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Are energy saving lights really worth it?

By MICHAEL DIETZ
USU extension sustainable living specialist

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) provide a great alternative to traditional incandescent light bulbs in the home. They use 66 percent less electricity and last up to 10 times longer than typical incandescent bulbs. They are definitely worth the investment, and return on the dollar comes very quickly. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates a 6-month payback time on the initial investment. Consider this information.

According to information from the EPA, "If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an Energy Star-qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars."

The EPA lists information on how to select the right CFL bulbs, where to purchase them and frequently asked questions about them on the Energy Star page at http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=cfls.pr_cfls.

CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, which means if they burn out, they should be recycled. They can often be taken to a recycling center to have the mercury recovered, or you can check with your local landfill for recycling information. Broken bulbs should be handled carefully to avoid exposure to the mercury. The EPA lists guidance on how to handle a broken bulb in your home. This and additional lighting information can be found at http://extension.usu.edu/energyconsumer/htm/in-the-home/lighting-choices.

Light Emitting Diode, or LED bulbs, are rapidly becoming more available. They are even more energy efficient than CFLs, and they last longer. However, they are still fairly expensive compared to CFLs. They contain no mercury, so disposal is not an issue. Currently, LED bulbs are only available for certain applications, but it is expected that the variety of LED bulbs will increase in the near future.




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