Switching to low-energy lighting is something a lot of us plan to do and yet stall when it comes to actually taking action. Sometimes this can be because of doubts about the quality of lighting in energy-savings bulbs, and sometimes it can be simply not knowing where to start. Energy-saving light bulbs save money and are more environmentally friendly – so why wait?
The Department of Eergy claims that lighting accounts for 15% of an average household's electricty bills, and that switching to low-energy bulbs will save you around $50 a year. Switching to low-energy light bulbs is a simple and easy thing to do; whether you rent or own, you can save yourself hundreds of pounds by making the permanent change from filament bulbs to low-energy lighting.
Image by Anton Fomkin
What kind of bulbs do I need to buy?
In time, the government has plans to phase out inefficient light bulbs, but at the moment supermarkets primarily stock traditional inefficient filament bulbs, though most will also stock energy-saving light bulbs as well. There are two kinds of low-energy bulbs to look out for, both used in different kinds of lights.
Compact fluorescent lights, also known as CFLs, are the kind of energy-efficient lightbulbs you'll put in standard light-fittings or lamps, while halogen downlighters – the ceiling lights you might have in a kitchen or bathroom – can be replaced by LED lights. LED lights cost a little more than CFLs, but they also last even longer.
Is there anything else I need to know?
Once you've bought your low-energy bulbs, the rest is easy. Fitting them is just as simple as fitting standard bulbs, and you shouldn't have to make any other adjustments in the home to accommodate your new low-energy lights.
However, when you're about to dispose of your low-energy bulbs, it's worth bearing in mind that extra precaution is needed because the bulbs contain a very small amount of mercury. If a low-energy lightbulb gets smashed, the Department of the Environment's official advice is to vacate the room for at least 15 minutes, before cleaning the debris up into a sealed plastic bag, and returning it to the council for safe recycling.
On top of this, it's best if low-energy bulbs are disposed of more carefully than standard bulbs, either by being returned to the distributor or being taken to a local waste disposal site, many of which now have special facilities to take care of low-energy bulbs.
Despite containing very small levels of mercury, these precautions are primarily in place to avoid the toxicity that many low-energy lightbulbs could have when disposed of together; it's important to remember that each low-energy bulb contains around 6-8mg of mercury, which isn't enough to pose significant threat alone.
What else can I do?
Switching to low-energy lighting is an excellent, efficient way to save money and reduce your carbon footprint without having to change very much. Of course, there are plenty of other ways that you can do both of these things simply and easily, and which will work in conjunction with your new low-energy bulbs to make your home or office lighting system ultra-efficient. To make sure you're saving all the energy you can, you should be sure to:
- Always turn lights off before leaving a room
- Don't avoid switching lights off for fear that turning lights on and off reduces their life – it may do slightly, but you'll save more money by only using lights when you need them
- Fit any external lights that are monitored by a movement sensor up to a timer, so that they don't turn on throughout the night when animals pass by
- Only use lights that are as powerful as they need to be; save bright lights for ceilings, and use low-powered lights in lamps
Vicci Lane is a writer and entrepreneur who runs a business from home. She is an advocate of saving money and the environment. She loves writing, swimming and really, really strong coffee. She writes about LED lighting and energy saving solutions for the home and office.