Every few months or so, I get this thing in the mail that shows me a comparison between our home’s energy consumption vs our nearest 100 neighbors. Every time I get this thing, I see that we’re at 75% or more. Meaning, we use 75% more energy than our closest 100 neighbors. I look around the neighborhood and I think “really? I’m sure we don’t use that much more energy than THOSE people over there…”. There is a distinction though. It shows us using a lot more electricity, but about the same or less in natural gas.
Well, being as home competitive as I am, I thought to do an inventory and try to improve things where I can. As far as electric goes, our house is mostly electric, with the exception being the gas stove top. Our water heater is one of those “instant on” kind, which is actually constantly heating a much smaller reservoir than a typical home heater, and gives us a continuous stream of hot water, even with two simultaneous showerers (which is rare anyway). The home heater is one of those heat pump things. That’s basically an air conditioner running in reverse. It does have gas fired heater as well, but that doesn’t kick in unless the temperature outside is below 40 degrees, which only happens in the dead of winter.
We did have one of those instant hot water things installed under a sink in the kitchen. That thing is probably a huge consumer of electricity because not only is it constantly heating water, but it’s constantly keeping it near boiling so you can have hot tea at the twist of a knob.
Then there’s all the lights in the house. This is a modern house built in 2008. The sheer number of lights is daunting. In my office where I’m typing this right now, there are 4 recessed lights in the ceiling, each one an incandescent flood light of 60 – 75w. That’s a lot of wattage to light a single room. There are 4 other rooms on this level that are similarly configured. Then there’s the kitchen with 9 of the same! So, if this floor is fully lit, that’s got to be enough electricity to run a small city!
Our local utility is running a special lighting rebate right now. The replacement lights for those floods cost roughly $5 apiece. That’s quite a savings, and you get LED lighting, which should last for 20 years, and cost roughly $1.30 to run for a year. Well, I’m all green about that, so I went out and got a bunch of Sylvania Ultra High Output LED flood lights (BR30).
Some of the lights in our house are way far up there, and probably will never be replaced, but I did replace all the ones that were readily at hand. Downstairs, first level, upstairs, it must have been about 40 lights in total. I also did external balcony, and outside garage. Knowing the wattage and yearly cost of the lights replaced, I’ve got to think this is going to make some sort of difference. The lights have what’s known as an “Edison” base, which just means they have that regular sized screw in type of base. Luckily all these floods were also Edison base, rather than something more exotic.
Next came the entrance to the house. Currently 3 60 watt bulbs, Edison base. These stay on all evening, activated by an external light sensor. The originals were not flood lights, so not a ton of energy to begin with. I replaced them last year with low energy CFLs. Since I’m going all in with LED lighting though, I’m going to replace those with Sylvania Ultra LED 75w bulbs. the package says 1100 lumens, 22+ years of life, and $1.14 per year to operate. that’s all good right?
Then come the bathrooms. Each bathroom has at least 3 lights at the vanity mirror. These are not Edison base, but rather a GU24 base.
This base has two pins, which you give a half turn to in order to secure in the socket. Apparently this connector is all the rage, as it allows a much shorter socket compared to the Edison twist connector. Problem is, the lights with this base are not as common, so choices are more limited. I’m putting A19 sized bulbs rated at 60w, at 2700K (supposedly soft white).
I bought 3 of them at the local Bulbs + Batteries (Duracell ultra, 800 lumens), just to try them out. They seem to work, so I’m ordering some more through Amazon.
The last kind of light that I have is in the bathroom as well. These are tiny halogen flood lights for walls in nooks. They are also pin type, but not the same size as the GU24 base. These are smaller. I haven’t found any LED bulbs for that as yet, but I’m sure I will.
I replaced the garage bulbs last year, so that’s all set.
The bedrooms are a different story. Each room has this dome like fixture, and I finally got around to taking a dome off to see what was needed to replace the light. Well, it’s a hard wired fluorescent bulb! I’ve never seen a hard wired bulb in any home I’ve ever lived in. So, this is rather strange. I’ll have to shut off the electrical, unwire that thing, put in a twist or GU24 socket, and go on from there. Surely that won’t happen for quite some time, but since our bedroom lights aren’t on that much, I’m not too concerned with the energy reduction just yet.
Overall, I’m quite happy with our step into the modern era with respect to our lighting. It’s quite expensive to replace all the lights in our house. So, it’s not just a matter of cost savings. Each bulb will pay for itself over the course of our ownership of the house. Reducing our overall energy consumption is a bigger deal. Of course, I’m counter balancing with the usage of a massive computer, 3D printers, and CNC router, but those are all occasional usage. I’ll ride my bicycle more in order to compensate my carbon foot print.
It’s been a fun adventure. All the different kinds of lights, the balancing act on the stairs with the ladder, and generally contemplating lighting color temperature and the like has been quite an education. We’ll see if we get our energy usage down around our neighbors with these changes. Of course, they’re all doing the same, so it’s kind of a race to a coleman lamp fueled bottom. We’ll see.