Extreme Energy Savings: Part 3

One of the most common suggestions for saving energy involves switching from incandescent (regular) light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs, the ones that look a bit like a swirly ice cream cone.

Okay so you did that, but some problems might remain. My home was built in the 1970s, and thus the furnished basement has a drop ceiling filled with linear fluorescent bulb fixtures. These are the same ones you see in any office or government building. There are four long tubes per fixture, and there are five separate fixtures scattered throughout my basement.

Energy efficiency in the 1970s does not match up to energy efficiency today. Each one of those bulbs is a 40 watt T12 bulb, and since they are all controlled by one switch I’m using 800 watts per hour that we turn on the basement lights. Since we have a play room and office down there, we spend a lot of time in the basement.

So what are the options?

First off, I could replace the bulbs with newer, high efficiency bulbs. A T5 bulb uses 28w, which would bring me down to 560 watts. This is better, but my current fixtures might not work with them. If you go this route, make sure to test one fixture by filling it with the new bulbs. If it doesn’t work, you know that they are not an option.

Secondly, I discovered that there are now LED bulbs made for these fixtures. These are generally 22w, which would bring my total usage to 440 watts. This is almost half of my starting point and that is great. However these bulbs can run you about $60 each, way out of my range.

I settled for option number 3. I replaced the fixtures with inexpensive standard light bulb fixtures, and put compact fluorescent bulbs in them. I installed a total of 8 fixtures to get good light output, and used 23 watt bulbs. These provide about the same light as a 100 watt regular incandescent bulb.

Final outcome; I now use 184 watts instead of 800. I’m handy in the home and did the work myself, but it is dangerous when working with electricity so hire a professional if you don’t know what you are doing. The whole conversion cost less than $100.

The next step will be to add more switches, so that I can control each fixture separately and direct light only where it is needed. I’ll need help with that part though.

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