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2013-08-15 15:29:31
How to Really Lower Your Bills

Using the Right Light Bulbs

You have more lighting choices than ever before. And that means making decisions about price and energy efficiency.  For most home lighting, your choice boils down to three options, from most to least expensive:

  • LEDs
  • Fluorescents (including CFLs)
  • Energy-efficient (halogen) incandescents, which meet the government’s new energy efficiency standards and aren’t being phased out.



What Bulb to choose

 

So how do you choose? 

Learn the New Light Bulb Language

Since January 1, 2012, the Federal Trade Commission has required a new “Lighting Facts” label. It was designed to help consumers break the habit of picking bulbs based on wattage to determine brightness. Now a metric called lumens is used for this task. Wattage only measures the amount of power a light bulb consumes.

Confused? Here’s an example: If you want to replace a 100-watt incandescent with an LED bulb and get the same brightness as the old bulb, you’d need a 27-watt LED bulb with an output of 1,600 lumens.

How to Read the New Label

While the new light bulb lingo sounds pretty complicated, it’s not once you get the gist. Here’s a breakdown of the “Lighting Facts” label:

Brightness: Here’s a quick tip: the brighter the light bulb, the higher the number. Standard bulbs range from 250 to 2,600 lumens.

Estimated Yearly Energy Cost: How does this add up? According to the U.S. Department of Energy, by upgrading 15 traditional incandescents in your home with energy-saving bulbs, you can save about $50 per year on your energy bill. Plus, energy-efficient bulbs produce about 75% less heat, so you may see additional savings when it comes to home cooling.

Life: The life of each bulb is estimated based on the usage described. Keep in mind that labels marked Energy Star meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:
Energy Star LEDs use about 25% of the energy and can last about 25 times longer than traditional incandescents.

Energy Star CFLs use about 25% of the energy and last 10 times longer than a comparable traditional incandescent.

Light Appearance: Terms such as “soft white” don’t mean the same thing from brand to brand. To compare bulbs, you need to know their color temperature, which is measured in kelvins on a scale of 1,000 (the warmest — think candlelight) to 10,000 (the coolest — like a blue sky). LEDs, CFLs, and halogen incandescents all come in a wide range of color temperatures.

Here’s a quick kelvin breakdown for easy reference:

  • The 2700–3000K range is warm and inviting.
  • 3500K casts a neutral light.
  • 4100K casts a cool and bright light.
  • The 5500K-6500K range is closest to daylight.

Energy Used: As we mentioned above, wattage now only measures energy usage, not brightness. So the lower the wattage, the less energy used.

Contains Mercury: Have no fear; only CFLs have a small amount of mercury, so you won’t see this if you are purchasing LEDs or energy-efficient (halogen) incandescents.

What’s Not on the Label?

Not all specs are covered on the FTC label.  So we suggest searching for bulbs online if you’re seeking something really specific. You can often find the necessary info on manufacturers’ websites. Stuff you can look for includes:

How well the bulb shows off colors and textures. This is the key to whether you’ll be satisfied with the quality of light you get. Look for the color rendering index (CRI), a measurement of 1 to 100. The higher the bulb’s score, the better.

Incandescent halogen bulbs score a perfect 100. CFLs and LEDs don’t fare as well as a group, although some individual bulbs get high scores.

How the bulb casts off its light (in technical terms, beam spread). Let’s say you use track lighting to highlight a piece of artwork. “If you want to light a 15x9-in. picture on the wall, you don’t need a 4x4-ft. spread of light,” Witte says. “To be energy-efficient, match the beam spread with the task, putting light only where you need it.”

Buying the Best Bulb for the Job

The key to setting the mood is combining different sources to create pleasing layers of light, says lighting designer Rosemarie Allaire. So here are a few more features to keep in mind that will help simplify the bulb selection process.

Halogen incandescent: They give off the same quality of light as the old bulbs, but save 25% on energy costs. They do cost more than the originals, but less than LEDs or CFLs. Plus, “Incandescent light renders color and texture beautifully,” Allaire says.

LED: “LEDs don’t have the three-dimensional light quality that incandescents do, and I find them to be flat,” Allaire says. “They’re all over the map as far as color rendering goes, and they don’t dim well, so I don’t use them in living areas or for art lighting. But their long life is a big plus.” Tip: LEDs will continue to improve rapidly as technology advances. But for now, be sure to check the label for color rendering and color temperature before you buy.

CFLs: CFL lighting is diffuse, so its color rendering generally isn’t up to snuff compared with incandescents. But if you find a particular brand with a color temperature you like, CFLs can work nicely in drop-bowl fixtures and table lamps — places where air circulates freely around the bulb. CFLs don’t do well with too much heat buildup.

 

The Difference a Thromostat Can Make                                                  

It’s official: The programmable thermostat is the VCR of our day. Why? We think they’re too complicated.  According to a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, nearly 90% of Americans say they’ve rarely (or never) programmed their thermostat because they’re not sure how to do it.  But it’s really not that hard, and it’s definitely worth doing because it can save you up to 15% a year on energy costs. 

Programming the Thermostat

Most programmable thermostats have a pre-programmed setting that’s supposed to be for the typical American family. But what family is typical these days? You need to adjust the thermostat’s settings so it’s in sync with the life you and your family lead instead of some mythical family.

The U.S Department of Energy suggests the following settings in order to shave up to 15% off your energy bill:

Thermostat %

Winter months:

  • For the hours you’re home and awake, program the temp to 68°F.
  • Lower by 10° to 15° for the hours you’re asleep or out of the house.

Summer months:

  • For the hours you’re home, program air conditioning to 78°F.
  • For the days you don’t need cooling, manually shut off the AC. Keep in mind, it will kick back on if the house gets too warm.
  • Program the AC to shut off during the hours you’re out of the house.

Want something that’s simpler? Newer more high-tech models have simplified the process:

  • The Nest Learning Thermostat: It creates a custom heating and cooling schedule for your home based on motion detection technology. Plus since it is Wi-Fi, it can be controlled remotely. Price: $250

Have questions or need help programming your thermostat? Below are tech support numbers for popular manufacturers:

  • Honeywell: Wi-Fi Models: 1-855-733-5465
  • Honeywell: All other thermostats: 1-800-468-1502
  • Hunter: 1-888-830-1326
  • White Rodgers: 1-800-284-2925
  • Trane: 1-877-288-7707

By: Deirdre Sullivan

 

For More Informational articles like the ones above visit www.houselogic.com

 

 
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