Massive discounts on CFL bulbs if you know where to look

Compact Fluorescent Lights promise to save us dozens of dollars on our electricity bills each year, but there has always been one problem; CFL bulbs are much more expensive than regular incandescent lights. For example, a single, 100W equivalent CFL can cost over seven dollars! So where should you go if you want to find massive discounts on CFLs? The answer may surprise you. Check out your local electricity company’s webpage, and look for rebate programs for energy efficient devices. Many electric companies, such as PG&E have massive rebate programs for CFLs, and provide you with a list of stores which participate in their rebate program. The best thing about these programs is that you don’t have to handle coupons or anything like that yourself because it’s all taken care of. For example, yesterday, I managed to buy a 23W (100W equivalent) bulb from Lowes for a dollar and fifty cents, which is a massive discount! Sometimes it is necessary to invest and spend money in order to save money in the long run, but if you live in an area with energy efficient rebate programs, you can start saving money immediately without worrying how long it’s going to be until your investment pays off. For my particular situation, I fully expect the $1.50 investment to pay itself off in just 21 days.

For more tips on how to conserve electricity, check out my saving electricity category

For more tips on how to save money in general, check out my saving money category


Posted under Saving Electricity, Saving Money

This post was written by admin on October 18, 2008

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Companies turn out the lights to save money

In times of great difficulty, even the largest companies have started bizarre and desperate measures to save every last penny. Often, the easiest and quickest way for a company to improve its bottom line is to reduce operating expenditures. Currently, in offices all over America, companies have decided to literally turn the lights down in order to save money in electricity.

Imagine you work at a company where most people work in cubicles and lighting is provided by overhead fluorescent lights. Many companies have actually turned off half of these fluorescent lights. The companies are able to save exactly 50% of the lighting costs, but this also makes the offices about 50% darker. While this dramatically increases eyestrain, the only thing large companies care about is money. The only reason companies exist is to make money, and if that means the employees suffer eyestrain all day long, that’s acceptable.

So why can’t companies simply make the lights only slightly dimmer, say 90% as bright? The answer is actually technical. Basically, fluorescent light bulbs and especially CFL lights are designed to work at specific voltages, namely 120 VAC. If you install an ordinary incandescent light dimmer switch, this can lead to buzzing, and eventual early failure of fluorescent lights. The reason companies choose to simply turn off 50% of the lights is because most offices and even classrooms in America are already wired up for alternating lights to be controlled by one switch, and the remaining lights to be controlled with another switch.

How much money are companies saving? Well, suppose you have an office with 10 rows of fluorescent lights and each row has 10 tubes. Suppose the lights are on for 12 hours a day, and each fluorescent tube consumes 40 watts of power. Finally, suppose you pay 10 cents per kWh.

10*10*40/1000 KWatts * 12 hours  / day *.10 cents  = 4.8 dollars per day

As you can see, for multi-million dollar companies, this isn’t very much money. Yet, these companies still choose to save every last penny, even if it’s at the expense of their workers.

Posted under Saving Electricity, Saving Money

This post was written by admin on October 7, 2008

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Is the new AMD Radeon HD 4550 worth the money?

Recently, AMD unveiled its low end graphics card, the Radeon HD 4550. For fifty dollars, this card sure seems like a bargain, but is it really worth it? The answer is actually no! Those of you who keep yourselves informed about the graphics card market know that it’s a dynamic world. Currently, the nVidia budget card, the GeForce 9500 GT, outperforms the Radeon card in virtually every performance benchmark. Best of all, if you look on, you can buy a GeForce 9500 GT from PNY for only 50 dollars. This is after a 20 dollar rebate, of course, but does that really matter? The fact of the matter is that the GeForce 9500 GT has much better performance and power consumption characteristics than the Radeon HD4550. One thing you should be aware of is that most of the GeForce cards have a fan, while the Radeon HD4550 is passively cooled. If this is a problem for you, there are still some GeForce 9500 GT cards which are passively cooled. These cards usually cost about ten dollars more.

