Thousands of New Zealanders know energy efficient light
bulbs reduce electricity bills, cutelectricity consumption and postpone the need for spending on new energy infrastructure.
Independent research undertaken by Consumer NZ in 2008 tested the light output of a range of different bulbs and found quality CFL bulbs provide the same or a higher light output (measured in lumens) than the traditional inefficient bulbs they replace,
However, the RightLight team continued to hear of concerns from Kiwis that energy efficient light bulbs are ugly and do not provide good light.
So we took the testing out of the lab and into the shopping mall to see if New Zealanders really can tell the difference between the light from an energy efficient bulb and the traditional incandescent bulb that most of us have grown up with.
What we did
We built two identical booths to look like miniature lounge rooms - each with a door, wallpaper and an identical light fitting. We labelled these rooms A and B and installed a standard incandescent 60 watt light bulb in one and an equivalent 14 watt spiral CFL bulb in the other. The covers of the light fittings were made of frosted glass so the bulbs could not be seen.
We then placed the two identical rooms, side-by-side into a busy shopping mall in Christchurch. A week later we repeated the experiment in Auckland.
For the test, participants were invited to visit the two rooms and asked if they could correctly identify each bulb.
More than 850 shoppers at Sylvia Park in Auckland and Northlands Mall, Christchurch, took up The RightLight Challenge in July 2010.
Before they did the test, we asked shoppers if they thought they’d be able to tell the difference between the light from the efficient bulb and that from a standard bulb. Over two thirds of shoppers were confident that they would spot which booth was lit with the energy efficient light bulb.
However, after visiting both rooms to compare the light in each, sixty eight per cent either incorrectly identified which room was lit by the efficient bulb or stated they could not spot any difference. Only thirty-two percent guessed correctly!
What’s more, eighteen per cent stated they had no preference for one light over the other. And of the remainder, nearly half (forty-nine per cent) said they preferred the light in the room lit by the energy efficient light bulb.
To protect the integrity of the test, we didn’t tell the participants the answer – it was room A (the left hand door) that was lit by the energy efficient CFL bulb.
We also showed participants a range of energy efficient bulbs that are now available in supermarkets and DIY outlets. These included efficient bulbs suitable to replace halogen downlights, recessed reflector bulbs, decorative candles, outdoor spotlights and standard incandescent light bulbs.
When presented with a sample of nine different energy efficient bulbs available, 88 per cent of people were surprised at the wide range on offer.
The RightLight Challenge clearly demonstrated that the light from a quality energy efficient CFL is indistinguishable from the standard inefficient incandescent bulb it replaces
If you replaced a standard 60 watt bulb in your home with the CFL we used in the test and used it for 3 hours per day, you would save $12.07 per year in energy costs (based on paying 22.97cents/kWh). That’s for just one bulb! And because it will last six times longer than a standard bulb, you’ll save this much every year for nearly six years – a total saving of $66.15 over the life of a single bulb.
We recommend that, like any electronic appliances, you choose a quality CFL and make sure you choose the right bulb for the application. A good quality CFL will last at least 6000 hours – check out the results of the Consumer NZ light bulb test for further details.
Because energy efficient bulbs are now available in a range of shapes, sizes and styles, we can all cut our electricity bills and help the environment without compromising on the look and feel of our homes.