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Rudi Kiefer: During dark December days, find ways to save on electricity
Rudi Kiefer
Short days and long nights make this the darkest week of the year, requiring more electric lighting than at other times. To keep costs under control, saving electricity is possible. But it’s easy to waste money on flimflam that only lightens the wallet, not the electric bill.

It’s amusing to watch an online video about an “amazing, just invented” device that generates electricity and powers itself. Using the “spinning principle” (a term previously unknown to me in physical science), this device would provide possibilities “electric companies don’t want you to know about”. I haven’t spent the 49 bucks to find out what new physical laws are being revealed in the booklet that the website sells. The established principles of physics remain true: energy has to come from somewhere. It can’t produce more power by recharging itself.

The easiest way to reduce power bills is by using technology to get the same comfort, or more, with less energy input. Lights are the most visible target. The most wasteful light source still being sold is the incandescent bulb, featuring a tiny wire set aglow by electricity. In utility buildings, we replaced those with 40-watt fluorescent tubes for more light.

Then with 32-watt ones.

But now, there are LED bulbs available that screw into standard E26 sockets. Down came nine double-tube fixtures in my shop, previously drawing a total of 720 watts. The replacement is a set of rails, each carrying three spotlights with 13-watt LED bulbs, for 324 watts of total consumption.

LEDs don’t last as long as manufacturers claim. So it’s important to buy fixtures where the bulbs can be replaced when they quit, instead of the whole unit needing replacement. I’ve found that LED bulbs bought locally last longer than the weird-looking direct-import ones I tried from online auctions.

Upgrading the whole house and shop to LED was a simple way to save on electricity. Doing it one room at a time didn’t strain the budget heavily, and the improvement in lighting is remarkable. Space heaters are a very expensive heat source, because they use the same “hot wire” principle as old-style light bulbs.

In a room where central furnace heat couldn’t be installed, I’ve had excellent results with a PTAC (packaged terminal air conditioner) of the type used in hotel rooms. Modern PTAC heat pumps are energy-efficient and quiet.

Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor at Brenau University, teaching physical and health sciences on Brenau’s Georgia campuses and in China. His column appears Sundays and at