You can stop turning off the lights to save money.

Obsessively turning off the lights in the house to save money is a habit of most of us, but it turns out that this is not really the way to save money as we think. That’s why you can stop.

It saves money, but LEDs are hardly worth it.

Let’s be clear right away: if you turn off a device that uses electricity in your home, no matter how big or small it is, you will certainly save money. Whether it’s a giant power-hungry gaming PC or a tiny bathroom night light, if it doesn’t use electricity, then naturally you don’t pay for that electricity.

However, when it comes to serious energy savings, LEDs have completely changed the situation. The efficiency of LED lighting compared to traditional incandescent bulbs is staggering.

It used to make sense to turn off the lights when leaving a room. Our parents were ready to tell us to turn off the lights and take a breath when we didn’t. The combined wattage of all the incandescent bulbs in a large room could easily exceed the power of a desktop computer under load, and that was penalizing your energy bill and your wallet.

However, LED lamps consume only a small part of the energy of traditional incandescent lamps. In fact, such a small fraction that – depending on the bulbs in question – you can power half a dozen to a dozen LED bulbs with the power needed by the incandescent bulb you’re replacing.

(Lack of) savings in numbers

It helps to look at some actual concrete numbers to put it all in perspective. Let’s say for example that there are ten light bulbs on the ground floor of your house that you would like to leave on – for safety, you just like warm lighting in the evening or for some other reason. And let’s say you leave them on for 5 hours every night.

Let’s say you have ten traditional 60W incandescent bulbs. They consume a total of 600 watts per hour or 0.6 kWh. You can multiply this by your local utility cost per kWh, but the US average is $0.12 per kWh, so we’ll use that.

Every night, when you leave those ten lights on after work, it costs you $0.36. It’s $10.96 a month and $131.49 a year. It’s not money for early retirement, but it’s certainly a large sum of money that could be spent on something else, like 6-12 months of your favorite streaming service, or your winter heating bill, or many other things.

Now let’s say you have ten 60W LED bulbs that are used under the same conditions – 5 hours a day in the evening after work. Most 60W bulbs use 8 to 9W of power, so we’ll use 8.5W for our calculations.

So, now your energy consumption per hour is not 600 watts, but 85 watts. With an average energy cost in the US, turning on those ten bulbs for 5 hours after work costs you $0.05 per day, $1.55 per month, and only $18.62 per year.

In fact, to even come close to the energy cost of leaving ten incandescent bulbs on in the evening, you need to leave about seventy equivalent LED bulbs on. For many people, this would mean turning on every light in the house, including porch lights, garage lights, and even the attic.

Use your lights without guilt

The point of this exercise is not to encourage you to be wasteful for the sake of being wasteful. Efficient LEDs or not, there is no reason to leave your attic or closet lights on 24/7.

But with the efficiency of LED bulbs, turning off the lights in a room you’ll soon be returning to, or leaving out accent lights throughout your home when you really enjoy the cozy atmosphere they create, just doesn’t make much sense. Don’t worry about wasting too much energy setting up smart lighting so that it won’t be so gloomy in winter or otherwise enjoy the light.

The cost of running an equivalent 60-watt LED lamp is $0.001 per hour – a tenth of a cent. At this price point, you are saying that 1000 hours of work will cost one dollar.

And hey, if you want to enjoy your light without feeling guilty, unplug your rarely used electronics or put them on a power strip that you can turn off when you’re not using them.

While you should leave frequently used items and important things like your internet modem and router plugged in, you’ll save far more energy a year by turning off unused electronics than you’ll be kicking yourself for leaving your kitchen light on.

For example, I used a Kill-a-Watt meter to test standby “phantom” load on all of my smart TVs, and found that individual TVs consumed about 18 watts of standby power. It’s two LED bulbs that work 24/7, except they’re completely wasted because they’re just powering a TV that isn’t even on.

So if you want to take a “no free lunch” approach to your lights, turn off unused electronics and channel that energy into ultra-efficient LED bulbs without guilt.

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