According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, if every U.S. household replaced just one regular incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb, it would prevent 90 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the equivalent of taking 7.5 million cars off the road. And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that by replacing regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs at the same minimal rate, Americans would save enough energy to light more than 2.5 million homes for a year.
Reasons to Switch to Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs
On top of that, replacing one regular light bulb with an approved compact fluorescent light bulb would save consumers $30 in energy costs over the life of the bulb.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs use at least two-thirds less energy than standard incandescent bulbs to provide the same amount of light, and they last up to 10 times longer. Compact fluorescent light bulbs also generate 70 percent less heat, so they are safer to operate and can also reduce energy costs associated with cooling homes and offices.
The only real drawback to using compact fluorescent bulbs is that each one contains about 5 mg of mercury, a toxic heavy metal that can cause serious health problems if inhaled or ingested over a period of time or in large enough doses. As a result, many environmentalists and other experts recommend recycling compact fluorescent bulbs to make sure they don't end up in landfills.
How Much Can You Save by Using Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs?
For most people, switching from incandescent to compact fluorescent bulbs offers a lot of opportunity for energy and cost savings. Lighting accounts for 20 percent of the electric bill in the average U.S. home, and the average home has approximately 30 light fixtures. (Calculate your personal energy and cost savings with this handy online calculator, and find out how much you will be helping the environment.)
To save the most energy and money by using compact fluorescent light bulbs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends replacing standard bulbs in areas where lights are used frequently and left on for a long time, such as family rooms, living rooms, kitchens, dining rooms, and porches.
Choosing the Right Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs
To make sure you get the same amount of light when replacing standard bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs, check the lumen rating on the light you are replacing and purchase a compact fluorescent light bulb with the same lumen rating. (A lumen rating is the measure of light the bulb puts out.)
Wattage varies greatly between standard light bulbs and compact fluorescent light bulbs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs typically use about one-quarter of the wattage used by standard bulbs to produce the same amount of light. So to replace a traditional 60-watt bulb, look for a compact fluorescent light bulb that is about 15 watts.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs are available in many different sizes and shapes to fit in almost any fixture—from three-way lamps to dimmer switches—for both indoor and outdoor use. Compact fluorescent light bulbs also come in a variety of color temperatures, which helps determine the color and brightness of the light each bulb provides. (Learn more about the brightness, color and light quality of compact fluorescent light bulbs.)
Keeping It Simple
None of this is as daunting as it may seem. But to make it really simple, the environmental group Environmental Defense has put together an easy-to-use web site that lets you search for the compact fluorescent light bulbs according to where you want to use them or by shape, brightness, color of light or other features.
The site also features user reviews of specific bulbs, and side-by-side photos of energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs with incandescent bulbs to help you determine whether the fluorescent bulbs will fit your light fixture.
With all of the choices now offered by compact fluorescent technology, saving energy, saving money, and protecting the environment is as easy as changing a light bulb.