Sep 5, 2006

Color me swirly

Swirl bulbs don’t just work, they pay for themselves. They use so little power compared with old reliable bulbs, a $3 swirl pays for itself in lower electric bills in about five months. Screw one in, turn it on, and it’s not just lighting your living room, it’s dropping quarters in your pocket. The advantages pile up in a way to almost make one giddy. Compact fluorescents, even in heavy use, last 5, 7, 10 years. Years. Install one on your 30th birthday; it may be around to help illuminate your 40th.

I stocked up on these yesterday at Home Depot. Curious, then I ran the numbers, and was astonished.

They pay for themselves in less than a year.

Since I live in New York, and pay $0.15 per kilowatt-hour, the highest electricity rates of any state except Hawaii, that helps the math.

I bought 15 bulbs for $75. Each bulb saves about 40 watts. I estimate 3 hours per day of usage. Over a year, that means I save 657 kilowatt hours (356*15*3*40/1000). At fifteen cents per KWH, that’s a dollar savings of $98.55. Cool. I will recoup my $75 in less than a year. (Except for the NY state cost of electricity, most of these numbers are my own estimates, reflecting a mix of bulb sizes, replacements, and daily usage. A key point - each swirly CFL bulb uses only about one-quarter as much electricity as the bulb it replaces; a 15 watt swirly casts as much light as an ordinary 60 watt bulb. A 19 replaces a 75. A 27 replaces a 100.)

A couple more plusses - I won’t have to change them anywhere near as often. They don’t heat up and damage/threaten the ceiling and hanging fixtures that we have a lot of.

A couple of minusses - The quality of the light isn’t the warm, friendly, yellowish glow of incandescents. It takes a little getting used to. Also, they need to warm up; while they do come on almost immediately, some can take up to a minute to reach their full illumination. (Even this aspect can be a “feature, not a bug,” as when you walk into the bathroom in the middle of the night, you are not blinded right away.)

All-in-all, these things are the wave of the future. Uh-oh. Am I being “overly influenced by the power of the last resonating narrative that I’ve read?” Again? That always happens to me. :)

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