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Save Over $500 Per Year!
This time “screwing” up is a good thing
Text & photos by Tom Hintz
So I get an email from a viewer named Dennis who lives outside Kansas City Missouri with the subject line “I saved $500!” OK, Dennis, you got my attention.
Dennis said that he had been having electrical issues in his garage-based woodworking shop. He had one circuit for the ceiling lights and while the 6 incandescent 100-watt bulbs worked fine all of the time, his one 4-foot fluorescent fixture refused to light up all the way when it got cold out. Most times in the summer the fluorescent fixture worked OK. A friend of his is the electrician where they work so he lured this guy to the shop with promises of a cold six-pack.
The electrician put his meter on a few sockets, looked at the fluorescent fixture and then checked out the breaker box. He told Dennis that he could indeed pull a new wire to power the fluorescent fixture and it would light up nicely all year round. However, because of the distance and obstacles between the fixture and the breaker box the job was going to be neither cheap nor fun. He had another suggestion though.
The electrician told Dennis that the real culprit here was the draw of all those incandescent bulbs on the same line with the fluorescent fixture. He suggested that Dennis screw in 6 compact fluorescent bulbs in place of the incandescent ones and see how it goes. He thought that the markedly lower current draw of the compact fluorescent bulbs would reduce the load to fire the fluorescent fixture properly. Dennis broke out the beer.
Dennis bought a package of the compact fluorescent bulbs that matched the 100-watt output of his incandescent bulbs and screwed the new compact bulbs in place. The 4-foot fluorescent fixture came on brighter than ever. That was in early fall of last year and now after a winter has passed Dennis says the fluorescent fixture stayed bright all winter. Something it hadn’t ever done before.
Since I do eventually learn I also went and bought a package of the compact fluorescent bulbs and replaced my 100-watt incandescent bulbs. I also noticed on the box that the compact fluorescent are expected to save $84 each over comparable incandescent bulbs. In my shop that adds up to a $504.00 savings per year, roughly the same as Dennis save! Now consider that the average life of the incandescent bulbs is around 1000 hours compared to the projected lifespan of the compact fluor es cents of 10,000 hours – yes 10 times the lifespan – and that savings gets stretched out over a very long time.
I present this information with thanks to Dennis and his electrician friend. You have to decide if $504.00 per year is worth the effort or the $14.78 (3-19-2012, Lowe's) I spent on the compact fluorescents. I certainly can use the extra cash, my shop isn’t suddenly dim (as some predicted) and somewhere down the line a power company can back of the generator just a tad.
Naturally your situation will differ and the overall savings could be higher or lower but I think it is clear that the new style bulbs deserve a hard look. It is obvious that they save money in energy costs so you have to decide how much you want to use them in your shop and home.
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