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Replacing all the light fixtures in your home with LEDs or compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) is a simple way to cut the amount of energy you consume, and can save you money over the long term. For every three frequently used light bulbs you replace with CFLs, you can save 300 pounds of carbon.
Check out Environmental Defense's energy-saving light bulb finder, part of their "Make the Switch" campaign. Or take the One Million-Bulb Swap Out pledge. Energy Star also offers an Interactive Choose a Light Guide, or you can do an online search for CFL retailers near you.
Mercury and CFLs
According to the Responsible Purchasing Nework's guide to CFLs, lighting "releases" mercury to the environment in two ways: first, mercury is released from the coal-fired power plants that generate the electricity used to light the bulb; and, second, all light bulbs, including CFLs, contain varying amounts of mercury. The U.S. Department of Energy reported in 2005 that illuminating an incandescent bulb generates more mercury than lighting an equivalent CFL. The average coal-fired power plant emits approximately 5.4 mg of mercury to light a 75-watt incandescent light bulb for five years, whereas it takes about 1.7 mg to run an equivalent CFL for the same time.
If you are concerned about the amount of mercury in your light bulbs, look for ENERGY STAR-certified CFLs. The ENERGY STAR 4.0 standards, effective in 2008, limit the amount of mercury allowed in ENERGY STAR-qualified CFLs to less than 5 milligrams for most bulbs. Read their fact sheet on CFLs and mercury.
Although CFLs contain about as much mercury as the point of a ballpoint pen, it is still important to recycle spent CFLs. You can take them to big-box stores like IKEA and Walmart, or look up a recycling location near you on earth911.org.
Why It's Important
According to the US Department of Energy, lighting accounts for 22% of the electricity used in the United States. Energy Star CFL bulbs use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs, last up to 10 times longer, save about $30 or more in electricity costs over each bulb's lifetime, and produce about 75 percent less heat. In fact, the Department of Energy says that if every American home replaced just one light bulb with an Energy Star CFL bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and the greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars!
- The Benefits of Compact Fluorescent Lighting, from Greenfeet.com
- Energy Star's CFL page
- Green Seal Choose Green Report on CFLs
- Energy Efficient Lighting