Five Minute Finances is a series of tips on how you can save significant money or reorganize your financial life in just five minutes. These tips appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on Money360.
Most American households still have all of their light sockets filled with old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs and have yet to convert them over to CFLs. If you’re still using traditional light bulbs to light your home, you’re throwing away money every time you flip on a light switch. In the past, I’ve waxed ecstatic about CFLs and how much they can save, but today I go one further: replace all of your bulbs NOW with CFLs, whether they’re burnt out or not.
I’ll use my own situation as an example. I replaced every light bulb in my apartment (a total of 22 bulbs) with CFLs. Almost all of the old bulbs were 60 or 75 watt bulbs; the new bulbs all used 20 watts. We kept track of our light bulb usage over a week or so and discovered that each bulb was on for an average of three and a half hours a day; in other words, an average day sees 77 hours of total light bulb usage, thus we’re saving about 3.45 kilowatt hours a day, or 104 kilowatt hours a month. At a price of about $0.10 per kilowatt hour according to our electric bill, the light bulb replacement saves us $10.40 a month, every month.
You may have to spend $40 or so to get enough bulbs to replace all of the old incandescents in your home, and you’ll have to discard your old bulbs, but it will only take a few months to make that money back. If you don’t feel comfortable pulling bulbs out of your sockets, you can just replace them as they go out, but it only takes a month or two to make up Even better: CFLs have five times the life of old incandescents, so you won’t have to replace them for years.
So, what’s the game plan? All you need to do is go to your local hardware store and buy a couple jumbo packs of CFLs. I recommend using the next higher “watt equivalency” that the packages tell you; for example, CFLs with a 60 watt “equivalence” aren’t quite as bright as real CFLs, so get the 75 watt “equivalence” bulbs – these use just fifteen watts, so you’re still saving 45 watts per hour per bulb. I personally recommend GE’s 20 watt bulbs, which are a 75 watt “equivalent” (meaning you should probably replace your 60 watt bulbs with them – they’ll be just a bit brighter than the old 60 watts) – those are the exact ones we use all over the place at our home and we love them dearly. They light well and they quietly make serious savings on our monthly energy bill.
So take five minutes, get some bulbs, and replace your old lighting today!