The one thing I’m really trying to drive home to you is that you should always do your research before buying a video card. Right now, the only two respectable graphics card companies are ATI and nVidia. These companies constantly compete with each other, but ultimately, it is up to you to do some homework and figure out which card is currently the best price for the type of card you’re looking for. This can save you a lot of frustration and a lot of money too!


Posted under Saving Money, Technology

This post was written by admin on October 2, 2008

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Can solar radiometers really save you money?

When I was walking into a Home Depot store today, I noticed a peculiar display towards the entrance. The item being displayed was a radiometer. Radiometers are very simple devices enclosed inside a glass sphere. When light is shown into the sphere, the device inside the sphere spins! To give you a better idea of what this device looks like, here is a picture:

Solar Radiometer

Solar Radiometer

Home Depot’s basic argument was that buy placing these spheres in your home they could convert either sunlight or artificial light into kinetic energy (motion) instead of heat, therefore saving you money on your air condition. This claim made me raise my eyebrows a little bit, so I decided to investigate the matter further. I couldn’t find any websites to confirm or debunk Home Depot’s claims, so I decided to write this article.

First things first, radiometers are small, just slightly larger than the size of your palm. It’s very unlikely that something that small will be able to make a significant impact on the temperature inside your home, so you would have to buy a lot of them. More importantly, however, is that the radiometers on display squeaked! They sounded just like a squeaking bicycle wheel, which would be far too annoying to put into your home. So already, I’m going to give my immediate thumbs down radiometers.

Now it’s time to look into the issue of whether or not they can actually save you any real money. We can address this in two parts. The majority of light which comes into your home during daytime hours is through the windows. If you decide to place radiometers on your window sills, they may be able to reflect a small portion of sunlight out of your home. Unfortunately, this is not enough to make a significant difference. At any given time, the reflective area of a radiometer is only a couple square inches at most, whereas light coming into your window is many thousands of square inches! Therefore, a single radiometer is unlikely to absorb more than one tenth of one percent of the total amount of energy coming in through a single window. Therefore, it is impossible that radiometers could ever really save you money by reflecting and absorbing sunlight. If you have too much sunlight coming in through your windows, the best and most common thing people do is have white blinds and close them all the way. This reflects most of the sun’s energy, thus saving you money.

At night, typically the outside air is much cooler, so if you want your apartment or home to be cool, just open your windows. If you don’t have good insect screens, then you can simply open up your blinds. This will let light out of your home, and therefore let head out of your home. Again, the surface area of radiometers is so outrageously tiny that it shouldn’t even be considered as a viable way to reduce your air conditioning bill.

The last thing I wanted to address was the actual cost of the device. The cheapest one I could find on the internet was about 10 dollars, although they go as high as fifty dollars. I view these radiometers as interesting gift ideas to young children, or perhaps to physics teachers for class demonstrations. It’s important to remember that you could have one of these in your home for twenty years, and it still wouldn’t pay itself off because it can’t absorb or reflect very much energy.

In conclusion, keep your eye out for new, money saving technologies, but also be somewhat skeptical. Before going outside and spending your money on a device, the best thing you can do is a little research beforehand to make sure you’re making a wise investment. What really strikes me about this whole experience is that my local Home Depot was attempting to sell them as a viable energy saving device, when in fact, it is impossible for the devices to save any measurable amount of money. I usually put trust in large companies because I know they have many people who evaluate a product before selling it. An important lesson to be learned here is that just because a company is large doesn’t mean it’s always right, and certainly doesn’t mean the company is looking after you. Radiometers are just another expensive gimmick designed to take money out of your wallet.

Posted under Avoiding Scams, Saving Money

This post was written by admin on September 7, 2008

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Solar power is not the answer to your problems!

If you have high electricity bills every month, chances are you’ve thought about installing some sort of solar power solution for your home. There is a lot of buzz about renewable energy sources, but the cold hard truth is that it probably isn’t the best solution to your problems. First of all, a decent sized solar power solution for your home can cost several tens of thousands of dollars. The very notion that anyone would want to spend thirty thousand dollars just to reduce their electricity bill is borderline insane! Many websites are happy to tell you that you can sell your unused energy back to the electric company. In reality, this is only a half-truth. In actuality, whether you can sell your excess electricity or not is governed by your state and even county laws.

