I received a bunch of free CFL and LED bulbs from MassSave as a blogger. I was very clear that I was going to say what I wanted, not necessarily nice things. I held up my end of the bargain, as you’ll see below.
MassSave is a great program which offers “free” energy audits to MA residents and
commercial property owners. Non-profit entities are not eligible for most services. (“Free” is in quotes because the funding comes from all of our energy bills, so we have, in fact, paid for the service. That’s fine and good in my book.)
If you haven’t had a free audit, go sign up for one, now. Go, I’ll wait. Done? Good. (If your last audit was four years ago, do it again. They’ve improved dramatically.)
They’ll look at your home, hopefully use a blower door (as HEET does) to find leaks and measure how much energy you’re losing, and tell you what you can do to save energy through air sealing, insulation, water and electricity conservation. They’ll do some amount of work for free, provide significant rebates for other work, and give you free energy saving light bulbs.
Good people – replace your bulbs. If you can do it for free, even better. Do NOT wait until your incandescent bulbs blow, this just wastes money. Throw away the old incandescent bulbs.
You probably already know that according to Consumer Reports and a gazillion other sources “It usually takes less than a year to recoup the cost of most CFLs….” It takes even less time to recoup the cost if they’re free.
Or, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, “About 10 percent of the energy your home uses going to lighting costs. Replacing 15 traditional [incandescent] light bulbs with energy-saving bulbs will save you $50 a year and more than $600 in energy costs over the life of the bulb.” Imagine if those 15 bulbs came to you free from a Mass Save audit. (You signed up above already, right?)
The bulbs provided during the audit (assuming they match what I was given) are good,
some are even great. My favorites were, no surprise, the LEDs. In particular the Greenlite 8 watt dimmable LED has stood out as I’ve played with these over the past few months. I’ve used it in recessed cans, desk lights, etc. and the light it produces is great.
The most frequent complaint about CFL and LED bulbs is that the light they provide is ugly. Accustomed to cheap incandescent bulbs, people buy the least expensive CFL they can find, discover it gives terrible light in their kitchen, and swear them all off entirely. That is also in part because they didn’t use the correct color bulb for the lighting situation.
First off, all the CFL bulbs MassSave sent me were Energy Star rated. Why is that important? In order to gain the Energy Star label they have to meet strict quality standards. (LED bulbs do not have Energy Star ratings yet.)
If a CFL bulb isn’t Energy Star rated, then even though they might be in the color range of incandescent bulbs (around 2700 Kelvin), their Color Rendering Index may or may not be terrible. They might last a long time, or they might fizzle quickly. They may get bright right away or they might take five minutes to warm up. Without the Energy Star label you just don’t know.
About the bulbs
Some of the bulbs they sent me are not great, but most were fine to excellent.
The bulbs MassSave sent me all fall in the 2700K range (“warm” bulbs), a color appropriate for a bathroom vanity or dining table fixture. Use that same CFL or 2700K incandescent on your work bench and you’re likely to find it annoying. That’s not the fault of the bulb, that’s because it’s the wrong bulb for the job.
Remember, the higher the Kelvin rating, the “cooler” the color. Get a 5000K bulb for your living room and watch your walls turn blue, if that’s what you like. I don’t, but I do like high K bulbs in my work areas, including my kitchen counter.
So have MassSave do an audit of your home, get your free bulbs, but make sure all the CFLs are Energy Star rated. In a few days, if you decide some are too yellow or too dim for that specific location, use the money you’re about to save on your energy bill from the bulbs they did give you to buy bulbs with the correct color temperature, preferably an LED.