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How to Calculate Your Light Savings From Replacing Incandescent Bulbs
News about money and savings by replacing old light bulbs is old news (unless you’ve been living under a rock). But the topic of easy savings has not been exaggerated yet. Suppose every household in the US switched to high-efficiency light bulbs (such as CFLs). This would reduce the country’s energy consumption in the residential sector by 10%. By the way, the residential sector accounts for about 20% of all US energy use. That’s a lot of oil.
Still not sure about switching to efficient light bulbs? Don’t buy the easy savings hype? Don’t believe in a positive impact on the pocketbook or the environment? Do you want to calculate and test the light savings yourself? OK, let’s talk about cost savings and simple profitability below. (Simple payback refers to how much time it takes to recoup the cost of new bulbs from the savings).
The following information is required to calculate the final result:
- Current bulb rating (in watts).
- The new bulb’s rated wattage (in watts).
- The number of hours we use the bulb each day
- The rate paid for electricity in kilowatt-hours or kWh. You can find the electricity tariff in the electricity section of your utility bill.
- One kilowatt is 1000 watts, so we need to remember to divide our answer by 1000 to convert it to kilowatt-hours
- The cost of the original bulb
- The cost of a new bulb
For example, we replace a heavily used light bulb in a light fixture in the living room that burns continuously for 5 hours a day. The unit has one 100-watt incandescent bulb that costs $050. It must be replaced with a single 25-watt compact fluorescent lamp or CFL (gives the same brightness as an incandescent lamp) which costs $2.50. Assume that the price of electricity is $0.15 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which is the US national average.
To calculate the cost savings, first calculate the energy use of the existing bulb, then the energy use of the replacement bulb. Hopefully, the replacement bulb will use less energy than the existing bulb. The difference between the existing and the new is the savings. Here is the formula to calculate the annual energy consumption:
Annual energy cost ($) = number of bulbs X watts per bulb / 1000 watts X usage hours per day X 365 days X electricity rate
So, for our example:
Energy cost of existing bulb ($) = 1 bulb X 100 watts X 5 hours per day X 365 days X $0.15 per kWh/1000 watts = $27.38 per year
Energy cost ($) of replacement bulb = 1 bulb X 25 watts X 5 hours per day X 365 days X $0.15 per kWh/1000 watts = $6.84 per year
Annual savings ($) = $27.38 – $6.84 = $20.54
The simple return in years is calculated as follows.
Simple payback (Yrs): ( cost of new bulb ($) – cost of old bulb ($) ) / annual savings ($)
In our example, a simple refund is:
Simple Payback (Yrs) = ($2.50 – $0.5) / $20.54 = 0.1 years or 1.2 months
That’s not a bad return on investment for light savings. The average house has about 15-20 light bulbs. If they were all the same as in the example above, it would save about $411 per year. You can use the same method to calculate the savings for each room in your house and add up all the space savings to get the annual savings.
You can check your savings by tracking your utility bills from month to month, provided your rates stay the same and you don’t change your bulb hours. Even with proven savings, there still seems to be some objection to replacing incandescent lamps with CFLs (or CFLs) or light emitting diodes (or LEDs), otherwise it would be a “done deal”.
LEDs allow even greater savings (90% light savings) and longer lifetimes (25,000-50,000 hours) and will be the dominant technology of the intermediate future. They are also more environmentally friendly to produce and are less susceptible to breakage or moisture. But currently, their main drawbacks are their high cost and lower light output (or lumens) compared to incandescent bulbs. However, technology is developing very quickly, and when prices come down to a reasonable level, these problems will become a passing memory.
CFLs, on the other hand, are much more accessible and affordable, and have come a long way in matching the light output and utility of incandescent bulbs. A recurring complaint about them is that CFLs need to warm up to reach full brightness, but this is usually seconds to minutes for specialized bulbs. They are also affected by moisture and humidity.
While CFLs still cost more than a $0.50 incandescent bulb, prices have dropped to affordable levels for replacements, typically between $1.50 and $4.50 per bulb, depending on the type. CFLs have an average lifespan of 8,000 hours (or roughly five years at four hours per day), while incandescents are rated at 800-1,200 hours. There is one thing to note about easy savings calculations. The life of compact lamps is shortened if they are switched on and off frequently. If you plan to install them in places where they are changed frequently, reduce their life by 20% to 6400 hours.
What about mercury in CFLs? The amount of mercury in a compact fluorescent lamp is 5 mg, or about 1/100 of the amount of mercury in one dental filling (500 mg in a dental filling). More importantly, the mercury used by a power plant to produce an incandescent light bulb is 10 mg, compared to about 2.5 mg for CFLs. Still, broken bulbs should be handled with care, and burned-out bulbs should be dropped off at home centers like Home Depot and Ikea.
No matter how we look at it, light savings from replacing incandescent bulbs is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to increase energy efficiency and achieve home energy savings. Many countries have begun to systematically phase out the production of incandescent lamps. The economy is there and the environmental benefits will only improve as technology advances.
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