Electricity

January 9, 2007

This story shows how people can use smart meters to better manage how they use electricity to lower their bills. When prices rise, people can reduce consumption. I’ve been trying to find an efficient replacement for my cheap torchiere lamps which burn a 300W halogen bulb. A rough calculation suggests that this lamp costs $7/month in electricity (.3 kW * 10 hours * 30 days * $0.08 per kWh). A more efficient compact fluorescent light (CFL) uses 55W, costing only $1.30. However, my lamp produces approximately 6000 lumen of light, whereas a 55W CFL produces 4000 lumen. So I’ll need two lamps to match the light output, in which case two 33W CFL torchieres might do.

Apparently, Walmart will push CFLs aggressively to burnish their image among environmentalists. I read somewhere that if every household replaced one 60W bulb with a CFL, it would save enough energy to power 1.5M homes. CFLs are the cheapest & easiest way to decrease energy usage and costs. Though they cost much more than regular lights, they pay for themselves in 1 year by using much less power. So why doesn’t everyone buy them? Because they don’t turn on brightly immediately (they warm up for a few seconds) and they look “weird”. I think the problem is that people are unaware how much energy costs, so they prefer cheap bulbs over expensive CFLs. The upfront cost is obvious, the long-term costs are not. It is in our national interest to reduce energy consumption and CFLs are an easy first step. Therefore, the government should start an aggressive ad campaign that tells people that CFLs are better in every way. They should support Walmart in their effort to sell more CFLs. I would hope that a well-informed consumer would make the obvious decision replace most bulbs with CFLs. The overall energy savings could be enormous.

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