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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Seasonal lighting changes

firelight and candlelight are always my favorite kinds of light

My favorite type of lighting, for all seasons, is candles. But candles are not always the practical choice, are they?

A simple thing, such as changing your light bulbs for the spring and summer season, can save you $50 in those 6 months, on your household electricity.

In the most used rooms (the kitchen and family room) I change the light bulbs twice per year, once in early autumn, and the other in early spring. We have different lighting needs with the different seasons. In the cold, dark days of winter, I need very bright, full spectrum lighting. I use the GE Reveal bulbs for many of our light fixtures in winter. They do seem to chase away the winter blues.

In the brighter, sunnier days of spring and summer, my light needs ease up. The sun is higher. The days seem brighter, and my work space of the kitchen and family room don't need to be quite so bright. Those full-spectrum lights are expensive to purchase and to use. I could just leave them in, but I would spend more on the electric bill, when that's not necessary.

5-light hanging fixture with 25 watt bulbs each

For several years, I have changed the 60 watt bulbs, over the kitchen table, to 25 watt bulbs, each spring. And then back again to the brighter lights in fall. Based on using those lights about 6 hours per day, I have always estimated our savings to be about $3.65 per month.

This year I decided to take the plunge and buy some CFL indoor floodlights for the kitchen ceiling can lights, as well.

I wasn't sure just how well I'd like the CFL as indoor flood lights, so I just bought 1. There were two to choose from, one the standard, which I bought, and another which is supposed to give a more pleasing indoor light, for $2 more. I thought I'd try out the one that was cheaper first. I placed it in one of the cans and thought it was quite good.

the area above the sink
the 2 exterior lights are CFL indoor flood lights
the center light is a standard flood light

The next time I was at the store, I picked up 5 more. We have 6 can lights in the ceiling of the kitchen, another 2 in the adjacent hall, and 4 more in the family room ceiling. I replaced all the 65 watt can lights in the kitchen with the CFLs (17 watt, I believe). I used them for several days, then ultimately decided that having all 6 as CFLs gave too much of a green cast to my 2 main work areas. Fortunately, using CFL bulbs is not an all or nothing proposition. Some fixtures can have the standard incandescent bulbs, while the rest can have the CFL bulbs.

Our kitchen can lights are divided into 2 strips, one along the stove/counter area and the other along the sink/fridge/counter area.

the area above the stove
the 2 outside lights are CFL indoor flood lights
and the center light is a standard flood light

I took the center CFL out of each strip of can lights, and replaced with the standard indoor flood bulb. The quality of the lighting is now quite good, with 4 of the 6 can lights containing CFL indoor flood lights. I use these lights about 8 hours per day (our kitchen is long and narrow and doesn't get that much natural light). Based on this use, I should save about $4.60 per month.

The remaining 2 CFL indoor flood lights I placed in the next most used area, the family room. We have 4 can lights in that room, so I replaced 2 of the standard flood lights with the leftover CFL ones. I would guess we use the lights in that room about 3 hours per day, and expect to see a savings of about $1 per month on those 2 bulbs.

In total then, changing these bulbs seasonally, I expect we'll save just over $9 per month. I spent just over $40 for all the bulbs. The CFL indoor floods are rated to last 9  1/2 years. They will pay for themselves before I change the lights on those fixtures for fall/winter.

You wouldn't think that changing the light bulbs for 6 months of the year, would amount to much. Over the course of the life of the bulbs, I should save close to $500. And this only takes about 2 minutes per bulb to do.

We use the cheaper, bulb and spiral-shaped CFLs in other fixtures throughout the house. In the entry hall we have 2 pendant lights and 1 bowl light with 3 bulbs. As these lights are suspended from a vaulted ceiling, they are difficult for me to access to change the bulbs. I chose CFLs for these fixtures mostly because I didn't want to have to change the bulbs very often. But it's nice that we're saving money on those as well.

In covered light fixtures in the kitchen and laundry room ceilings, I've mixed CFLs with incandescent, using one of each in each of these covered fixtures.

However, in the bedrooms, bathrooms and dining room, I still prefer the incandescent bulbs, and for the time being will continue to use those.

So, you see, using CFLs doesn't have to be an either/or situation. I have found areas of the house where they work well, sometimes on their own, and sometimes mixed with standard incandescents.

How about you? Do you use CFLs in your house? Have you tried the LEDs yet?


  1. Lili,

    Frugal and sensible is what this post is all about. I remember my Dad and Mom always saying turn off the lights and we in turn did that with our children! It is all of the seemingly little things that add up- informative post!

    1. Hi Jemma,
      As you say, those little things do add up. Thanks for reading.
      Have a wonderful day!

  2. We have switched many, but not all, of our lights to CFLs. I don't care for the "lag time" when you first turn them on (ours are dimmer and then get brighter) but I have gotten used to them.

    On a different topic--I love your cabinetry! That's the style I want when we update our kitchen someday. I would like to do a few upper cabinets with glass inserts so it's fun to look at other kitchens and get ideas. Do you mind telling what brand yours are?

    1. Hi Kris,
      Have you seen the "instant on" CFLs? They cost a bit more, so cheapo me hasn't tried them yet. I'd be interested to find out what other people think of them. Some rooms I just don't care for the light from CFLs. In a bathroom they just remind me of cheap motel lighting, and I don't want that at home.

      The cabinets are KraftMaid from Home Depot. I was looking for a cottage-y cabinet and found these. We just did 2 upper cabinets with glass inserts, the two on either side of the sink. It was more affordable than a whole kitchen of glass uppers, and I think it looks tidier overall this way.

