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Many homeowners in America today are aware of the steps that can be taken to reduce normal household expenses. Everyday things like sealing windows and doors, or properly insulating attic spaces, can yield high returns on the dollar invested. However, one of the most overlooked ways to save money is by changing your light bulbs.

Sure, we’ve all heard for years about switching to CFLs and how changing a light bulb can save up to $67.00 on energy. Also, many of us went to a store, bought some and started saving energy. We pride ourselves on getting rid of old incandescent light bulbs as part of our own efforts to save the planet, but have we done all we can? Chances are you haven’t even reached the top of the energy-saving ladder.

We recently conducted a household survey of more than 500 households in South Florida. Our intention was to find out what the average domestic use of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) is. Our results were staggering and, to say the least, surprising. In our survey of medium-sized households, we found that only one in four households (1:4) currently used CFLs. Additionally, we discovered that not a single owner had changed all of their incandescent bulbs to CFLs.

In this study, homeowners were asked an introductory question. How many light bulbs are in your house? Counting and averaging the question results, the average US homeowner guess was twenty-one incandescents per home. As part of our American household survey, each homeowner was walked room by room and around the outside of the house, counting every light. No person could guess or identify her true average household number. The average number of light bulbs per home was a whopping forty-seven, lamps that wasted energy.

According to our estimates, more than 90% of residential electricity consumers are not meeting their potential savings. If we calculate the energy savings that can be realized by changing or replacing traditional incandescent or halogen lights in a home at a rate of $67.00 each, then the total achievable savings per home would be $3,149.00.

Every home may vary in size, layout, and number of fixtures or portable lamps, but here are the areas most often overlooked in our survey and why you should choose to use them:

  • Outdoor: Motion-activated porch lights and security lights can provide big energy savings when you switch to an energy efficient lamp. Make sure the product you purchase is rated for use with switching devices.
  • Torchiere lamps: Consider replacing double ended halogen lamps with lamps that use a traditional screw base.
  • Wardrove: Using CFLs in closets can help color match clothes because they provide better color rendering and make it easier to sort blacks and dark blues.
  • Garage: Because CFLs have higher color temperatures, like daylight, this makes it easier to perform tasks in traditionally poorly lit areas. Don’t forget the light bulb inside the garage door opener.
  • Laundry room: Using fluorescents or compacts in this area makes better use of task lighting for pretreating clothing and sorting stained items.
  • Refrigerator: Although this light does not stay on for long, LED bulbs can save up to $30.00 and keep food fresher.
  • Hallways: Although not often used by many people, replacing the bulbs in this area is helpful when you need them.
  • Bathrooms: Newer CFLs don’t have long warm-up times like older lamps. Using them in this area can dramatically reduce electricity while providing better quality light for tasks like makeup and grooming.

Try the household survey for yourself. Make a chart of each type of light bulb found inside and outside your home or condo. Indicate what wattages and base types are required, then find the energy saving products that are available and simply add up your savings. Not only will you be amazed, but you just might be able to afford that new energy efficient dishwasher you had in mind!

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