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Friday, March 21, 2014

Snowballing the savings: electricity

Since September 2013, we have shaved a total of $254.76 from our electricity bills, averaging about $30 per month less in electricity use/spending for the exact same time periods from the prior year.

Of that $254.76, $123.00 has been taken up with a reduced budget for the last 8 months, leaving us with a net savings of $131.76.

We could have just spent that $131.76 on who knows what. But instead, we've chosen to help this savings snowball into greater savings.

Half of this money has been set aside for a new garage fridge/freezer. And the other half is being used to purchase energy-saving LED light bulbs.

By spending our surplus in the electricity budget on these energy-saving items, our energy consumption will continue to drop over the coming months, freeing up even more money for energy-saving improvements in our home.

I call this "investment" spending. Many standard methods of investing (stocks, bonds, real estate, collectibles) are off-limits to those living with financial constraints. However, there are some methods of investing that are possible, even when an income is restricted.

Buying energy-saving light bulbs is an investment in lower energy consumption/spending. What you save on your electricity bill is your "gain". Many of us don't think of that savings as a "gain" in investment terms. And we wind up spending that savings on who knows what, and never fully feel the gain that we've realized. How you choose to spend the gain is up to you. For us, we're choosing to reinvest our gains on electricity savings.

On LED light bulbs

I've been appalled by the lack of LED light bulbs in our local stores. I was in Target the other day and found just a couple to choose from. The local Fred Meyer (a discount chain in the NW) didn't have many more than Target. I haven't checked Wal-Mart or Lowes yet, but will when I'm in those areas.

However, Home Depot has a very good selection of LED bulbs. (And Home Depot is very close to our home.) They're carrying several brands now. You know what that means. More manufacturers, greater selection. Greater selection, more competition. More competition, better quality and lower prices!! Win!

Home Depot has recently reduced the price on their Cree 40 watt equivalent soft white bulbs, running around $7 a bulb now (previously about $10/bulb). I've already purchased a few of these bulbs, and will continue picking up one or two when I'm there. Just my experience, but I think these 40 watt equivalent LED bulbs are brighter than a similar 40 watt equivalent CFL. So for us, I can put a 40 watt equiv LED bulb where I might have put a 60 watt equiv CFL.

And I'll add this about LED light bulbs. Some people don't care for the quality of light in indoor LED Christmas strings of lights. And I agree, they bother my eyes, as well. The light bulbs seem to be different. We're using them in 3 rooms, plus a walk-in storage area, and we've been very pleased with the quality of light. I began small, with just 2 bulbs. I wanted to try them out, and make sure they would work for us. This has been a very good way to introduce LED bulbs into our home.


  1. I like your thinking: upcycling the savings on electricity, by investing in further electricity reducing technology, in this case: LED bulbs. When I moved into this rental, I got permission from the LL to have an energy audit done thru the local electric co. While I had to pay a fee of $75 (would be free for low income people), I got more than that in value. 2 techs were here 8 hours, Winterizing the home, and replacing up to 29 standard lightbulbs with CFL's. My electric went down, and I was already careful about light usage. Fast forward, and when we move, I'll be switching the old bulbs BACK into the fixtures (they were all given back to me), taking my CFLs with me to my next place. Ultimately, like you, I wish to invest in LED's. They are expensive, however.
    Does your electric company have any rebate/incentives for purchasing LED's? Just a thought.
    Carol in CT

    1. Hi Carol,
      I did check with our electric company on rebates/coupons for LED bulbs. At this time, they just offer coupons on CFLs. However, while online, another electricity provider in the area (not my service area) has done promotions for LEDs. So, it is always worth a look around to see if coupons are available or the bulbs themselves are available for purchase at a discount, through electricity providers. Home Depot's pricing on LEDs looks hopeful, as they reduced the price on the one bulb (Cree 40 watt equiv), by several dollars per bulb.
      So smart of you to hang on to the old incandescent bulbs to switch back in, when you move. That's what the place came with, after all.

