light Bulb

They also have black lights for those hip 70s posters I have hanging everywhere*:
Feit Electric 13-Watt Compact Fluorescent Twist Bulb (60-Watt Incandescent Equivalent), Black #ESL13T/BLB

There are dimmable lights, round lights, flood lights... all kinds of crazy things. I never knew!

Now, of course, these bulbs aren't cheap, so I may not be able to replace them all at once, but one of my goals will be to track here on my blog how many I change and what difference I see over the course of the next year. Let's put the theories to work, shall we?

EDIT: Here's how my bill is doing as of 4 months later: Electric Bills Even Lower, Thanks to CFLs

More Reading:

Wikipedia - Compact Fluorescent Lamp

Financial Rambling - How Much Do You Save with CFL or LED Light Bulbs.

Milk Your Money - Milk Your Money Tools

Energy Information Administration - Official Energy Statistics from the US Government

Popular Mechanics - The Best Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs: PM Lab Test

* You knew I was kidding about the black light posters, right??

Fun photo by Seaworthy


MilkYourMoney said...

Dawn, glad we could be of service! Thanks again for mentioning our tools. We are always trying to think of new ones and your input is much appreciated. See you around!

passivefamilyincome said...

Nice information. We saw a difference in our electric bill when I put the CFL's on our front porch lights. We turn the lights on at night as we don't have any street lights yet in our neighborhood. We are going to start replacing all of our bulbs once they start burning out. I have an issue just getting rid of the existing bulbs, so this will allow us to replace them over time and phase out the incandescent bulbs.

Dawn said...

Milkyourmoney - I'll be poking around your site a lot looking for more tools! I love that kind of thing!

PFI - I agree... I hate getting rid of old (still working) bulbs. But I read somewhere that environmentally, it would still be better switching to CFLs. I will have to see if I can find that article. I suppose I could always freecycle them!

Krissy said...

If you have a The Home Depot by your house you may want to check there. There are specially marked packages of CFL that they are trying to clear out of inventory selling for between $2-$3 for a 4 pack

Dawn said...

Krissy - I will do that! There is a Home Depot right around the corner from me.

Tonia said...

I finally decided to see if I could lower my electric bill and I bought LED lightbulbs to replace my old incandescent bulbs. Yes! My electric bill is much lower! Also, I found a great website called that I would recommend enthusiastically. They had good service (good phone and email support), great FAQs so I knew what I needed, and competitive prices; also, their shipping was fast and the LEDs were as good as advertised. Highly recommended.