Carbon fast day 2 – Turn off the lights!

turn-off-light-reduce-carbon-footprintFor today’s challenge to lessen our impact of global warming we’ve been asked to turn off one light in the house.

The action from theΒ Ecumenical Lenten Carbon Fast reads “Remove one light bulb from your home. Live without it for the rest of this “carbon fast”. This will decrease energy use and act as a reminder of why we are doing this. In addition, make a point of turning off lights when you leave a room or that you don’t really need to have on. This simple act could save 55 lbs of CO2 emissions a year”
This is very timely because of something that happened the other night. I could hear little Miss Green shuffling around and talking (as she is prone to do in a deep sleep) and went downstairs to discover the shower room light (which we keep on at night time for her) had stopped working. LMG was sitting up in bed fast asleep with her curtains open and light on!

I put a different light on, settled her down, went back to bed and thought no more of it…

As I mentioned yesterday, we’ve started using an Onzo electricity monitor. We discovered that despite turning everything off in the house there was still 20 watts of electricity being used showing on the meter.

With secret agent hats on we went into every room in the house to look for the energy vampire. We couldn’t find anything. We checked the woodshed and garage and still there was nothing. Not a charger or small-powered appliance to be found.

In the end we discovered that the light in the shower room, even though the light bulb was no longer working, was pulling 20 watts of power for the transformer when left in the ‘on’ position. How about that?!

The bulb was an LED bulb which meant the transformer was using more power than the bulb itself!

For this challenge I won’t be turning an extra light off in the house. We keep things to a bare minimum and the downstairs lights are LEDs running from solar panels. To turn off a low powered light at night time would be too stressful for Little Miss green. We will, however, be replacing the shower room light fixture to one that doesn’t have a transformer in it and will be keeping an eye on any lights that are left on unecessarily – one in particular is my office desk light; it’s not unusual for me to walk out of the room and leave it on.

And while we’re on the subject of lighting, I know many people are told as a first, simple step into ‘going green’ that changing incandescent bulbs for CFLs is the way to go. I do not agree with this at all and see CFLs an elastoplast on a wound that needs stitching.

I’m concerned about the levels of mercury in CFLs – not just the odd bulb here or there, but the collective impact of all those bulbs that will eventually end up landfilled. Yes we’re supposed to recycle them, but many people won’t and once they are crushed and releasing mercury into the air, water and land, then what?

If you want to take a first step into ‘going green’ then I would urge you to swap an incandescent for an LED bulb. They cost more to buy but are much cheaper and safer in the long run. Chances are an LED bulb will still be going once your lights have gone out πŸ˜‰

Is there a light in your home you could safely turn off to reduce your carbon footprint?


  1. SherryGreens on March 10, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    That is unbelievable that the transformer was pulling more energy that the light uses itself! Good thing to keep in mind regarding lights that burn out. LEDs are just hitting the market where I live, but are about $30 per bulb. Incandescents are about $0.50 and CFLs about $3. I noticed that some stores barely carry incandescent’s anymore. One Canadian province (BC) will be banning incandescents soon, and that has people worried about he CFLs. I am not sure what the answer is, I just hope that the LEDs come down in price soon so that everyone will switch over! As for turning off lights, I have a four light rule in our house. Four people – max four lights!

  2. Jennifer on March 11, 2011 at 5:50 am

    Um…I have a confession. I never swapped out all my incandescents for CFLs. I thought it made sense to use up the incandescents I had, and to be honest, the flicker, buzz, and cold color of some of the CFLs I’ve tried do not appeal. Like you, I’m also concerned about the mercury. Unlike you, I have thus far been too cheap to try an LED bulb. I’ll put it on the list of things to do by the end of this year.

    I love lamps, but I don’t use all of them all the time. I can easily take the light bulb out of the one on the dresser.

  3. Small Footprints on March 11, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    What an amazing “find” … I didn’t know about the transformer thing either. Now imagine if all fixtures throughout a house have the transformers and are drawing energy even when the light is off (or burnt out). That’s a lot of energy. Great information, Mrs. Green.

    I’m so glad that LEDs are becoming more home-friendly. And I fully suspect that it won’t be long before the price is pocketbook-friendly as well.

    We’re like you … we’ve unscrewed almost all of our light bulbs. The ones remaining are necessary. The biggest “savings” is in our bathrooms … there are a bunch of vanity lights over the mirror and who really needs that much light. So we’ve twisted off most of them.

  4. Mrs Green on March 12, 2011 at 8:17 am

    @SherryGreens: Love your ‘light rule’ that makes a LOT of sense and I’m going to steal that idea πŸ˜‰ I know what you mean about LEDs, the cost makes them prohibitive (I was lucky, Mr Green made ours πŸ˜‰ ) so I hope the price drops soon to give people a choice to avoid CFLs.

    @Jennifer: I agree about CFLs, I couldn’t stand them; they used to give me headaches. I think it’s great that you are continuing to use incandescents as I don’t like the idea of people just replacing them when they are perfectly good.

    @Small Footprints: The vanity lights is a good one to point out. We’re thinking of converting an upstairs room and I have to admit I long for a sparkly row of vanity lights – but maybe only if they are LEDs, right?! πŸ˜‰