A Bright Idea That Saves You Money (Eventually)


A good start to a New Year’s eco-friendly lifestyle makeover is going through your house, turning off the lights and replacing your common-or-garden bulbs with low-wattage fluorescents.

In fact, it makes so much sense that it’s prompted a change in the law.

The new Energy Bill states that from 2012, incandescent bulbs will be removed from sale. Does this mean we will soon seen universally Green lighting? Well”¦.not quite.

Compact Fluorescents (CFs or CFLs)  are better for the environment. It’s estimated each saves over 1500 times its own weight in greenhouse gases compared with standard bulbs. Yet they’re an immediate hazard when broken – the traces of toxic mercury inside will evaporate into the air (so double-bag those pieces, quick). Recycling is a job for the specialists – and let’s not even think about landfills.

Thankfully, there’s an alternative – and your computer’s riddled with them. Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) have been winking away since the 1920s, but it’s only recently that production improvements have made them a viable candidate for affordable domestic lighting. And with no toxic materials inside, and 8 times the use-life of CFs, it’s an exciting prospect – as you’ll know if you were in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

It’s the early days. Replacing your 60 or 70W incandescent bulb ($1-2) with an equivalent-output 9W LED will knock you back around $50. Sure, it’s an investment. Yet it’s only going to get better. And as you know from all your modern appliances, LEDs can be fitted almost anywhere. They’re tiny, they’re creative and they’re fun. They can even make your faucet water glow the "right" colour.

Image: Paul Keller

Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.