"Energy Efficiency is at the heart of energy affordability." Tony Earley, Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation

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Light Up the New Year with Energy-Efficient Bulbs

By Jonathan Marshall

Like the bad arguments used to defend them, traditional incandescent bulbs put out far more heat than light. That’s why no one should lament the gradual phase-out of this more-than-century-old technology, starting two years ago with the ban on the manufacture or importation (but not sale) of 100-watt incandescent bulbs.

PG&E shows off energy efficient lighting in numerous locations, such as this showroom in Davis. (Photo by California Lighting Technology Center.)

PG&E shows off energy efficient lighting in numerous locations, such as this showroom in Davis. (Photo by California Lighting Technology Center.)

This January 1, lighting companies must similarly halt the manufacture or importation of inefficient, traditional 40- and 60-watt incandescent bulbs. They are being phased out at the direction of Congress, which passed the Energy Independent and Security Act in 2007 by a bipartisan vote. President Bush signed it into law. All the major manufacturers are on board with it, despite subsequent attempts in Congress to block implementation of the law.

Replacements for the older bulbs — which convert only about 10 percent of their energy into light — include more efficient incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). They typically use anywhere from 28 percent to 75 percent less energy to produce the same light.

The transition to more efficient lighting will “eventually save Americans $13 billion on their annual energy bill,” according to Noah Horowitz at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “The new standards eventually will save as much electricity as is generated by 30 large coal-burning power plants – and the associated pollution that harms our health and contributes to climate change – every single year.”

With LEDs now costing as little as $10 each, their payback time is relatively quick. NRDC’s handy chart indicates an energy cost of just over $8 a year for a 60W incandescent bulb lit three hours a day, compared to only $1.34 for an equally bright LED bulb that uses only 10W. In less than two years you’ll be in the black. You’ll save plenty on replacement costs as well, since LEDs last for years, up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescents.

Plenty of Californians have started figuring that out, well ahead of January 1. Home Depot reports that Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area are two of the top 10 markets nationwide for per-capita consumption of energy-efficient bulbs. But they lag behind Orlando, Pittsburgh and Miami, among others, suggesting that there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Residential customers in Northern and Central California can save on energy efficient lighting by purchasing rebated products at retailers participating in PG&E’s residential lighting program.  The list of retailers can be found here on PG&E’s website.

To encourage more commercial customers to save money and energy by converting to efficient lighting, PG&E offers rebates and technical assistance as part of its broader energy efficiency programs. Numerous businesses, cities, and other customers are saving thousands of dollars a year thanks to PG&E-supported conversions. The utility also showcases efficient lighting technology at its Pacific Energy Center in San Francisco, at a showroom in Davis, and in classes at its Energy Training Center in Stockton.

Email Jonathan Marshall at jonathan.marshall@pge.com.

This story originally appeared on pgecurrents.com.