The Case For CFL Bulbs

Lately, I’ve seen some buzz building about the government ‘forcing’ American citizens to convert to CFL bulbs by phasing out the sale of traditional (incandescent)  bulbs over the next few years.

Many of the opponents feel that this is some sort of violation of rights, taking away choice or forcing a lesser product down their throats.

I guess I see it as that the positives outweigh the negatives.  Yes, there are drawbacks to CFLs (see below), but in terms of what we gain, I think converting to CFL bulb (or LED bulbs, which I haven’t tried yet) is a net positive.

As we build more homes, as they get bigger, the energy demands continue to grow.  If we can save the need for additional power capacity or further dependency on oil, which is outside of our control in terms of both pricing and availability, I think it’s worth the sacrifice.

Not to mention the impact all the power consumption has on our environment.

People are forever going to complain about the negatives that are associated with CFLs.

  • That they don’t like the color of the light (which has been improved dramatically over the years),
  • Tthat they don’t like how it takes time for the lights to reach full brightness (this isn’t perfect but has also been improved by leaps and bounds)
  • That they cost too much.  Between sales, coupons, and promotions, I’ve not paid more than $1 for a normal CFL bulb in the past two years.  If you’re still thinking they cost $3 to $4, then you’re not looking hard enough because deals are out there.  At $1 per bulb, they pay for themselves in months with the reduced usage, plus they last so much longer (I’ve not had one burn out inside our house yet, and I’ve been phasing them in since 2007).
  • Or that they can’t just throw them in the trash.  I guess I don’t see this as a huge problem.  They burn out so infrequently that it’s not a big deal to set them aside and then take them on a trip to Home Depot, Lowes, or IKEA, one of just several places that I know accepts them for proper disposal.

The fact is that many other countries across the globe have already taken these steps, and guess what?  No great shakes!  They’ve survived!

If it’s really important, go ahead and buy all the energy wasting incandascents you want.  The light bulb police won’t be coming to arrest people that use them.  Traditional bulbs will still be for sale for awhile, and they can sit on your basement or garage shelf for years if you think that’s the best way to go.

And who knows, you might just end up with a collector’s item some day?

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Shop Around For Your Utilities To Save Cash

This is a guest post from
Many people pay their energy bills without giving a second thought to where that money is going. It may come as a big surprise to many that everyone can save money on their energy bills, simply by taking a bit more time to think about who supplies America’s energy – and who gives the best deals on energy prices.

Shopping for an energy supplier is wonderfully easy in the digital age. Whereas once upon a time you might have felt there was no choice as to who supplied your electricity and natural gas, you can now view all the suppliers for your area and at the click of a button.

Before you start shopping around for a new energy deal to save you cash, think about your specific energy needs. How much energy does your household consume in a year? What are the peak times of year for your energy consumption? What sources of energy do you depend upon most heavily? You can consult your current energy provider to help gleam much of this information, while there are also gadgets available that monitor your electricity usage and provide you with a constant stream of information about your household energy consumption.

Once you start weighing your various energy supplier options, you’ll notice that you will be restricted to a certain number of suppliers for your area. Certain suppliers might not offer the particular kind of energy you require, with resources like fuel oil not being offered across the board by all suppliers.

You can also save money by generating your own energy, using photovoltaic solar panels or outdoor wind turbines. Many companies are now offering to arrange for green power to be channelled into your home, or for green energy sources to be installed in your home for personal use and to feed back into the system.

Keep an eye out for the savings you can make by purchasing your energy deal online. Many energy suppliers are moving their operations online to save on overheads and the benefits of these cost-cutting measures are passed on to you, the consumer, in the form of reduced prices.

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Good News From The Gas Company

I was really nervous about our gas bill.  The period for the last bill (early/mid-December to early/mid January) was cold.  We had a lot of days where it didn’t get above 20 and the nighttime temperatures were in single digits.  The furnace clicked on and off at a pretty rapid rate.

Still, I was hopeful that the bill wouldn’t be too high because, prior to the heating season, I discovered and repaired a leak around the fan in our master bedroom that had been whisking air into the attic at what had to be a pretty alarming rate, since the leak was occurring at the highest point in our home.  I know that the fix worked because our bedroom, which had been noticeably colder in the winter in years past, was now a more comfortable temperature.

Years past had given me the following bills for the same month:
2008: $185
2009: $219
2010: $246

I think gas rates went up a lot between 2008 and 2009, and the increase last year was explained largely by the fact that it was the first year that we kept the temperature higher all day rather than dropping it down during the year, since my wife was now staying at home with our child.

Still, this year’s cold temperature made me think it could be higher yet again.

So, I was happily surprised when the bill turned out to be $227.

We actually decreased our usage by about 5% from last year.  This with what I know was one of the colder months we’ve had since we moved in.

I would love to see that go down again next year.  I’m hoping that new glass block windows in the basement and re-caulking around some of the windows (things I have on my 2011 to-do list) will continue to improve our energy efficiency.

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Do You Drive Differently Depending On Gas Prices?

It’s interesting to see the ‘flavor of the day’ when it comes to spending and saving money, and the tips that go along with that.

Most of us certainly remember the days a couple of years back when gas was $3 – $4 per gallon.  It seemed that every other personal finance ‘how to’ article was about the best ways to reduce your gas usage.

Now that gas prices are (for the most part) in the $2 – $3 per gallon range, it’s interesting to see how few of these articles actually populate the personal finance blogosphere.

I know that I still try to keep an eye on fuel efficiency, though I will admit that I’m not as regimented about it as I would be when the prices go up.

Still, I try to do things like:

  • keep my tires inflated
  • avoid jackrabbit starts and stops
  • anticipate red lights and coast accordingly

As I said, though, higher prices do definitely make you more aware of your driving habits.

Take, for example, a recent trip.  A few weeks ago, my wife and I were driving to ‘up north’ Michigan for our anniversary.  The total round trip was about 600 miles.

The vehicle we were taking gets around 20 MPG on the highway.  So, that worked out to about 30 gallons of fuel.  In the weeks leading up to the trip, the prices were around $2.65, which would cost roughly $79.50.

Two days or so before the trip, Murphy’s Law hit and some oil pipeline a few hundred miles away was shut down, and prices overnight went up 10% to about $2.95 per gallon.

I couldn’t believe our luck, and re-calculated our gas budget at $88.50, a $9 difference!

Because of the increase, though, I focused a little harder on driving efficiently.  By reducing our trip speed an average of 2-5MPH, we got 21 MPG.  Doing so caused us to use slightly less fuel (28.57 gallons based on the 600 mile round trip).  Although the cost (at $2.95 per gallon) was $84.28 and cost us more than the original budget at the lower prices, paying a little more attention still saved us a few bucks.

I’m all about keeping money in our pocket and out of the pockets of the oil companies, so even though it was ‘only’ $4, I was still happy to make a little change to save the few bucks.

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