The good news: You won't have to worry so much about that next electric bill if you follow up on a few tips for lighting your home more efficiently.
Lighting accounts for 20 percent of the average home's electric bill, estimates the Snohomish County Public Utility District. In the dark days of winter, you're likely to have your home lighting on a little more than usual. That's why February is a good time to make sure you're keeping your lighting costs low by using energy-efficient lights.
What kind of light does the PUD recommend? Compact fluorescent lights, called CFLs, have been on the market for years. (Think spiral light bulbs.)
These lights are more expensive to buy than the traditional, or incandescent, lights but last up to 10 times longer and use up to 75 percent less energy in the process, according to the PUD. Typically, you can use a lower wattage CFL when replacing an incandescent light, and burn brighter.
As many as 80 percent of Snohomish County residents who responded to a recent survey said they're using at least one CFL in their home, the PUD estimates. But if you're only using CFLs for reading lights, you're not getting the savings you could.
The PUD recommends using CFLs in the light fixtures you have on the most, like kitchen or porch lights. If you use one 75-wattage traditional bulb for porch lighting 12 hours daily, you'll spend about $26.97 annually to power it. Put a 20-watt CFL in the same porch fixture, power for the same about of time each day and save $19.78 annually.
CFLs come in a variety of shapes, including the iconic spiral, colors and wattages. Spirals can replace most lights around the house, though you might want globe-shaped bulbs for bathroom vanity lighting. Floodlights are available for outdoor CFL needs. Check the packaging on fluorescent lights for help figuring out wattage.
Don't just throw away your CFL bulbs when you're done. There's a trace amount of mercury in the bulbs, so you'll need to recycle. The PUD has several locations to drop off bulbs as do retailers Home Depot and Bartell Drugs. The county's solid waste facility also accepts a limited amount of bulbs.
For more information on fluorescent lighting and CFL recycling in Snohomish County, visit the PUD website, snopud.com.
Bonus tip: Balance your investments
When was the last time you looked at your investment portfolio? The percentage of your investments in stocks should decrease as you get older while the amount you have in bonds increases. This will reduce the risk of losing much of your retirement should the market drop dramatically as it did in 2008. Check with your financial planner for more detailed advice.
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