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Saving Energy, Money, and our Environment One Bulb at a Time

By Sustainability Office on April 30, 2013

This article was written by Ellen Rougeux in Colgate’s Grants Office.

I did some research on energy saving light bulbs as the need came up in my office. Compact fluorescent lights (CFL) use about 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, produce 75 percent less heat, and can last up to 10 years before burning out. These qualities also benefit the environment.  According to the U.S. EPA, the annual carbon pollution avoided from switching to CFLs is equivalent to taking 2 million cars off the road.

CFLs use much less energy than incandescent bulbs, but produce the same amount of light. The wattage only refers to the energy used, not the amount of light, which is why a lower wattage CFL bulb is still equivalent to the light output of a 100-watt incandescent. Therefore, you can replace your 100-watt incandescent with a 26- or 29-watt compact fluorescent. For a 75-watt incandescent, use a 20-watt CFL; replace a 60-watt incandescent with a 15-watt CFL. As a good rule of thumb, you can convert the wattage from an incandescent to a CFL by dividing it by 4 (see National Geographic article here).

I had heard that Home Depot had the cheapest price (from our trusty sustainability director) so I went to their website and discovered that they did, indeed, have the lowest prices. I checked Staples, W.B. Mason, and Office Max through our Colgate accounts. The comparisons are listed below:

CFL Chart

When purchasing supplies for the office, I need to take other things into consideration. When buying from Staples or OfficeMax, I need to make a minimum order of $50.00 to save shipping costs (and to save frivolous trips for a small amount of items). Colgate does not have an account with Home Depot and I do not know about their delivery costs; that would need to be built into the price. If I went to pick them up at Home Depot myself, I would need to figure in the cost (and environmental cost) of driving the 20+ miles there.

Ultimately, I already had an order going from Staples, which had the best price on other items I was ordering, so I ordered our light bulbs there. For home use, I would definitely buy my bulbs from Home Depot when going to New Hartford or Syracuse for other purposes.

CFLs do contain a small amount of mercury, and therefore, need to be properly recycled at the end of their life.  Home Depot, Parry’s and many other stores take CFLs for recycling.  Check out Earth911.com for a recycling facility near you.  Here on campus, simply wrap in a tissue or paper towel and give to your custodian or contact our Sustainability Office (sustainability@colgate.edu; x6487) for proper disposal.


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