Did you know that if you leave a standard 60-watt lightbulb on for most of the day you could be throwing away more than $40 every year? Despite what you may think, this actually isn't one of those rhetorical questions intended to serve as the introduction to a subject—I'm literally wondering if you knew that, or more specifically, if I was supposed to know that. You know, before I started researching this article.
I had this vague idea that responsible adults are supposed to turn off the lights when they leave the room, but to be honest, I've never really been sure why. I mean, there's the obvious concept of wasting electricity, but come on, how much electricity can one forgotten lamp really produce? Isn't conserving lightbulb energy sort of an old-fashioned miserly habit left over from when your dad would give you crap about running up the utility bill?
According to TreeHugger, my long-held belief that it isn't really that important to focus on turning off the lights is a misguided one:
Like perennial Teenagers, we acquired the lights-on habit during a time of dirt cheap electric bills, when climate change shown only on the brows of a few eccentric scientists -- and we continue walking away Zombie-like from the consequences.
Guh. Grah. Like, OMG, graaaaaauuuurrrgggh. (What? Teenage zombie.) Upon further investigation, I learned that lighting accounts for about 15 percent of a home’s total electric use, depending on the sort of lighting used (for instance: compact fluorescent bulbs use about 75 percent less electricity than incandescents).
That's a nontrivial slice of the home energy pie chart, isn't it? Not only can you save cash by turning off lights when they're not in use, but a recent study theorizes that the government-estimated amount of carbon dioxide saved by reducing people's electricity consumption is up to 60 percent too low. Meaning, the power stations that supply electricity are burning through fossil fuels like crazy in order to respond to fluctuating changes in electricity demand.
All right, FINE—I see the error of my ways. I've been a giant sucking energy vortex, the Kristen Stewart of wattage consumption. I fully admit I'm careless about turning off lights and my children are even worse. The only person in my household who can be counted on to flip switches off during the day is my husband, but I secretly suspect that's because he enjoys delivering that age-old dad saying, "JEEEESUS CHRIST, YOU THINK MONEY GROWS ON TREES?"
How does one go from absentmindedly leaving every light ablaze to conscientiously powering them down, though? The Daily Green has this enormously helpful advice:
Simply turn off the lights of those rooms you are not in.
Right. Well, there are obviously all sorts of ways to throw money at this problem. Programmable light timers, for instance, or the more practical tactic of replacing heat-producing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents, halogen, or LEDs. Nothing saves energy like shutting down a bulb altogether, though, so that's what I've been attempting to do: "simply" turning off lights as I go.
Spoiler alert: This actually isn't as simple as it seems, particularly when you've got young children who have the attention span of a hyperactive fruit fly, never mind my own—SQUIRREL!!! But we've been working on it, primarily via a somewhat inconsistent regimen of self- and parental nagging combined with designating one kid to be the Light Guy. Light Guy is sent to run through the house before we leave and check for forgotten lights, then is allowed to smugly report on who left something on (this inevitably plays out like a game of Clue: "It was MOM! With the NIGHTSTAND LAMP! In the BEDROOM!").
I'm a little concerned about my ability to stick with our newfound energy conservation efforts during the winter months in the Pacific Northwest, though. Like when the sky is grey and gloomy all day long, and at 4 p.m. it's officially pitch black out, and the only things that keep a person from spiraling into madness are hourly infusions of sugary baked goods and making the inside of a house feel as warm and cozy as possible? That'll be tough going. But maybe our best bet is to develop some good habits now, so they feel like second nature then.
After all..."It's that simple!"
Tell me, are you good about turning off lights at home?