Trying To Change A Lightbulb

By Amy Miller

Painstakingly I am switching from incandescent light bulbs to energy-saving CFLs.  One by one as bulbs burn out I twist in newly purchased energy saving bulbs.

I started in the bathroom, under glass sconces where you couldn’t really see the weird shape of the bulbs. Who needs aesthetics for the five minutes you brush your teeth.

Then I made the jump to one, just one, tubular bulb in the bedroom. No one told me these lights take a few minutes to get fully bright. I’d think to myself, “It wasn’t so dark in here last night when I was reading, I’m sure it wasn’t.”

Proud of my diminishing footprint, I spread CFLs to the dining room chandelier, porch lights, kids room, pretty near everywhere but the living room with its vintage chandelier. But then I started pondering the Mercury Question and quickly removed CLFs from places where they might get broken, like tippy end-tables and my 9-year-old’s night-table.

EPA’s website says if every American home replaced just one ENERGY STAR light bulb, each year we’d save enough energy to light 3 million homes and reduce energy bills by $600 million.

A lot of us don’t like CFLs because we are not used to the way they look, or we think the light is harsh and don’t know alternative hues are available. We also think they cost more. We forget that the CFL will last about eight times longer, and use a fourth as much electricity.

Funny thing. I was in Haiti recently, one of the poorest countries on earth. And guess what? They use CLF bulbs far and wide, where they have electricity. You know why? They can’t afford to pay extra. When most of the families can’t even afford shoes for their children, the economics play out differently. It’s not about conservation or climate change. It’s about stretching every penny.

At the school I visited, electricity comes from three sources: 1) solar panels; 2) public power that sometimes comes on from 2 to 5 a.m. or not at all and 3) a diesel generator, used for backup..

So the fact that a CFL will uses about a quarter of the electricity of a similarly bright incandescent means not only money savings over the life of the light bulb, but also an extra few hours of reading – or cooking – each night, before the solar-fed batteries are empty.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

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