When it comes to turning off lights around the house, my wife is a nag (not as a member of the National Association of Gals, but one who incessantly nitpicks on her own). “You’re wasting electricity” she will say, approximately thirty eight thousand times per day (give or take). Similarly, the political nags (not NAGs) are ordering us to use CF lights instead of the tungsten filament jobs, saying we’re destroying the very planet with our light bulbs.
If we cast aside all arguments about rights and liberty (and if we have a chance to toy with other people as a means of boosting our self esteem, why wouldn’t we?) there is the issue of home heating during the cooler months. I gathered my family together, and explained this to them in terms anyone can understand;
If you have a 100 Watt light going full time inside a heated living space, that’s 100 fewer Watts, on average, that the home heating system has to put out. You have shifted 100 Watts of your energy use from the heater to the light bulb. Your total usage is exactly the same. Same goes if you leave the refrigerator open a little longer, or the television on all night. If you’re heating that space anyway, it makes no significant difference.
Say I have a 10 KW electric furnace. I could hook up 100 light bulbs, each rated at 100 Watts, through a relay to my thermostat (assuming I had the proper wiring) thereby taking all the heating load off the furnace and placing it on the light bulbs. Will my heating bill change? Maybe, and maybe not. It would depend on the distribution of the lights within the house, the quality of the insulation on my furnace duct work in the cold space under the house, and a few other minor variables. Maybe I’d save a few pennies, and maybe I’d loose a few pennies. If you have a gas furnace the situation is still the same– you’re just trading back and forth between gas and electricity, but your total energy usage is going to be about the same.
The situation is completely different in the summer of course. The waste heat from your TV, fridge, etc., is of no use to you. If you’re running an air conditioner, anything else in your house that produces heat is causing the AC to work harder.
In both cases, insulation, windows, door seals, and the structure’s orientation and exposure to the sun will overwhelm the other issues.
So we can stop nitpicking each other.