By RICHARD GAST Cornell Ag Connection
You arrive home after work. As you pull into the driveway, a motion sensor automatically turns on the floodlight in your dooryard.
You get out of the car, walk to the house, unlock the door, open it, step into the kitchen and switch on the lights. The room is immediately illuminated with a warm, white radiance.
That is, of course, unless there’s been a power interruption due to weather, transmission line failure or other operational factors. It isn’t until we find ourselves humbly stumbling through the dark or reading a magazine by lantern or candlelight that we realize just how much we take something as simple as turning on a light for granted.
You may not realize it, but lighting can account for as much as 25 percent of your overall home energy consumption. For stores, businesses and schools, that figure can be much higher.
I’m sometimes taken back by the number of people that I speak with who are still using incandescent lighting in their homes and workplaces. Incandescent bulbs are the most inefficient and expensive form of lighting available. When we light our homes and workplaces with incandescent light bulbs, we’re using the same lighting technology that Thomas Edison used, in 1879.
Incandescent bulbs use energy to create heat — tremendous amounts of heat — and very little light. In fact, so much of the electricity that goes into an incandescent bulb is used to produce heat that the light that’s produced is essentially a byproduct.
There are several things we can do to reduce our individual home lighting energy consumption. First, we can get into the habit of shutting off lights when they’re not in use. We can install and use dimmer switches and other lighting controls that allow us to lower or raise light levels so that they're appropriate to our needs.
We can employ task lighting, instead of overhead lighting, and utilize natural light wherever and whenever possible. And we can switch from inefficient incandescent light bulbs to highly-efficient compact fluorescent (CFL) and light emitting diode (LED) light bulbs. Not only are these alternatives more energy efficient, they can last years or even decades longer than incandescent light bulbs.
CFLs use about 75 to 80 percent less energy than comparable incandescent bulbs. And CFLs last about 10 times longer than incandescents.
LED bulbs are even more efficient; using less than 1/10th the energy of equivalent incandescents; less than 2/3 the energy of equivalent CFLs. And, based on manufacturers’ claims of a 25,000-hour lifespan for LED bulbs, if you were to start using one today, and you use it for three hours a day, every day, that bulb will still be operational 22.5 years from now. And even if it were to last only 20,000 hours, that bulb would still be in use well into 2034. In other words, that LED light bulb could conceivably outlive your next car.
Using energy-efficient lighting is just one way to conserve energy and save dollars. There are several low-cost, and even some no-cost measures, we can all take to become more energy efficient, without sacrificing comfort. Identifying the ones that have the biggest impact and modifying our behavior accordingly can lower our bills and result in more money for family and other needs.
From now until the end of the year, Cornell Cooperative Extension is offering a limited number of free "Save Energy Save Dollars" workshops to church, neighborhood and community groups, Housing Authorities, Adult Centers, schools, townships, civic or professional organizations and clubs across the region.
The workshops, offered in cooperation with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), are intended to provide renters, homeowners, landlords and small-business owners with energy- and money-saving strategies and conservation tips designed to help cut utility costs — by using practices that can be effortlessly incorporated into anyone’s lifestyle. Apply the strategies discussed in the workshop and you and your family will start saving energy and money right away.
To schedule a "Save Energy, Save Dollars" workshop for your group, contact your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office or email me directly at email@example.com. A minimum of 10 people must attend.
Richard L. Gast, Extension program educator II, Horticulture, Natural Resources, Energy; agriculture programs assistant, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County, 355 West Main St., Suite 150, Malone, 12953. Call 483-7403, fax 483-6214 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.