The average household spends nearly $200 on lighting every year, with much of the cost owing to the few lights that are on the most. So switching those frequently used bulbs to Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) is the place to start: find the 10 lights you use most, and the lights you use at least one hour per day, and make the change.
According to Energy Star, if every home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an Energy Star qualified CFL, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to that of 800,000 cars. And while CFLs do contain a small amount of mercury that could ultimately end up in the environment, that amount is significantly less than the amount of mercury avoided as a result of the energy savings. More from Energy Star on CFLs and Mercury.
LEDs have similar energy savings to CFLs, but even longer lifetimes, lasting up to 25 times longer than incandescents. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that rapid adoption of LED lighting in the U.S. over the next 20 years can:
LEDs offer several conveniences to homeowners. LEDs are available with dimming and automatic daylight shut-off features, do not break like bulbs, last up to 22 years based on average household use and produce very little heat, reducing cooling costs.
CFLs fit a wide range of standard light sockets and are available in various hues, such as "soft white." They're also available in candelabra styles, dimmable, 3-way bulbs, and even outdoor flood light varieties. Follow this link to view EnergyStar's "How to Choose" guide to help determine which bulb is right for your fixture. LEDs are most commonly available as recessed lighting fixtures and replacement bulbs. There are many indoor and outdoor LED lighting options.
|This diagram from EnergyStar shows how LED lighting uses both light and energy more efficiently than incadescent and fluorescent bulbs.|
CFLs contain trace amounts of mercury and should be carefully disposed of--instead of being thrown out with the trash. Most bulb packages contain safe handling and disposal instructions on the side of the carton--which advises broken bulbs to be placed in a sealed bag and dropped off at designated recycling centers or to retailers that offer collection services (such as Home Depot).
LEDs are non-toxic and long-lasting, so disposal is less of an environmental concern. We recommend contacting your local recycling program to find out the safest way to recycle LED lights in your area.
Another way to reduce lighting costs is to install a motion sensor -- this will minimize the chance that a light is left on.