Magazine article Sunset

Electric Ideas: Cut Your Energy Bill with Smart New Lighting Choices

Magazine article Sunset

Electric Ideas: Cut Your Energy Bill with Smart New Lighting Choices

Article excerpt

One of the chief culprits in driving up our energy bills turns out to be the most innocent-looking: an incandescent lightbulb. In parts of the West, lighting accounts for as much as 28 percent of a typical household's annual electric bill. In an effort to reduce the cost of electricity while lowering the overall demand, California's new Title 24 energy code--which took effect October 1--has changed the rules about what kinds of lightbulbs, fixtures, and sensors the state's homeowners can use in new construction and remodeling.

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But it's not just a California thing: New lighting products are making it easier for anyone to conserve energy, and understanding these options will help reduce your electric bill.

RELATED ARTICLE: A new energy code

One of the goals of California's new Title 24 energy code is to increase the use of energy-efficient bulbs, which largely means using fluorescent lightbulbs in permanently installed (hardwired) light fixtures. New, more efficient sensors and dimmer switches are also coming onto the market.

One area under the magnifying glass is the kitchen, where at least 50 percent of the total wattage from permanent lighting must be high-efficiency. This includes ceiling cans, sconces, hanging fixtures, and under- and over-cabinet fixtures.

Visit www.cltc.ucdavis.edu for an overview of the Title 24 energy code from the University of California at Davis's California Lighting Technology Center.

Fluorescent bulbs

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The basics. A fluorescent bulb uses about one-quarter to one-third the amount of energy to produce the same amount of light as its incandescent counterpart. This means a 26-watt compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL) can replace a 100-watt incandescent one, and a 13-watt CFL can replace a 40-watt incandescent. Although more costly, fluorescent bulbs last 10 times longer and cut operating costs by three-quarters.

New bases. To ensure compliance with the new code, the high-efficiency CFL must have a pin base, such as the one pictured at near left (Sylvania Dulux, $12-$15; www.sylvania.com), which fits into a corresponding fixture. Homeowners with traditional fixtures--and California homeowners who aren't remodeling--can switch from incandescent to fluorescent by using screw-in bulbs like the one at far left (MaxLite MiniCandle, from $6; www.maxlite.com).

Bulb color and shapes. There are more options than ever in the color of light emitted from fluorescent bulbs: You can select ones that match the warmth of incandescent bulbs, the cooler blues of halogens, or the full spectrum of sunlight. …

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