  2. You are so diligent about calculating your savings! I agree with you, it's always a good idea to roll over money you have saved into something that will save you even more money in the long run. Much like my husband's technique with the money from our taxes--instead of splurging on a vacation, we will be using it to further pay down our mortgage. Not very exciting, but the thought of having our house paid off is pretty thrilling to me.

    Your LED info is interesting. I am one of those who hates LED's in Christmas lights. The glare really bothers me. I haven't wanted to switch because of this but maybe I should consider trialling one out in an unobtrusive area.

    1. Hi Kris,
      you will be so glad once your mortgage is paid off. I think you'll find it worth sacrificing a luxury vacation for. Besides, you can still take vacations, just not uber-expensive ones.

      With the first LED I bought, I figured that I might as well give 1 a try. Worst case scenario, it ends up in a utility room.

  3. I have a few LED's and I really like them. The light quality seems better than the CFL's, plus there's no flicker or hum and you don't have to worry about mercury should you break one.

    But I do have one (the oldest one, which cost $30 because I bought it when they first became available) that causes bizarre interference with the television reception. Not sure what that's about. Anyhow, I put that one in my reading lamp which is generally not used at the same time as the TV.

    I'm sure the price of LEDs will continue to fall as they become a more standard offering and less of a specialty thing. The good news is that I've yet to have one die on me like a number of the CFLs have.

    Anyhow, you continue to amaze me with your calculations and savings.

    1. Hi Cat,
      that's such an odd thing with the LED and your TV. But you did find a good solution for the problem, so you're still saving money, but haven't sacrificed your TV reception. And I'm glad to hear that none have died on you so far. I am hoping for the same outcome with ours.

  4. We have LED as under cabinet lighting in the kitchen and are very happy with it. However, we haven't tried any in a regular light fixture yet. While the operating cost may be less, I haven't been too happy with CFL's that are in most of our light fixtures now. They definitely have not lasted as long as they are purported to. Their lifetime is not much longer than an incandescent in many cases. I think that in this case, you may get what you pay for as we always go for the cheapest bulbs.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      We had one brand of CFLs several years ago that burned out too soon. It was a major brand, so I phoned the customer service number and reported our experience. They sent us out 2 new CFLs to compensate us. With our LEDs, I've saved the cardboard part of the packaging (has 10 year guarantee printed on it), just in case.

  5. I've been hesitant to invest in LED because I've been disappointed in CFLs, too. I've had several replaced by the manufacturers because they burn out too soon. Maybe if the price comes down a bit more, I'll give them a try.

    1. Hi DW,
      For me, so far, so good with the LEDs. Our oldest one has been in use for a year now, and still working as when first bought. I'm very eager for their price to drop, as well. I've got my eye on a 2.5 watt bulb that I want to try in a fixture over the kitchen table, but they're still too pricey for me.

  6. Having written about light bulbs recently I'm glad to see you're getting on OK with the LEDs as they do seem to be the way forward when it comes to low energy light bulbs.

    1. Hi Sarah,
      I'm eager to see how LED bulbs will improve in the coming years. They have become an accessible way for our family to reduce future electricity bills, and do so in small increments.

  7. I've been thinking about trying LED bulbs, but my main problem is that they are so expensive here ($20 per bulb!). Since I'm renting and probably moving again at the beginning of next year, I can't really justify it (although we do use CFLs).

    Once I get my own place though, I will be investing in some :)

    1. Hi Liz,
      yes, they've been expensive here, as well. It's only been the last 2 years that I have found some of them at a price I consider reasonable ($10 and under). I remember when CFLs first went mainstream. Those bulbs were about $16 each at that time. Hopefully LEDs will drop in price in Australia soon, too.

      Once you do have your own place, keep in mind that expensive LEDs don't have to be an all or nothing proposition. You can buy an LED bulb for a most-used fixture in your apt., but use less expensive light bulbs in the lesser used fixtures.


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