Friday, April 13

And the Oscar goes to...

I was so excited for Al Gore on Oscar night.

The next morning I started reflecting on An Inconvenient Truth again. I like to think it was a reminder of many things I already know and value... and yet... and yet I had exactly zero compact fluorescent bulbs replacing incandescents in my new house. I had to wonder if I really believed Mr. Gore... or if the message was still taking up residence in my, "gee, wouldn't it be nice if the world was different" category.

I don't know all that much about CFLs. In my first condo, I replaced a few lights with the elongated tube kind. They burned blue and they didn't fit in the same spaces my incandescents did. When I brought those lamps to the house I lived in with my ex, she nixed them. But the challenge Mr. Gore gave in his speech -- take the three bulbs you use most and replace them with CFLs -- plus the recent decision by Australia to outlaw incandescents... well, I decided it was past time to give it a try.

I bought $100 worth of bulbs at the local hardware store. This included a new fixture for the front porch, a couple of "daylight" bulbs, and a whole bunch of soft white spirals in different wattages.

The fluorescent fixture claimed it would save 75% over conventional fixtures, and at our house the front porch light can be on for 4 or more hours. It also had the bonus of being a dusk to dawn lamp -- turning on when the sun went down. Since I am usually the first one home and come home after dark, and in the dark, I started there. It turns out that 25% of the promised savings was because the light cycled on and off every 20 seconds, which the roommates vetoed. So I found another florescent fixture and changed it out again. The steady florescent light was acceptable.

I put the daylight bulbs outside the coat closet. The blue cast in the hall was another no-go for the roomies.

In the kitchen and the full bath, I mixed one incandescent and one soft white fluorescent in each fixture. These were completely inconspicuous to the roommates. Additionally I changed out 3 of the 5 bulbs in the dimmable dining room lamp. These also passed.

My conclusions from this exercise are:

  • We are a soft white household.
  • My roommates are fine with energy economy as long as it doesn't require major discomfort on their part.
I know the 5 bulbs we use most are among the 15 I changed, so by some measures I've done "enough". But given that Australia and the EU are banning incandescents, I'd like to go farther eventually. I haven't found a bulb that will replace the spot flood we have in the half bath... it's fully enclosed and the lights I've tried are too flat. Maybe that's a place for an LED replacement. I need to try 3-ways in three fixtures, and I need to replace a couple of torchieres.

I'm expecting to do my buying for these experiments from here. If you shop there, any bulb that doesn't say "daylight" is a soft white bulb... at least according to the customer service rep who e-mailed me.


Lisa said...

This is great! I recently replaced all the incandescent bulbs in our house with CFL's. Our electric bill went down by $100 in the first month! Here is a place that sells CFL's, all made in the USA, if carbon reduction is a concern, it's nice to find products that aren't shipped half-way around the world.

Gwyn said...

Hey - good on you - our house has fancy lightbulbs that the CFL's don't fit -quite frustrating!

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NotSoBigLiving is the story of a woman inspired by Sarah Susanka, Bill McKibben, Airstreams, Tumbleweed houses, Mennonites, Jimmy Carter, hippies, survivalists, Anasazi, Pema Chodron and Joko Beck, Scott Peck, Buckminster Fuller, and Al Gore to see what she can do to reduce her carbon footprint in her mid-80's suburban townhome. Strategies include roommates, alternative travel, organic eating, planting a victory garden, mindfulness, and a belly full of laughter.