Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step

December 13, 2010

LED Light Bulbs to Replace CFL or Standard? Not There Yet.

Category: Economics,Household,Save Electricity – Tom Harrison – 5:59 am

LED Lighting, Not Quite Ready for Prime Time

Surprisingly Close To Incandescent

I have written about LED lighting before, saying “Not there yet” — my most recent checkup was about 18 months ago.

There’s some progress, but we’re still not quite there. Home Depot is selling a Philips LED light bulb: same brightness as a 60W incandescent bulb (in other words, dim), same shape as standard A19 bulb, same color temperature and color rendering index, and dimmable, uses 12W, and lasts for 25,000 hours — Cost: $40.

A comparable CFL, (although not dimmable) costs about $1.50 and uses 13W and lasts 8,000 hours.

A comparable incandescent costs around $1 and uses 60W and lasts about 1,000 hours.

Some math. Compared to incandescent:

  • CFL and LED both use about 1/5th as much electricity
  • LED lasts 25x longer, CFL lasts 8x longer

So let’s think about lifetime cost. (more…)

September 28, 2010

Always On: Hunting, Finding and Saving Electricity (Still!)

Category: Household,Save Electricity,Tips – Tom Harrison – 10:28 pm

Phantom Power Hunt

Always On (photo: uberculture)

As part of my participation in a beta test for PlottWatt (very cool), I have come to understand that our house’s “always on” electrical load accounts for about one third of our consumption. Perhaps more vampires? Doesn’t seem plausible.

The only way to find out: measure each outlet with a Kill-A-Watt! (Can you say “obsessive“?) But occasional obsessiveness is good for the soul. And budget.

So on the last grey Saturday, me and my trusty Kill-a-Watt went around seeing if we could answer the question: how much could we save?

The answer was neither encouraging nor discouraging: it was simply illuminating. (And, another $70/year, tax free savings — see the link to my spreadsheet below.)

And isn’t that what it’s all about? (more…)

May 8, 2009

LED Bulb Makers Following CFL’s (Horrible) Lead?

Category: Companies,Household – Tom Harrison – 5:51 pm

product_pharoxIt’s pretty clear that LED is indeed the lighting of the future — CFL is an important, yet transitional technology. But LED is not ready for prime time — still too expensive, and still not bright enough, and still not suitable for many applications … yet.

But LED makers are doing everything they can to get people to buy, according to an article in the Green Inc. blog of the New York Times. Consider this point, made about a newly announced LED bulb:

…for starters, the advertised light output of the Pharox is about 300 “lumens” — the metric used for measuring the light coming off a bulb. That places it somewhere between a 25-watt and 40-watt incandescent. A 60-watt incandescent emits up to 900 lumens.

The company explained that the light output is comparable to a 60-watt bulb, depending on where one uses the bulb and for what purpose. “There are 60-watt soft tone/flame bulbs that generate less light than a Pharox 6-watt,” the company said.

Please, let’s be realistic: when we’re talking about comparing light bulbs that look like “regular” bulbs, as the Pharox does, I think it’s appropriate to compare their output to the same bulbs. (more…)

December 21, 2008

Top 10 Things We Did To Cut Our Electricity Bill in Half

Category: 5%'s Top 10 List,Conservation,Save Electricity,Take Actions,Tips – Tom Harrison – 6:28 pm

Here’s a chart of our electricity use at home over the last four years, showing an almost 50% reduction in use over the course of four years, saving us $118 per month at our current rate. You can make the same kinds of changes we have — nothing we have done is exotic, and nothing has really affected the quality of our lives.

One Half As Much Saves $118 Per Month

One Half As Much Saves $118 Per Month

Conservation is about as un-sexy as it gets; but it works and is easy for electricity. Measuring our gas bill is a little harder, but I have to think we have made some progress there, too. I did a calculation on our water bill, and that one is stunning, as well.

Conservation may be dull, but saving money is cool, and it’s very easy to save a pretty substantial amount. One way to think about saving money by conservation is that it is like tax-free income! Between state and federal taxes, you probably pay from 20% to 50% of your income; if you got a $118/month raise, you would see less thant $100 of it, maybe as little as $59! But if you conserve, it’s tax free income. (more…)

December 7, 2008

Should I Really Replace My Holiday Lights with LED?

Category: Household,Little Things,Save Electricity,Tips – Tom Harrison – 3:11 pm



We’re putting up our Christmas tree today and thought about using LED lights this year — many eco sites recommend that you replace holiday lights with LEDs to save electricity, and this may be good advice … or not.

But before I get too complicated, I think it’s safe to say that if you don’t have working lights now, and are buying new ones for decoration, LED is definitely the best choice.

