ALBANY - As summer approaches and Southwest Georgia residents begin to look for ways to save on their energy bills, one possible option is screw-in fluorescent light bulbs.

While the technology has been around since the 1980s, compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, are becoming more and more popular with building contractors and average Joes alike because of their energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly attributes.

According to Georgia Power Spokeswoman Konswello Monroe, if the average homeowner were to replace five of his or her traditional incandescent light bulbs with CFLs, that person could save as much as about $60 annually on electric bills, depending on current electric rates.

Light bulbs that can be replaced to save a homeowner a lot on electric bills are in the kitchen, living room tables, floor lamps, bathroom vanity and outdoor fixtures, Monroe said.

The technology hasn’t begun to catch on until recently because the bulbs were so expensive. But now that the bulbs prices have started to fall, Water, Gas & Light Commission Spokeswoman Lorie Farkas said, Southwest Georgia residents are starting to hop on the energy-efficiency train.

"They last seven-10 years, where as a regular light bulb doesn’t last hardly anytime at all anymore," Farkas said. "A 14 watt fluorescent bulb gives off the same lumens (a measurement of light) that a 60 watt bulb gives you."

Farkas pointed out that a person who rents or owns a home saves two ways because of the CFLs. Whereas a traditional 60 watt light bulb produces about 1,000 lumens of light, a CFL uses only about 10-15 watts to produce the same amount.

"You’re saving because of the life of the bulb (and) you’re saving electricity, which is good for America and good for your pocketbook," she said.

But the bulbs not only help homeowners save money, they help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions because manufacturers can produce fewer of the bulbs as a result of their longer lives - they can last up to about 10 years - Farkas said.

Canada announced recently that it would ban the sale and use of traditional incandescent bulbs, which use a filament to produce light, to become a more environmentally-friendly nation, one of the first countries to do so.

Building contractors in Albany are also beginning to use the technology more, but they say that their decision to use the bulbs depend largely on what their customers can afford and want.

"Ask me if I like ’em, oh they’re great. But it depends on the need," said David Grimes, owner of David Grimes Construction. "Just like with so many things, it depends on the situation, it depends on the customer.

"I’m for it, but as far as going totally with fluorescents, I don’t do that. It really boils down to the customers’ needs and wants."

CFL bulbs do not burn as hot as traditional incandescent bulbs because they do not burn a filament inside them to provide light, Home Improvement Sales Specialist Jennifer Patterson said Thursday.

"Those (CFL) bulbs don’t get hot like those (incandescent) bulbs," Patterson said, pointing each of the two out as she spoke. "It (a CFL bulb) does put off more light. They are very popular now."

Gary Kilbourne, an Albany resident in Home Depot Friday, said he is very environmentally-conscious and energy-efficient, having installed weatherproof windows and ordered an insulated door and a storm door.

Kilbourne said he has heard about the CFL bulbs, but hasn’t looked into purchasing them much, but will begin to replace his incandescent bulbs with CFLs as the older bulbs burn out.

IRS Spokesman Mark Green said that the bulbs also qualify under IRS regulations as tax write-offs. Up to 10 percent of the cost of the bulbs can be written off for tax purposes, with a limit of $500, he said.

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