For example, if you live in California, you are only allowed to sell your excess electricity to the power company up until a certain point. If you produce more electricity than you use for any given month, all that extra energy is given to the electric company as a gift…and they’ll still charge you five dollars a month to come out and read your meters. That’s right, you read that correctly. It doesn’t matter if you give your power company $200 of excess electricity, you will never see that money. Instead, you’ll just be charged 5 dollars. The point that I’m trying to make here is that you have to carefully research the laws in your state. You can’t just assume you’ll be able to sell power and make money, because in some states like California, that’s impossible due to laws.

Okay, I’ve already established that solar power is expensive, and would probably take many years to pay itself off, if ever. So what is the solution to drive down your energy costs? As it turns out, there are a million things you can do to reduce your electricity consumption. These things include everything from turning down your air conditioner to lowering the temperature of your water heater. Honestly, if you’re paying a fortune every month for electricity, chances are great that you are wasting electricity. If you want to save money the right, and cheap way, it’s best to stop wasting electricity! For more information, please check out my section on how to save electricity.

Posted under Saving Electricity

This post was written by admin on September 1, 2008

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Buy cheap batteries, save some money!

Chances are you’ve seen an Energizer and Duracell battery commercial at least once in your lifetime. If should come as no surprise that those advertisements cost quite a lot of money. For example, a single campaign for Copper-top Duracell batteries cost the company an estimated 100 million dollars. That is for just for one campaign advertising a specific product from a single company! Where do big batteries companies get this kind of cash? The answer is your wallet!

When you are in a store selling various brands of batteries, Duracell and Energizer batteries are almost always more expensive! Now, it may be true that the batteries last slightly longer than the cheaper brands, but this simply isn’t worth the extra cost. For example, a generic Safeway battery may be half the cost of a corresponding Duracell battery, while the Duracell battery may only last 5% longer. To put it quite simply, it’s always worth it to buy the cheapest batteries you can find, simply because you get far more energy for your dollar.

It’s worth mentioning that if you buy batteries in sufficient bulk, the cost of the batteries will be significantly reduced. For example, if you shop at Costco, you can buy a large quantity of batteries for a fairly cheap price. Frankly, I wouldn’t recommend buying a package of 30 or more batteries, even if you apparently saved money. By the time you would ever need to use all the batteries, they would be long-since expired. If you use a large quantity of batteries, the cheapest option for you may be to start using devices which don’t require batteries, or use rechargeable batteries.

Posted under Saving Money, Shopping

This post was written by admin on August 28, 2008

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Save money when running scientific applications

Some scientific problems require so much computation, that they can not be run on any single supercomputer. Instead, these projects rely on people like you and me to download software which runs on your computer. These scientific applications only use your idle CPU cycles, so you typically don’t notice the program running on your computer at all.

These projects include:




And many more

Don’t get me wrong, I love science, discovery, research, and progress. But it’s important for you to understand that these programs will make your computer use more electricity. When processors are idle, they only consume so much electricity. However, when a processor is working at full load, it can consume about 50 watts of additional power. This actually isn’t too disastrous. Let’s assume you turn your computer off when you’re not using it. Now let’s assume that your computer is on for 6 hours a day and you pay the national average for electricity. In this scenario, you will be paying about $9.81 per year just to run the scientific application.

Protein folding simulation

Some of these projects are very important for humanity. For example, Folding@home is using its results you help understand protein folding in order to better understand how to cure diseases and cancer. Pinching every last penny is one thing, but frankly, ten dollars a year is not an unreasonable amount of money to donate for a worthy cause. Everyone who owns a computer and internet connection should be running programs like Folding@home. Unfortunately, some scientific projects are dramatically less important. For example, GIMPS is dedicated to finding very large Mersenne prime numbers. These numbers may be interesting to statisticians, but will never contribute to a worthy cause like curing diseases. You should choose a program which interests you *and* helps humanity.

