Saving on your summer electric bill

With the heat wave that’s been gripping most of the country lately, it’s tough to control your electric bill. In fact, it seems like your air conditioner just runs and runs. But there are a few things you can do that can have a positive impact on your bottom line.

Did you know that your home’s electrical system is a great place to start first? In fact, your home’s lights and electronics account for approximately 12 percent of your home’s energy usage.

Exchange your light bulbs for high-efficiency bulbs: you can save about $75 per year by swapping out the bulbs in your most used light fixtures with compact fluorescent or LED bulbs that bear the Energy Star label.

Install dimmer switches: dimmers let you set the brightness in a room to suit your needs, setting the mood and saving electricity at the same time!

Use smart power strips: some electronic gadgets never truly power off; instead, they sit in standby mode using a trickle of power that can add up over time. These are usually — but not exclusively — items with a remote control, because the remote sensor needs power while waiting for your input. Plug these electronics into a smart power strip, which cuts off the current when the devices aren’t in use.

Conduct a home energy audit: a home energy audit can identify additional ways to reduce your energy usage. Contact the professionals at Mister Sparky for advice on a home energy audit that can save you some serious cash!

Make an appointment here. For tips on a new energy-efficient air conditioner or heat pump, call the pros at One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning.

The truth about LED light bulbs

What’s the deal with LED light bulbs?

LEDs are the most energy efficient light bulbs on the market, and thanks to increased demand and expanded manufacturing, their prices have dropped considerably in recent years. Most LED bulbs now cost less than $10, and smart shoppers can usually find them for less than $5 each.

That price may still seem steep to someone accustomed to buying incandescent bulbs for $1 each, but LEDs are built to last for more than 20 years!

Other LED light bulb benefits

The affordability of LEDs isn’t the only thing that has changed. The array of colors, styles and features has expanded substantially, giving homeowners more choices than ever in the lighting effects they can achieve in their homes.

Colors like “soft white” and “warm white” are popular because they replicate that warm feeling of an incandescent bulb, which is what many consumers missed most when they switched to CFL bulbs. Some bulbs are even capable of displaying multiple colors and can be controlled with a remote.

The most sophisticated LEDs are equipped with smart technology so that they can be controlled from anywhere with a smartphone or tablet. The apps used to control these lights are also some of the most user-friendly interfaces for setting up detailed lighting schedules.

How to choose an LED light bulb

Picking out LEDs isn’t too different from choosing among incandescent bulbs, but there are some other key differences.

An important one is that while LEDs are labeled in watts to offer an idea of their energy consumption, that rating doesn’t correlate directly with brightness as with incandescents. LED brightness is measured in lumens, which will range from about 400 to about 2500 in most bulbs. A 100 watt incandescent is equivalent to about 1600 lumens.

It’s also important to make careful decisions when choosing LEDs for use with dimmers. If your dimmer is more than a few years old, it’s likely to be incompatible with most LEDs, and you’ll need to pick out special dimmer-friendly bulbs. You could also replace your dimmers with modern, LED-friendly versions, which allow you to dim any LEDs.

If you need help redesigning your lighting scheme in your home, or have any questions related to energy savings or electric safety in your home, contact the professionals at Mister Sparky today!

What Light Bulb should I use?

Ever have trouble deciding which bulb to buy? What lasts longer vs. what is more cost effective? Here are some answers:

Incandescent
If you have incandescent lights around, you’ll notice a tungsten filament inside the bulb that heats up to produce the desired light. The heated filament (around 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit) produces a warm, yellowish light.

Standard
Standard incandescent lights are very similar to the ones invented by Thomas Edison in the 1800s. Yet they are far from efficient, only converting around 5-10% of the energy they consume into light. The remaining 90% of the energy gets lost to heat. This may feel like an OK trade-off in the winter when you want heat in your home, but in the summer, your air conditioner will have work harder to dissipate the extra heat.

Halogen
Halogen lights still use a tungsten filament, but it is surrounded by a small amount of halogen gas (contained in a quartz capsule). This allows the heat to be used more efficiently, producing a more whitish glow than standard incandescent bulbs. If you like the glow of incandescent lights but want a more energy-efficient bulb, consider halogen lights. They work great for task and accent lighting.

Fluorescent
If you have any fluorescent lights in your home, they are probably in the garage or laundry room. You can recognize them easily by the long glass tube that houses the electric current and the distinctive buzzing sound they make when switched on.

While older fluorescent lights are known for humming and flickering, modern fluorescent lights can get rid of these unwanted inconsistencies. Depending on which type of fluorescent light you have and how it was installed, they can last anywhere from 5,000 to 25,000 hours and output 2-10 times as much light per watt as an incandescent light.

While fluorescent lights can create nice, warm color tones, keep in mind that they contain small amounts of mercury and should NEVER be thrown away in the trash. They are also very fragile and have been known to break easily.

Compact Fluorescent
You may have heard of CFLs in the past couple of years when referring to more energy-efficient light bulbs. CFL stands for compact fluorescent lamp (or light).

They were designed to replace standard incandescent lights due to their improved performance, lower costs, longer lifespans, and smaller sizes. Usually, when homeowners and businesses are looking for ways to reduce energy costs and improve the lighting in their indoor spaces, they turn to either CFLs or LEDs since they last longer and offer greater energy savings.

When CFLs first came out, consumers were confused about which CFL to buy since you had to find one that fit the wattage and pin configurations. Recently, however, light bulb manufacturers have improved their designs to give customers more choice and knowledge in selecting CFL replacements.

Light Emitting Diode (LED)
When people normally talk about improving the energy efficiency of their lighting, they are thinking of LEDs. For many years, LEDs were used for exit signs, appliances, and digital displays. Now, they can be used for anything from flashlights to Christmas lights.

If you don’t like replacing your light bulbs, replace them with energy-efficient LEDs. And if you don’t like the whitish color temperature of LEDs, look for warm white LEDs for a warmer glow. LEDs now come in a wide variety of colors, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find one that fits your needs. Phillips Hue is a popular LED option because you can change the color range easily with the same bulb.

Keep in mind that when shopping for LEDs, the wattage will be completely different from what you may be used to with incandescent. Since wattage measures how much energy the light bulb draws and not “brightness,” the replacement LED will have a much lower wattage for an equivalent brightness. Look for lumens and degrees Kelvin to determine light output.

Lumens measure light output.

Kelvin measures the color of the light, or color temperature. The higher the Kelvin number, the cooler the color; a lower Kelvin numbers translates to a warmer color.

Watts are standard units of power of electrical power.