By KARAN MINNIS, Guardian Lifestyles Reporter, firstname.lastname@example.org
With the basic price of electricity increasing almost daily, many homeowners are being hit with soaring power bills. And as the hot summer months approach, the bills are going to get even higher as people do all they can to cool down their homes, which invariably will mean the running of air conditioners.
Dahar Butler, 28, who has been paying electricity bills for the past two years said when he moved into his own apartment, he paid an average of $100 each bill-paying period, with the air-conditioner running. Since then, he says he has seen his bill almost double — and that’s without air conditioning which he no longer runs.
He is just one of many Bahamians who find themselves faced with high energy bills, and looking for ways to decrease their use of energy.
And there is a general belief that the use of the energy-efficient Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs can help.
Lucy Burrows, assistant manager of Geoffrey Jones and Company, which sells CFL uses the bulbs in her home, and says they have helped in her use of energy and advises others to make the switch. “I believe that before you can market a product, you have to use it and I do,” says Burrows. “By simply changing my regular light bulbs to the Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs, I have seen a decrease in my electricity bill of about 20 percent, and with the cost of everything being so high, that’s a great thing,” she says.
The difference in energy use she says in how each bulb creates the light.
“Regular bulbs, which are also known as incandescent bulbs, create light by heating a filament inside the bulb. The heat makes the filament white-hot, producing the light that you see. In doing that a lot of the energy used to create the heat that lights an incandescent bulb is wasted.
“A fluorescent bulb, on the other hand, contains a gas that produces invisible ultraviolet light (UV) when the gas is excited by electricity. The UV light hits the white coating inside the fluorescent bulb and the coating changes it into light you can see. So because fluorescent bulbs don’t use heat to create light, they are far more energy-efficient than regular incandescent bulbs. This means that you can buy a 15-watt compact fluorescent bulb that produces the same amount of light as a 60-watt regular incandescent bulb.”
Burrows says the light bulbs are so efficient, they offer up to 75 percent in energy savings when compared to incandescent. “They are long-lasting [and] outlast the competition by up to 16 times longer.”
Burlington Strachan, manager distribution planning and load research at Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) says that given the current and projected cost of energy, it is vitally important that consumers do their part to manage their consumption and increase their energy efficiency.
“No one likes paying high prices for electricity and by taking this approach people will provide an environment in which the customer, country and utility all are winners.
“The major sources of energy consumption in The Bahamas are heating and cooling equipment along with lighting. It is therefore vital that this equipment be properly maintained and operated in order to achieve maximum benefit for minimum cost.”
Adding that conservation should be first considered when any equipment or appliance is being purchased, Strachan says that people must understand that the least costly item may not be the best long-term purchase.
“This is why it is recommend that Energy Star compliant equipment be purchased whenever possible,” he says. “They have been designed to use energy more efficiently. “However, customers are also advised to pay attention to the energy guide normally provided on major appliances. This provides information on how much energy an appliance typically uses,” he said.
“Checking out your appliances is not enough. We have found that by using linear fluorescent and energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) in fixtures throughout the home to provide high-quality and high-efficiency lighting can save you money. Fluorescent lamps are much more efficient than incandescent bulbs and last six to 10 times longer.”
Strachan says that although CFLs may be more expensive than incandescent bulbs, they pay for themselves by saving energy over their lifetime — even when it comes to the outdoor lights.
“Whenever possible, incandescent bulbs (regular light bulbs) should be replaced by compact fluorescent units. Compact fluorescent bulbs last as much as 20 times longer and only use about 25 percent of the energy. Put simply, at current costs a 100W equivalent compact fluorescent bulb would cost $75 to operate for its 10,000-hour life whereas a standard light bulb would cost $300. Even if the compact fluorescent cost $7 you still see an overall savings of $218.”
Some people like DeCosta Bethel, another BEC employee, just uses CFL bulbs on faith.
“I’ve had them in there now for four years now, and I think they work, but at this point I can’t tell you how much because when I put them in I was the only person living in the house and I didn’t keep on any lights anyway. A criminal could have told where I was at all times because you’d see one light go off and another come on, so I can’t tell you how much I saved because I didn’t do an analysis. I just put them all in there.
“Right now there are four people in the house and they’re not as energy efficient as I would like. My rule is that if your not using it, turn it off. That’s the best law that anybody can live by. People live under a lot of misconceptions like if you cut the light on and off it uses a lot more power, but that’s not true. So if you’re not using it cut it off and you’ll save.”
Although he can’t prove it, Bethel does believe that if it had not been for his use of CFL light bulbs that his electricity bills would be “through the roof.”
Because the wattage of a CFL bulb is much lower than that of an incandescent, you can use higher wattage CFL giving you the equivalent light of a higher wattage incandescent. For example: If your fixture says not to exceed 60 watts, you can use a 15 watt CFL to get the same amount of light as an incandescent bulb or use up to a 42 watt CFL and increase the amount of light.