With that being said, there is one more thing which is worth bringing up. Graphics cards are extremely good at numerical calculations. NVidia has released something called CUDA, which transforms its graphics cards into number crunchers. In fact, using special software, a single nVidia graphics card can be well over 100 times faster than a CPU. So why am I mentioning this? Well, if you have an 8-series nVidia graphics card, you can download a CUDA-enabled client for Folding@home, and all the scientific calculations will be run on your graphics card!

A typical midstream GeForce 8 series card

A typical midstream GeForce 8 series card

Like the CPU, it will still cost you more electricity when you run scientific software on your graphics card, but the performance per watt can be over 100 times better than your CPU! This means that if you spend 10 dollars a year for electricity and run the program on your graphics card, the amount of work you contribute to the project can be well over 100 times greater!

Okay, so you don’t want to cough up 10 dollars a year in donations, I can understand that. If you have a recent nVidia graphics card, you can run Folding@home on your graphics card for just three days a year, and still produce as much work as someone would produce by running for an entire year on a CPU. If you run the program for 3 days a year, you can expect to spend a measly 8 pennies a year, which is nothing.

In conclusion, if you want to save money while contributing to humanity, one of the best things you can do is run Folding@home on an 8-series or higher nVidia graphics card, even if it’s just for a couple days a year.

Click here for more information about the CUDA Folding@home client application.

Posted under Saving Electricity

This post was written by admin on August 14, 2008

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Turn your water heater off, save tons of money

If you have a water heater in your apartment or home, chances are great that you are spending hundreds each year just for hot water. Whether you use electric or gas heaters, the cost to you can be very high. Fortunately, there are a couple simple steps that may be taken to reduce your energy bills.

First and foremost, turn down the temperature of the water! Virtually all modern water heaters have an adjustable thermostat which regulates the temperature of the water. If you turn the water down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, this will usually provide you with adequate hot water, and could save you save you some serious money. If you notice that the hot water is burning you in the shower, this is yet another reason to turn the temperature down.

Most of us don’t take showers when we’re asleep. Before you go to bed, turn the thermostat all the way down, or completely off, if your heater has that option. Unfortunately, if you shower in the morning, you may find yourself without hot water if you follow this tip. If you normally take a shower before you go to bed, then this tip can save you plenty of money. Remember that if you have a large tank water heater, it may take an hour or two to get back to normal temperatures, so be sure to think ahead.

If you have a large family, or use lots of hot water for some other reason, you may want to consider buying a tankless water heating system. These systems, as the name might suggest, don’t use tanks to store hot water. Instead, these devices are only active when water is flowing through them. So in other words, these systems give you instant hot water when you need it, and completely turn off when you aren’t using any hot water. Both electric and gas tankless water heating systems exist, but can be quite expensive to purchase and install. Over time, these tanks will save you money, but the upfront cost is still quite expensive, usually being in the hundreds of dollars.

If you own your own home and live in a sunny area, you may want to consider solar heating solutions. These are not solar electric panels, but rather solar thermal panels. These types of panels are much easier to fabricate, and thus, fairly cheap. Depending on where you live, solar heating solutions can pay for themselves fairly quickly. Believe it or not, but you don’t have to pay anyone to use the sun’s power! These systems are usually coupled with either gas or electric heating elements for night time use, and for cloudy days. Still, this is a very cost effective way to reduce your bills. Be sure to check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s website for more information.

More tips to save electricity

Even more tips to save gas

Posted under Saving Electricity, Saving Gas, Saving Money

This post was written by admin on August 13, 2008

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Fluorescent light bulbs can save you money

You’ve probably seen fluorescent light bulbs for sale once in a while, but the real question is whether or not they can really save you money. Well…yes! Buying and using compact fluorescent light bulbs can actually save you a significant amount of money.

Normal light bulbs use electricity and a resistive filament to create light. Unfortunately, the vast majority of electrical energy used in a standard light bulb is converted to heat, not light. While this might not be such a bad thing during the winter months, it can be terrible during the summer. Not only does your light bulb heat up your home even more, you may have to spend even more electricity with your air condition to remove all the excess heat.

