While The Cat’s Away…

A little while ago, I had to go interstate at short notice.Spiral compact fluorescent light bulb

I didn’t think it would be much of a problem. One teen would stay with their father, taking the dog with them. And the other, who’s 18, was moving out. So all I had to do was organise for the mail to be collected.

But things don’t always turn out as planned.

The 18-year-old, who had only recently moved back in, was going nowhere fast.

So, reluctantly, I agreed that they could stay. If they took good care of the dog…and the house was in better condition when I returned…and – crucially – there were NO PARTIES.

‘I promise’.

Famous last words.

I had my fingers crossed and kept in contact while I was away.

Needless to say that what I found when I returned wasn’t quite what was promised…or what I was told about by phone.

Amongst the damage I encountered was that I found several light bulbs* were missing. I think there were 6 at last count.

Apart from being told that one was broken accidentally, no-one seemed to know anything about them. Nor was there any trace of them.

I guess ‘the fairies’ must have taken them.

I wasn’t very impressed.

Because good quality compact fluorescent bulbs (like we had) are not cheap. I knew that I was looking at over $50 – probably more like $80 – to replace them.

And then there was the hassle of finding them, buying them…and then climbing up to replace them. 🙁

I decided to change the frame with which I was viewing the situation.

Instead of being angry, I decided to take advantage of it to improve the sustainability of our house a bit more.

First, did we really need all the lights?

We made do without replacing them for quite a while. It was a bit inconvenient having to walk a few extra steps further than we were going to turn on another light to light our way, then go back to turn off the previous light. (Alternatively, we could use a torch…the smart phones in our pockets are sooooo handy sometimes ;)) But we soon got used to going somewhere in our house at night by walking ‘2 steps forward and 1 back’. And it made us realise that we don’t actually need all the lights in our house.

But we’re busy, and the inconvenience did get to us.

So we then improved the situation for a while by making do with some old compact fluorescent and incandescent bulbs I had stashed away for just such an ‘emergency’. (I wasn’t stockpiling the incandescent bulbs ahead of Australia’s phase-out of incandescent lights…I just didn’t want to waste the resources that went into making the bulbs that were still working.)

Now, since we made the change from incandescent to compact fluorescent lighting, LED lights have become much more widely available, cheaper and better quality…and are now available in bulb format. (That’s important for some installations, such as high ceilings where you use a special high light changing device that only works with bulb-shaped lamps.)

So, I did some practical research with some very knowledgeable people. One is an electrical engineer colleague. And the other is the top sales representative with a major chain of lighting stores.

They ran a little information session for SEE-Change, a local grassroots sustainability organisation with which two of us involved.

And very interesting it was. Even for people who thought that they knew quite a bit about energy-efficient lighting.

The net result?

I have replaced a lot of my missing lights with LED bulbs. Not all of them, because LEDs are not – currently – suitable for all applications (such as bunker lights, where a sideways stream of light is needed).

I am looking forward to the energy savings – both electrical and human – that the LEDs will offer me.

That’s because LEDs are incredibly efficient – much more so than incandescent bulbs or even compact fluorescents. 🙂

And the good quality LEDs I bought should never need replacing during the rest of my lifetime in this house. 😀

The quality and direction of light from LEDs is different to what I’m used to, though. So that’s something I’m getting used to and seeing if it is suitable for the places where I have used them…and I will let you know later how it all goes.

Oh, and the cost? About the same as if I had bought good quality compact fluorescent bulbs…thanks to a ‘buy 2 get 1 free’ deal at Beacon Lighting that was in place at the time (and no, I do not have any relationship or get any kick-backs from mentioning them).

I’d love to hear your experiences, comments or questions about using energy efficient lighting. Just leave then in the comments box below…or send me a voice message by clicking on the tab on the right.

Till next time…be gentle to yourself and our world!

* I have used the term light ‘bulb’ throughout this post, even though most of the lights to which I refer are not bulb-shaped. I use it to mean the device that makes light when you insert it into a light socket and turn on the power. It is the same as a light ‘globe’ (which is just as commonly used in Australia in my experience)…or lamp (which is the technical term).

[post updated 9 December 2015]