Winter months and energy savings

Andy Wappler
Ask Andy

Do you know that guy, Tom Bodett? He’s the folksy Motel 6 radio pitchman who says, “We’ll leave the light on for ’ya.” I actually met him once, and he sounds just the same in person as he does on FM. In fact, he speaks in stereo at all times.

As winter approaches, your porch light is working harder than ever, and leaving the light on becomes more and more necessary. In early summer, we see 16 hours of daylight during our longest June days, and a puny eight hours of night. Now we get the flip side, with a scant eight hours of daylight as winter nears, and a whopping 16 hours of night. All of which means that your porch light, post light, and any kind of outdoor light are really putting in some long hours. But there are ways to get your outdoor lights to work smarter, but not harder.

One suggestion is a timer, which is handy when you’re fumbling at the door in pitch blackness for your keys, and when you rush off in the morning and leave the light glowing all day. Some timers even track the sunrise and sunset in our area. But here’s where I think we can do Tom Bodett even one better. Instead of “We’ll leave the light on for ’ya,” I suggest that we start saying, “We’ll leave the energy-efficient, compact fluorescent light bulb on for ’ya.”

It’s a bit wordy. But, if you are leaving the light on for a weary traveler, anything other than an energy efficient choice isn’t doing them much of a favor. It’s like saying, “We’ll leave the light on for ’ya. And we’ll waste a lot of energy and money. Plus, the light will burn out five times as fast.” Not much of a welcome home!

Swapping just five of your most frequently used incandescent bulbs for new, efficient CFLs will save the average homeowner around $60 per year in energy costs — maybe even more if it’s an outdoor light. With our long winter nights, it’s a safe bet that your front door light, driveway lights, garage door lights and back deck lights are probably among the lights that put in the most overtime. What’s more, with those handy PSE rebates, the CFLs are often the cheapest light bulbs that you can buy. At my house, we changed our outdoor lights to CFLs and went from using 425 watts to keep the home fires burning to just 83 watts. How is that for a friendly welcome, Mr. Bodett?

The CFLs last a lot longer, too — something that is a real benefit with outdoor lights. But be sure to use bulbs labeled as being for outdoor use. There is good news, too, on the recycling front, as Bartell Drugs recently joined the growing number of places where CFLs can be safely recycled.

For more on the rebates and CFL recycling locations, go to or call our Energy Advisors at 1-800-562-1482. Stop by anytime, and we’ll keep the energy-efficient light on for ’ya.

Andy Wappler is a senior public relations manager at Puget Sound Energy. He joined PSE in February 2008 after being chief meteorologist at KIRO-TV. He can be contacted at

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