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The current rage among the environmentally conscious is installing solar panels on rooftops to cut their electricity bills. While solar is a great way to save money over the long haul, in the short run it sucks up a wad of cash ($20,000 to $30,000) and the payback period, even with incentives, can be 10 plus years. For the average cheapster, that doesn't add up to a great investment. There is no arguing that solar energy is environmentally correct and that alone can make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. But there are cheaper alternatives that don't require you to spend a small fortune cutting your electric bill. Why spend twenty thousand dollars when there you could make a serious dent in your next utility bill by investing $100?
Compact Fluorescents (CFL)
By now, you would think everybody with a grain of environmental conscience would have made the switch to CFLs. But in a casual survey of immediate circle of family and friends, I found less than half of them had bothered to change the bulbs. And even the minority that had taken the initiative, quite a few still had plenty of incandescent bulbs. Somebody ought to write "Compact Flourescent bulbs for Dummies." It would be the shortest book in history. Because all you have to know is that CFLs produce the same amount of light with 20% of energy that you consume with a regular bulb. And if that isn't enough of an incentive, you might be able to get your CFLs free from your local utility. Many utilities run programs to encourage the switch to CFLs by giving out 4 or 8 free bulbs. Our utility gave us $100 worth for free! By all means, take them up on the offer. But even if you have to pay for them, CFLs will pay for themselves in under a year.
Tip #1: If you don't want to change the bulbs at one time, figure out which lights you use the most and start by replacing those because that will have the greatest impact on your electric bill. Save the lights that you use only a few hours a week for later.
Buying CFLs has gotten easier as home improvement stores and they are overstocked with CFLs because consumers have been slow to make the transition. For under three dollars, you should be able to purchase a CFL that consumes 13 watts and delivers the same amount of light as a 60 watt bulb. If you shop around you might be able to buy them for around two dollars. A few years ago the same CFL would have required you to shell out six dollars. If you have a Walmart or a Target near your home, grab a dozen on your next trip.
We replaced about 60% of the lighting in our home and saw our electric bill drop by about 14%. For us, that’s enough to take the family out to dinner.