Lighting & Energy Efficiency Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Where can I find energy-efficient holiday lights?

What is the easiest way to reduce energy costs in the worklace?

How do I choose the right compact fluorescent lamp?

Do CFLs provide the same quality of light as incandescent bulbs?

What are the pros and cons of using CFLs?

Should I be concerned about mercury in fluorescent lamps?

What should I do if I break a fluorescent lamp in my house?

How can I calculate the potential savings associated with fluorescent lighting?

Where can I find energy-efficient holiday lights?

LEDs (light emitting diodes) offer many benefits over traditional holiday string lights, including energy savings, longer life, and less heat generated. This makes them a safe, cost-effective alternative. These little lights are very similar in appearance to regular strings of lights but use much less energy and last much longer, providing many seasons of light instead of just one or two. And LEDs use about 3 watts per 100 bulbs compared to traditional mini-lights that use 45 watts per 100 bulbs and standard large bulbs that can use between 240 and 1000 watts per 100 lights.

One string of 100 conventional mini-lights consumes about 50 watts of power, while the same length of LED lights uses only a few watts, saving about 80-90% in electricity. Each LED string can save several dollars per month, depending on how long the lights are left on, which can be significant here in Alaska with our long stretches of darkness.

If five strings of lights are used eight hours a day, LED lights will save more than $5 every month.* And this is just the electricity savings. Add replacement costs and the savings are even better. Assuming that the typical conventional string of lights is replaced every two years, and LED light strings will last at least 5 years (LED light strings are rated for up to 100,000 to 200,000 hours of use, or between 10 and 20 years), five lights strings will save $150 over five seasons.*

Other benefits of LED holiday lights include:
- Made with unbreakable, flameproof epoxy plastic,
- Contains no filament that can burn out or break,
- Much cooler than conventional bulbs, making them safer to use indoors and out,
- Can be used anywhere conventional light strings are used, and
- Available in many colors including red, yellow, green, white, and blue.

LED holiday lights are available in Anchorage at the following retail outlets:


  • ACE Hardware
  • Costco
  • Fred Meyer
  • Lowe's
  • The Home Depot
  • True Value Hardware

What is the easiest way to reduce energy costs in the workplace?

Check your overhead fluorescent lighting to see if it's the most efficient. If you have T-12 lamps (the fat ones), replacing them with T-8 lamps can save up to 40% in energy.

How do I choose the right compact fluorescent lamp?

To choose the right size compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) as a replacement for your incandescent bulbs, simply compare the CFL's measurements to the widest portion and the complete height (including the base or pin) of your existing bulb. Pay special attention to the measurement of the narrowest portion of your existing fixture, such as the narrow portion of the harp in a table lamp.

To select the right lamp for your application, replace your used incandescent bulb with a CFL of equivalent wattage. The table below shows that in general a 3.5:1 ratio of incandescent to compact fluorescent wattage provides about the same light. CFL manufacturers generally indicate this information on the packaging with wording such as "Equivalent to a 60-watt bulb."

Incandescent Bulb Wattage 25W 40W 60W 75W 90W 100W 150W
Fluorescent Lamp Wattage 7-9W 11W 15-16W 20W 23W 26-28W 38-42W


Do CFLs provide the same quality of light as incandescent bulbs?

People are often concerned about the light quality from CFLs. There are several ways to ensure that you are happy with your new lights. First, check the lumen rating of the bulb; the higher the lumen rating, the greater the light output. Then check the bulb's kelvin (K) rating. Bulbs with a lower K rating (2,700 - 3,000K) give off a soft, warm light, similar to an incandescent, and are suitable for living rooms, bedrooms etc. Bulbs with a higher K rating (3,500 - 6,500K) give off a cooler, white or bluish-white light that may be identified as "bright white" or "daylight." You may want to choose this type of bulb for task lighting. And remember that CFLs can take from 30 seconds to three minutes to reach their full lighting potential after you turn the lamp on.

What are the pros and cons of using CFLs?

Pros -- Each CFL uses about 70-75% fewer watts than an incandescent bulb to produce the same amount of light (lumens). CFLs also last much longer (10,000 hours vs. 1,000 hours), reducing purchasing costs and labor involved in constant lamp replacement throughout the office. CFLs come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and wattages, fitting in most fixtures, including small candelabra styles. Several varieties are now available that work with three-way switches and dimmers.

Cons -- CFLs do have a few limitations. They don't perform well at cold temperatures, making them more difficult in outdoor fixtures in winter. The warm-up time is increased so that they don't give off their full light for up to 10 minutes, depending on the temperatures. If they are used in a fixture that vibrates, such as a ceiling fan, that may shorten their life. You'll also need to buy specially marked CFLs if you plan to use them outdoors, in closed fixtures, or with dimmer switches.

Should I be concerned about mercury in fluorescent lamps?

Mercury is an essential component of CFLs and other fluorescent lamps, allowing them to operate efficiently. However, here are some key facts about mercury use in fluorescent lamps. CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury, about five milligrams, sealed within the glass tubing. No mercury is released when the bulb is intact or in use. The power produced by burning coal to light an incandescent bulb releases more mercury into the environment than the power produced to light a CFL. Therefore, CFLs are more environmentally friendly even if they are discarded improperly. To gain the greatest environmental advantage from CFLs, they should be recycled.