Fortunately, affordable, compact fluorescent light bulbs have finally arrived on the market place. These light bulbs work in a completely different way, and as a direct result, are much more energy efficient. Typically, a 20 watt fluorescent light bulb gives the same amount of light as a 75 watt incandescent light bulb. Interestingly enough, a 23 watt fluorescent light bulb gives the same amount of light as a 100 watt incandescent light bulb!

Assuming you use a light bulb for 6 hours a day and you pay the national average of .0896 dollars per kilowatt-hour, you could save $10.79 per year per 75 watt light bulb replaced. You could save $15.11 per year per 100 watt light bulb replaced. Depending on how many light bulbs you use for extended periods of time every day, you could save tons of money simply by switching over to fluorescent light bulbs!

One more thing to consider is that compact fluorescent bulbs last up to 10 times longer than standard light bulbs. You may notice that they’re more expensive at the stores, but because they use so much less electricity and last so much longer, they’re bound to save you money.

Still think fluorescent light bulbs are too expensive? Believe it or not, there are some electric companies which encourage people to use less electricity. Some of these companies have rebate programs where they actually pay for most of the fluorescent bulbs! For example, if you live in California, you can check out PG&E’s rebate website. This website will actually tell you which stores in your local area participate in the rebate program. You don’t have to have any coupons or anything. Simply go to the stores which participates in your electric company’s rebate program, and you can buy a fluorescent bulb at a dramatically reduced price. One local store is even offering coupons where you get 5 fluorescent bulbs for a dollar, after any $30 purchase, so keep an eye out for special deals in your area.

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that the light from fluorescent bulbs is a little different in color than most light bulbs. Some people tend to be bothered by fluorescent bulbs. So before you go replacing too many lights, make sure you are comfortable with the type of light given off by fluorescent lighting.

For other ways to save money on your electricity bill, be sure to visit my other pages on how to save electricity!

Posted under Saving Electricity

This post was written by admin on August 11, 2008

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Your TV may cost you more than you think!

It is common knowledge that when electronic devices are off, they consume little to no electricity. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Depending on your particular television, it may be consuming anywhere from half a watt to 76.11 watts! It is unbelievable to think that in this day and age, a product would be designed and sold to use so much electricity when it’s ‘off.’

Already, CNET has posted a list of large, high-definition televisions along with their power consumption when on, and when on standby. You can check out the list here. If your television isn’t on the list, it’s worthwhile to try to look up the standby power consumption of your television online.

The absolute best way to save electricity is to disconnect your television from the power grid, even when it’s off. If your television consumes 10 or more watts of power when on standby, you can save some real money simply by disconnecting it when it is not in use. Of course, make sure the television is off before unplugging it.

Let’s do a little experiment to see how much your TV could potentially be costing you. Suppose your television consumes 30 watts of power when on standby, and you use the television 5 hours a day. Next, assume you pay the national average of 8.96 cents per kilowatt-hour.

$ 0.0896 / kWh * 30 W * (1 kW/1000 W) * (24 – 5) h/day * 365 days/year = $18.64 / year

As you can see from the example scenario, leaving your television plugged in when it’s off can cost you almost twenty dollars a year! Now, most televisions are designed to consume next to no power when off, but it’s worth it to double check and make sure you have a power efficient television. If it turns out that your TV consumes a significant amount of power when off, the simplest way to remedy the situation is simply use a power strip. If you use a power strip, you can disconnect your television and any other related equipment with the flick of a switch. Best of all, power strips are readily available and cheap.

Here’s a short list of the worst offenders:

  • Sharp LC-37D90U 40.04 Watts
  • Sharp LC-65D90U 76.11 Watts
  • Westinghouse LTV-32w3 33.76 Watts
  • Pioneer PDP 5060HD 25.12 Watts
  • Pioneer PDP-5080HD 22.95 Watts
  • Mitsubish-62628 50.88 Watts
  • Mitsubishi WD-65833 19.35 Watts

For more televisions, check out this list.

For more ways to save electricity, be sure to have a look at this page.

Posted under Saving Electricity, Saving Money

This post was written by admin on August 10, 2008

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