Now that the days are shorter and the darkness of winter is upon us, we rely more on artificial lighting in our homes. Make sure to choose residential or commercial lighting fixtures that draw the least amount of electricity, and therefore require the least amount of coal to be burned. This means opting out of old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. Seek the assistance of a commercial electrician to ensure that your new lights are safely installed.
Incandescent lighting is now banned in Europe, and will be phased out here beginning next year and gone from U.S. markets completely by 2014.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs are inexpensive, use 75% less energy than a standard incandescent, and can last up to ten times longer. According to the Department of Energy, if every American household replaced just one bulb with a CFL, enough power would be saved to light three million homes for a year — the equivalent of removing 800,000 cars from the road.
Some CFL’s give off a harsh, white light. However, if you choose carefully, you can find ones that emit the warm glow typical of an incandescent bulb. The key is the K (Kelvin) rating on the box. Bulbs with a lower K rating (2,700-3,000) give off a soft, warm light that is suitable for general home use. Higher K ratings (3,500-6,500) emit a cool, white light better suited to task lighting.
CFL’s contain a very small amount of mercury, about five milligrams, sealed within the glass tubing. No mercury is released when the bulb is intact or in use, and the power produced by burning coal to light an incandescent bulb releases more mercury into the environment than the power produced to light a CFL. Still, to gain the greatest environmental advantage, be sure to recycle your bulbs. Home Depot, for one, will accept them.
You can also drop them off at a County Hazardous Waste Collection Day.
If you break a CFL bulb, there are certain procedures you should follow to clean up safely. The EPA website, epa.gov/cfl/ cflcleanup, describes these steps.
Light-emitting diode bulbs are more expensive than CFL’s, but they have a lifespan three to five times longer. They are even more energy-efficient, and contain no mercury. Because LED’s point their light in one direction, they are ideal for spotlights and recessed lighting, but not general overhead lighting. LED’s make excellent Christmas lights, and multicolored ones are often used for low light needs in electronics.
While more expensive now than CFL, LED manufacturing technology is advancing quickly.
— The Rye Garden Club Conservation Committe