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Time to give green lighting a go

Do your part to stop global warming — and to save yourself a little money

Posted: August 29, 2008 8:57 p.m.
Updated: October 31, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Fluorescent bulbs in every shape and size are available at local hardware and home repair stores. The green light uses less energy than incandescent bulbs and save on electric bills.

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So, you still aren’t ready to buy those spiral fluorescent light bulbs everyone is pushing? Saving natural resources, doing your part to fight global warming and even saving money aren’t enough motivation? Fine. Here’s one more reason to change your mind and go with “green” light.

You might not be able to find your favorite incandescent bulb the next time you go looking.
According to Keith Oien, sales manager at the Do It Center in Valencia, since the first of the year incandescent bulbs sold in California must have higher efficiency ratings than they previously did. That might mean your favorite bulb comes in a lower wattage than it used to.

“People can’t find the replacement bulb that they bought a year or two ago,” Oien said.

OK, maybe that’s no big deal, but it’s one more thing to consider. Let’s run down the list of other pluses for fluorescents.

Save money, save the planet
While it depends on who is doing the testing and how, Oien estimates that fluorescent bulbs generally use only one-fifth the energy that incandescent bulbs do, and they last five to seven times longer. That saves you money on energy costs and replacement costs, and it reduces the energy and natural resources used in the manufacture of new bulbs. Beyond that, it means fewer burned-out bulbs ending up in landfills.

“But wait,” you say. “Don’t fluorescent bulbs contain mercury? And isn’t that bad for landfills?” While that is true, newer “eco” bulbs have reduced mercury content and, these days, it is very easy to recycle your used fluorescent bulbs along with your other household “hazardous” waste.

Rebates
Fluorescent bulbs are still more expensive than comparable incandescent bulbs, but the difference is shrinking rapidly. Beyond that, Oien said Southern California Edison is offering point-of-sale rebates on fluorescent bulbs and the fixtures that use them. “We have specials on many of these kinds of items,” he said. For example, the Do It Center had OptoLights selling with rebates. Normally costing $2 - $4, these were only 99 cents after rebate.

Color and features
“Some people didn’t like the color of fluorescent lights,” Oien said. But he explained that now there are fluorescents available with much less glare, and there are even “daylight” types.

“Fluorescents come in a variety of different styles,” Oien said, and he explained that the electronic “ballast” inside them is what drives their shape.

He added that, previously, fluorescents weren’t available in dimmable styles. The light fixture itself had to have the dimming feature. Now there are dimmable fluorescents.

“I assume we’ll even have reflector dimmables soon,” he said.

Oien pointed to the banks of indoor and outdoor lighting fixtures available at the Do It Center and said, “You can use fluorescents in all of these.” And he added that you can even use fluorescents in outdoor work lights and security lights now.

He noted that the incandescent light bulbs used on ceiling fans and garage door openers require special construction to stand up to movement and vibration. Fluorescents need no such special construction to handle it.

He related one of his own experiences with movement burning out incandescent bulbs. “I had a table lamp. That bulb would burn out every time I put something on the table,” he said.

And finally, it should be mentioned that fluorescent bulbs glow much cooler than incandescents do. This might be a consideration when using higher-wattage bulbs.

LEDs and Malibus
Oien explained that the new, ultra-energy-efficient LED light bulbs last up to three times as long as fluorescent bulbs and up to 20 times as long as incandescent bulbs, and they contain no mercury.

These bulbs are very popular for accent lighting, especially outdoors. They can be used with plug-in power or in solar-powered fixtures. 

For outdoor lighting, the Do It Center sells a wide variety of Malibu-type lights. These are perfect for lighting specific areas, such as sidewalks, without lighting up the entire yard, as standard outdoor lights would. This is often much more attractive and it saves you money on electricity.

These types of lights are available on low-voltage strings that, first, save energy, and, second, don’t require any conduit or code-compliance to put in place. “You can’t shock yourself when you put a shovel through it,” Oien quipped. 

Solar-powered Malibus are also available and these don’t require any wiring at all. “They last all night because of the LED bulbs,” Oien said.

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