Easy to be Green? Humvee Driving Suburbanites?


A recent Newsweek article offers up 10 “easy” tips towards green living for the new year. The idea of the article is that if everyone does their part with small things everyday, a big difference will be made in our net resource consumption.

In other words, instead of lambasting Humvee driving suburbanites, we can all just switch our incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent ones (ok, ok maybe a little lambasting too) and turn the lights out when we leave the room.

Turn the fluorescent lights off when you leave the room? I recall hearing somewhere that it actually can use more resources to turn fluorescent lights off and on frequently. After doing some research it seems that no one can really agree, but I think I have found a workable solution…

According to Barry Kamrass, an electrical engineer:

You have to look at it in two parts:
a: the cost of the electricity alone
b: the overall life cycle cost of the light that you’re paying for.

a: There’s no question that turning the lights off immediately after leaving the room saves electricity. How many $ that saves depends on how much you’re paying for electricity. But that’s not the whole picture.

b. When you cycle a fluorescent light on/off, you shorten the life of the bulb, starter, ballast. These cost money to replace, lost productivity while the fixture has failed, and labor costs to replace the bad parts. The numbers I’ve read vary, but it seems that if you’re only going to leave the light off for anywhere from 30–90 minutes, depending on who you listen to, you’re better off in total life cycle cost if you leave the light on.

But according to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and Researchers at the U.S. Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory:

…Much has changed during the past half century in the world of lighting. Technology advancements and increased electricity cost have prompted the lighting industry to rethink the conventional wisdom of fluorescent lighting system’s operation…

…Navy engineers assert that turning the lamps off for only one second saves the energy required to turn them back on…

…In short, you should turn off lights in your office or a room in your home when you leave, even if you leave for only a few minutes.

Apparently its not so easy to be green. Maybe I’ll just go live in a wigwam down by the river and never turn another light on again, only occasionally venturing out of my wigwam to lambaste Humvee driving soccer moms.

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