So go ahead and replace your lights, right? Not so fast. By “replace” do you mean get rid of the working ones you have now and buy ones? It’s a bit trickier in this case, but here are some facts that might help you decide. (more…)

September 9, 2008

CFL Bulb Review: Best CFL Bulbs to Replace Incandescent

Category: Green Reviews,Household,Save Electricity,Take Actions,Tips – Tom Harrison – 4:22 pm

Have you been dissatisfied with CFL (compact fluorescent) light bulbs? You’re not alone!

I have found and tested a number of bulbs and found several specific bulbs that I believe solve most of the issues people have had with CFL bulbs. I have tried a lot of bad bulbs, but the winners are GE Energy Smart CFL bulbs. There are a few in this line that are not good, but I have tested each of the ones below.

There are a few things to keep in mind about what to expect from CFL bulbs. See below for more details, but first, my recommendations!

My Recommended Best CFL Bulbs (updated 10/2010)

BrandModelStyleAs Bright AsCommentsManufacturer Info/PictureWhere To Buy
GE15517Standard Bulb, Spiral100WBright, but a little bigger than a regular 100W incandescentGE Lighting 100W CFLAmazon
GE15516Standard Bulb, Spiral75WGood for replacing 60W if brightness is a concernGE Lighting 75W CFLAmazon
GE246853-Way Bulb, Spiral50/100/150WConsiderably larger than a regular bulb; didn’t fit in one of the table lamps I tried, with longer warm-up time, but it’s good for our applicationGE Lighting 50/100/150 Spiral CFLAmazon
GE47487Glass Covered60W – 75WShaped like a regular bulb, so good for spring-clip shades. Recommend 75W or more for readingGE Lighting 60W A ShapeAmazon
GE47486Standard Bulb, “A” type, pear shape40WAnother pear-shaped bulb, even less bright, but very nice for ambiance. Good for ceiling fans or ceiling fixtures with two bulbsGE Lighting 40W A-ShapedGoogle Search
GE47483Outdoor Floodlight90WNice and bright, and withstands moisture, etc.GE Lighting Outdoor FloodAmazon

Also Available in Stores

These bulbs are also available widely at local retailers like Walgreen, Walmart and many others. Bulb costs generally run about $7 — more for higher wattages or specialty bulbs, and are available in 3-packs and 6-packs in some cases.

I encourage you to buy from Amazon through the link below, as I get a little commission for bulbs (or anything else you purchase) when you click this link. It helps me pay the bills for my web server :-)
GE EnergySmart Bulbs from

July 9, 2008

Compact Fluorescent (CFL) Reviews: One Solid Source

Category: Cool Sites,Green Reviews,Household,Save Electricity,Tips – Tom Harrison – 9:36 pm

One CFL can save a lotI am on a mission to find only top quality CFL bulbs that won’t disappoint. (Update 9/08: Mission accomplished; see my CFL Review here)

Why? There are a lot of really bad CFLs out there. This is probably why most of my friends and family who aren’t quite as, um, obsessive as I about this kind of thing have given it a good try, but been sorely disappointed.

So I am still on a mission, and will report back in a while, but until then, I did find one site that lists a number of different bulbs with honest assesments, and actually has CFL reviews by real people. (more…)

February 26, 2008

On March 29, Turn Out The Lights for One Hour: Earth Hour

Category: Conservation,Cool Sites,Little Things,Save Electricity,Take Actions – Tom Harrison – 10:29 am

Several readers have posted comments suggesting I look into Earth Hour US. It’s an effort to raise awareness, participants will turn off their lights for one hour on Friday March 29th at 8pm. It’s a small step, of course, but I think we can all learn from taking small steps.

A few years ago, we started taking small steps in our household to conserve energy. Our energy usage continues to fall, year over year since we started; we continue to become more and more aware of how we use energy that provides no benefit. I’ll bet we use at least 1/3 less energy now than in the past, yet none of the changes we have made have made any significant impact on how we live our life. It all started with a relatively small step.

Put the date on your calendar and join the others across the world taking this small first step.

November 25, 2007

Home Depot is Dim (Why Can’t They Market CFLs Brightly)

Category: Companies,Household,Little Things,Save Electricity – Tom Harrison – 7:08 pm

I went to Home Depot today for dimmable CFLs, a water heater blanket, a low-flow shower head, leaf bags and a few other things. After walking around aimlessly, I found the water heater blankets (out of stock), the CFL display (which was LAME!) and shower heads, all but one of which was the opposite of low-flow (several low flow models were out of stock). Oh, and no more leaf bags. Grumble. (more…)

November 3, 2007

Free CFL and Halloween Wind Turbine Costume Success!

Category: Fun,Little Things,Save Electricity,Take Actions – Tom Harrison – 6:11 pm

A few weeks back I wrote about Carter’s idea to make a Wind Turbine costume and hand out free compact fluorescent bulbs for Halloween. It was a great, great success. First, the picture:

and a few more in the album. Carter built it with some help from me, he and his friend Nicky gave out free CFLs (which is harder than it might seem), and we all learned just how much work there is to be done. (Update: 10/2008 — better options for CFLs now available)