October 3, 2011 in Features

Do Your Part: When you reduce energy use, you’ll reduce costs

Terri Bennett I Mcclatchy Newspapers
 

Start cutting costs by picking energy-saving light bulbs.
(Full-size photo)

Looking for ways to lower your utility bills? Reducing the amount of energy you use to light your home is one place to start.

About 20 percent of your monthly energy usage goes toward illuminating your home, and slashing that bill takes a little more effort than simply turning off the lights. Here are my top five ways to cut your lighting costs:

Pick the best bulb: There are more energy-efficient light bulbs to choose from than ever. Start by migrating to more efficient bulbs as your old ones burn out.

Newer bulbs can outlast traditional ones by up to 10 times and can save you up to 75 percent in lighting costs. However, you really need to know which kind of bulb is best for the various fixtures throughout your home.

For example, Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) shouldn’t be used in a dimmable or three-way fixture unless it is specifically designed for that use. Choosing the wrong bulb will drastically shorten its lifespan and ultimately waste your money.

You can learn more about the best uses for various types of energy efficient bulbs at DoYourPart.com/Columns.

Turn it off: You always heard it growing up: “Turn off the lights when you leave the room.” This is clearly an easy way to lower your energy costs but it’s not always true.

If you are using fluorescent bulbs and only plan to leave the room for a few minutes, it’s best to leave the lights on. Frequent on/off cycling can reduce the lifespan of fluorescent bulbs.

Use a timer: Sometimes there’s a need to leave the light on, but not continuously. In that case, opt for a timer and then you won’t have to remember to flick the switch – ever.

Choose a mechanical timer over electronic or digital timers, which can shorten the lifespan of some CFL bulbs.

Turn the lights down low: Putting dimmers on your lights not only lets you control the mood in any room, it can also save money and extend the life of the bulb. Just be sure the label states that the bulb is intended to be used with a dimmer.

Let motion sensors do the work: Finally, consider motion sensors. This way, lights come on when motion is detected and turn off when no activity is detected over a selected period of time. This is ideal for security lights outside but you can also install motion sensors indoors.

There are more ways than one to light your home for less. Whether you decide on different bulbs or other ways to conserve electricity, you will do your part to use less energy and keep money in your wallet – without being left in the dark.

Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, syndicated columnist and host of DoYourPart.com, where you can find everyday green living ideas that are better for you and the planet. Send questions to terri@doyourpart.com.


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