Highly efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) last for years, use a quarter of the energy of regular bulbs and actually produce more light.
Look for the government’s ENERGY STAR label, which means the bulb has been tested for quality and efficiency. While each ENERGY STAR qualified bulb will cost more initially—anywhere from $3 to $9 a piece—remember that there are two price tags: what you pay at the register and what you pay in energy costs to over the bulb’s lifetime. So you may pay more up front, but you will actually save hundreds of dollars in your household budget over the long term because of their long life.
While CFLs were harder to find a few years ago, they’re now widely available and much more affordable. You’ll find them at major home improvement and hardware stores—even grocery and some convenience stores.
Here’s the impact. If every household in the U.S. replaced a burned-out bulb with an energy-efficient, ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent bulb, the cumulative effect is enormous. It would prevent more than 13 billion pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere—which is like taking more than a million cars off the road for an entire year.
There are other, simple things with household lighting you can do to conserve: turn off unneeded lights, dim lights when you can and bring natural sunlight into your home when it is feasible.
But changing those old light bulbs and replacing them with ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescents that can last for a decade or more is by far the best thing you can do.