      It's fun to plan a new kitchen. I almost think I got more enjoyment in the 14 years of planning, than the actual use of a new kitchen -- Almost! Have fun planning your kitchen!

  3. Lili, I should have known that you have studied light bulbs and change them on a schedule, just not when they burn out. I'm not sure I followed it all, but I have a couple of questions. In the summer when you switch to lower wattage bulbs, does it really make a difference. Wouldn't the less time that they are on because of the longer daylight hours be doing the same thing? Also, do you worry about wear and tear on the bulbs from handling them more frequently during the changes?

    Anyway, an interesting idea.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      In our kitchen, especially, it still makes a difference spring/summer vs. fall/winter. Our kitchen is long and narrow, with windows at the far ends. We still use lights even on the brightest of days. I just don't feel I "need" the extreme lights for SAD in the brighter months, as I'm getting more real sun when running errands, going out to the garden, etc.

      Our lights are on in the kitchen anywhere from 7 to 12 hours per day, and longer if one of our kids is out late (I leave the kitchen lights on when kids are out at night). So far, I haven't experienced any wear and tear on lights. I unscrew them, slide into the cardboard sleeve and they get stored on the top shelf of a cabinet in the laundry room.

      Hope I answered your questions.

  4. I have had a lot of CFL bulbs burn out prematurely. I was almost going to give up on them, when I decided to replace a couple of the lighting fixtures with new, inexpensive ones. Presto, the problem was solved.

    1. Hi anexacting,
      we had a problem with 1 light fixture that kept burning out CFL bulbs, too. The fixture was about 20 years old at the time, and we didn't know if it was the light itself or the wiring. I did give up on CFLs for that one fixture. Then when that fixture was changed, our problem went away. So, I'm wondering how fixtures were wired long ago, compared to now, that caused this. Also, I have had some brands last much longer than others. I particularly like GE. They last as long as they claim, and often longer, for us.

    2. Oh! We've had similar problems with CFL bulbs burning out. I never thought about it being the light fixtures.

  5. OK... I'm totally baffled by this post. So in the spring and summer you need smaller light bulbs? But isn't the size of the space the same... I mean when it's dark out, the darkness is the same whether it's summer or winter, and you'd still need the same amount of light wouldn't you? What am I missing here?

    But... to answer your question, I switched to CFL bulbs years ago, but have had some mixed results. Some work better than others, some burn out prematurely, and some make a terrible humming sound. I recently got some dimmable decorative CFL's for the fixture in my "dining room" (which I use an an office) and they're kinda weird. When you first turn them on, even at full strength, they're really dim, but then they seem to warm up and get brighter after they've been on for 15-20 minutes.

    Anyhow, I have been slowly upgrading to LED's and in general I LOVE them. The first one I bought was sorta dim (40 watt equivalent) so it's now in my bedside lamp. I've got a 60 watt equivalent LED in the living room lamp that's always on, and I just got a good deal on 2 more, so as my CFL's die, I'll be replacing them with LED's. Only thing is that I don't think the LED's are dimmable, are they? Anybody know?

    1. OK... I just re-read everything, and I'm thinking that maybe the lights are on during the daytime? This would never occur to me! I guess I'm spoiled living in sunny Denver with an open floor-plan house! The only lights I ever turn on in the daytime are closet lights. Even the basement is plenty light during the daytime.

    2. Hi Cat,
      Yep! Here in Seattle, lights in work areas can be on all day, even in summer. I often think of what kind of day it is by whether it's a dark gray or light gray day. I guess a better way to think of my lighting needs is, in winter, I need the brighter full-spectrum lighting day and evening, or else I feel as though I'm walking in fog. But beginning with spring and through summer, I can get by with lower intensity lights indoors during the days and evenings, but not necessarily no lights on, as then I'd be stumbling in dim light (and unable to read a thing)!

    3. You know... when I see pictures of the Pacific Northwest, I'm always jealous about how lush and green it all looks. But I guess all that greenery comes with a price... lots and lots of rain! I'm sort of living on the opposite extreme here. Lots and lots of sunshine, but rain is a rare and precious commodity! Too bad we can't split the difference. :-)

  6. One of the things that annoys me about my new place is that it is so dark that I need to have lights on during the day. My apartment only has three small windows and there are lots of trees outside. The other thing that annoys me is that all the lights in the main room (five in total) are on the same switch, so they're either all on or all off.

    They are all CFLs, and I don't have any problems with the light they give off. The only non-CFL globe I have is a sensor light outside, which is handy for seeing to unlock the door.

    1. Hi Economies,
      I don't know if this would help, or save enough to offset your time and the cost of the adapter, since this is just a temporary place for you. There are socket adapters with pull chains that screw into light sockets, like a light bulb. I just googled for price, and in USD they're about $4.50 to $5.00.

      Are your 5 main room lights covered fixtures, or is the bulb visible? If the bulb is visible, one of these adapters could be added to one light, giving you the option to turn that light off if you don't think you need it, by pulling the chain. But you could turn the light back on, should you need that particular light.

      Here's a URL to cut and paste to give you an idea of what I'm talking about.

      You also could just unscrew and rescrew a bulb as needed for light. I read about a homemade light extension pole someone contrived from a styrofoam cup and a broom handle. They put a screw through the base of the cup and into the broom handle. Then just reached up with the cup/pole and placed around the bulb, pressed to hold the bulb in the cup and twisted to turn on or off the light. Again, works best with an uncovered light bulb.


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