Take advantage of cool weather to burn out those last incandescent light bulbs

If you still have some incandescent light bulbs hanging around and are unsure what to do with them, here’s a suggestion: use them only during the heating season.

In these days of efficient bulbs, that sounds counterintuitive, but here’s the story. Of all the energy used by incandescent light bulbs, only about 10% actually produces light; the rest is lost as heat. In warmer months of the year, that heat is unneeded and therefore wasted. And in hot months, it’s even worse: that waste heat from light bulbs makes air conditioners work much harder.

But during cooler months, when heating systems are operating, the waste heat from incandescent light bulbs is actually useful: it allows heaters to run less.

So if you have some leftover old incandescent light bulbs, consider installing them just during the cool months, when their waste heat is not wasted.

An important clarification: there’s no question that efficient light bulbs are the way to go – compact fluorescents or, even better, LEDs. This is only a strategy to work through any remaining incandescent bulbs. If you happen to be in New Brunswick, take advantage of this great promotion on efficient light bulbs.

(Quick insider note: my Mom has some old long-life incandescent light bulbs that, true to their name, refuse to burn out. So installing her ‘winter bulbs’ has been part of our Thanksgiving routine for several years now, and removing them is part of the Easter routine…)

Just how much can those LED holiday lights save?

Most people know that LED holiday lights are more efficient – but just how much more efficient?  Consider this:

– an old-style incandescent outdoor light bulb uses about 7.5 watts

– a minilight bulb uses about .5 watts

– an LED bulb uses about .03 watts

Put differently, one kilowatt-hour of power would light:

– an old-style incandescent outdoor light bulb for 133 hours or 5.5 days

– a minilight bulb for 2000 hours or 83 days

– an LED bulb for 33,333 hours or nearly four years

LEDs can save you 95%+ on your holiday lighting costs.

So what to do?

– invest in LED holiday lights; they’ll pay you back quickly

– discard your old non-LED light sets; or use them indoors (safely away from anything flammable) so all that waste heat they produce can at least help heat your home; or replace the bulbs with LED bulbs, available at hardware stores