“Four Light Bulbs”

p099dThe myths continue: ignorants like to snicker behind the backs of EV owners with ‘wait until they see their electric bill.’  Three people, Tom, Peder, and Jim, have calculated their driving equivalent: Four light bulbs.  Just four.

Take a typical driving distance per year- maybe 10-15,000 miles.  Divide that by vehicle efficiency: 3-4 miles per kilowatt-hour of electricity for most EVs.  (The BMW MiniE closer to 3, the Nissan Leaf maybe closer to 4, depending on driving habits and local conditions.)  Now, convert that to 100W incandescent bulbs, running all year (8,766 hours): four bulbs.  Not a bill-buster by any definition.  You can conserve that much easily, and thus travel “free.”  Energy not needed in the first place is termed “nega-watts.”

p102dThe easiest way is simply raising the thermostat a degree or two in the summer- no household bulb comes close to an AC unit.  But if we’re measuring in bulbs, let’s tackle it that way: how much would equal my Zero motorcycle in nega-watts?  I’ll ask Philips and Sylvania first.  They, like GE and others, offer incandescent-replacement bulbs that cut power by 28%.  Basically, they’re halogens built into  incandescents.  Not only do halogens use less energy to yield the same light, but they last longer, and some like the cleaner halogen color, too.

Of course, bulb power isn’t cut to nothing… but neither does my motorcycle get 3-4 miles per kWh.  It’s easily double an equivalent car’s “mileage,” nearing triple in some situations.  Nor do I ride 10-15,000 miles per year; I bought a motorcycle because a motorcycle works for my usage.  Let’s say I ride 6,000 mi this year- that’s over 16 miles a day, every day.  It’s my daily commute plus errands, but not accounting for winter, nor trips either.  Sounds fair.  At, oh, 7 miles/kWh (conservatively), that means… one 100W bulb.  One measly bulb.  Since each incandescent-like bulb cuts power by over a quarter, I’d need to install almost four to reach one bulb’s nega-wattage.  But these are 60W-replacements (43 actual Watts), not 100W.  So I’d need six of them to reach 100 nega-watts.  Well lookie, these are a two-pack and a four-pack!

The two Sylvanias ran me $4, while the four Philips were $6.  Yup, ten dollars on the table would (nominally) wipe out any energy deficit from riding electric.  The new bulbs should also last longer, too- the halogen gas inside slows the burnout of the tungsten filament.  So they save total lifecycle costs in the form of embodied energy, in addition to operating cost/energy.

Oh, and these are halogens, not CFLs or LEDs.  If I had gone with those, the upfront cost would be higher, but the dollar and energy savings (both operating and lifecycle) would be higher still.  However, there are legitimate places where you’d still want the halogen, and not a CFL or LED.  Stairways, closets, bathrooms, etc. don’t run continuously, and thus need long payback times to justify the higher upfront cost.  Also, CFLs in particular don’t like to be cycled on and off.  These six will go into my closets and stairs first; I’ll continue tackling the longer-running places with other, more-appropriate approaches.

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9 thoughts on ““Four Light Bulbs”

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