What should I do if I break a fluorescent lamp in my house?

Before cleanup: Vent the room

· Have people and pets leave the room and don’t let anyone walk through the
breakage area on their way out.

· Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.

· Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.

Cleanup steps for hard surfaces

· Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and
place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed
plastic bag.

· Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments
and powder.

· Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place
them in the glass jar or plastic bag.

· Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

Cleanup steps for carpeting or rug

· Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.

· Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.

· If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.

· Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.

Disposal of cleanup materials

· Immediately place all cleanup materials outside the building in a trash container or outdoor protected area for the next normal trash.

· Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing cleanup materials.

· Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states prohibit such trash disposal and require that broken and unbroken lamps be taken to a recycling center.

Future cleaning of carpeting or rug

· For at least the next few times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window prior to vacuuming.

· Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


How can I calculate the potential savings associated with fluorescent lighting?

The following information will help you to calculate your energy-savings potential by replacing older fluorescent lighting with new, more efficient lamps.  It will assist you in completing Green Star's Lighting Energy Efficiency Calculator so you do not have to calculate yourself. On the Calculator form, you'll be asked to identify how many of the following types of lighting you have in your workplace. You can choose just one or choose to count more than one type.

Tell me more about identifying:

T-12 Fluorescent Lamps
Incandescent Bulbs
Incandescent Exit Signs
"On" Time
Feedback from Calculator


This is an example of a fixture. Count these and determine how many lamps (tubes) are in each fixture!
These are fluorescent lamps or tubes in the fixture. Look for the numbers to identify the type of your lamps. After the large 900, on this sample lamp, you will see F75T12. This means it is a fluorescent T-12 lamp, using 75 watts (an 8-foot long lamp, in this case).
T-12 Fluorescent Lamps --> replace with T-8 Flourescent Lamps

T-12 lamps are the standard fat 4-foot or 8-foot tubes in most ceiling fixtures. They are 1 1/2" wide (about golf ball size in diameter). T-8 lamps are slimmer, at 1” (more like ping pong ball size in diameter). On one end of the lamp, you will find numbers printed on the glass that begin with “F” -- look for T12 or T8 in that string of numbers to determine which lamp you have. If you can't reach the lamps in the fixtures, look for extra lamps stored in a utility closet or contact your maintenance staff.

Step 1. For this calculation, first identify the type of lamp in your fixtures. If you have T-12 lamps, continue to Step 2. If you have T-8 lamps, congratulations, you already have energy-efficient lighting.

Step 2. Identify the type of fixtures you have -- generally, you will find 2-lamp fixtures and 4-lamp fixtures. If you have U-shaped fixtures, count each U-shaped tube as one lamp (usually 2-lamp fixtures).

Step 3. Input the number of fixtures in your workplace of each type on the pledge form. E.g., you may have 10 fixtures with 4-lamps and 6 fixtures with 2 lamps. The calculator will use an average of a 40-watt lamp for the T-12 lamp. For the T-8 replacement, the calculator uses 3 tubes for every 4 T-12 tubes per fixture and a 32-watt lamp (T-8 lamps give off more light per watt so fewer lamps are needed).


This is a standard incandescent bulb.
  Incandescent bulbs also can look like this.
A typical compact fluorescent lamp (CFL). Look for dimmable, 3-way switch compatible and others. Another style of CFL. Globe, candelabra, spotlight, and typical light bulb shapes are all available.
Incandescent Bulbs --> replace with Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)

These are the typical “light bulb” shaped bulbs. They are found in task lamps on desks, in standing floor torchieres, in recessed ceiling fixtures or in hanging fixtures. For this calculation, the calculator uses an average 75-watt bulb. The replacement is a 20-watt compact fluorescent lamp (CFL). CFLs come in a variety of sizes and styles to fit almost any fixture or design preference.

Incandescent Exit Signs --> replace with LED Exit Signs

Since you may not be able to see the bulbs in most exit signs, one of the easiest ways to determine if they are incandescent is to put your hand on the sign to see how warm it is. A very hot sign will be incandescent. Both fluorescent and LED (light emitting diode) signs will be closer to room temperature, with LED signs being the coolest to the touch. An LED sign also may be identified by the tiny individual LED lights within the lettering, which might be visible. However, some LED signs have the same facing as other types of signs, with no visible LEDs. For this calculation, the calculator uses an average sign wattage of 30 watts. The replacement LED sign uses only 4 watts per sign.

Hours “On”

For this field, estimate how long per day this type of office light is on and multiply by the number of days per week the office or facility is open. If you have similar lights in different areas that operate on different schedules, include your best guess of a representative or weighted average.


All of the calculations generated through L.E.E.P. are rough estimates based on average lighting types and energy costs. Your actual savings will vary based the actual wattage of all lamps changed, the actual “on” time for each fixture, your utility costs, and the initial cost of making the changes. A payback period of just a few years is typical for most businesses.