SAN LUIS OBISPO - Compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, cost more at the store, but they'll save energy and money down the line.
Some people question, though, if the bulbs are really worth it. One Central Coast woman made the switch for her household and is now seeing green.
Her name is Barbara Wolcott, and she says, "I've always been interested in the environment."
But it wasn't until a few years ago that the San Luis Obispo resident got her bright idea.
The writer finds herself home, working, most days. Her husband is home during the day, as well. In the wintertime, especially, their electricity usage skyrockets. The household racked up PG&E bills of more than $110 alone.
So Barbara made the decision to change her old incandescent light bulbs to more environmentally-friendly CFLs.
She counts the lamps throughout the house: "I don't think we replaced more than a dozen lights."
And Barbara admits, she was a bit skeptical at first. She's not one to buy into the "green" trends.
The original CFLs were expensive, and they often gave-off a dim, gray-ish hue. The newest versions illuminate a warmer glow, like an old incandescent. Plus the CFLs last about ten times longer.
After nearly two years with the new lights, Barbara says she'll never give them up.
She walks to the vanity mirror in the bathroom, where a handful of CFLs line the rim. She laughs, "These lights, when I first put them in, I thought were a little ugly. Now that I realize how valuable they are, they look to me like a piece of art."
But it's not just the aesthetics of the CFLs that please Barbara so; she saw an immediate savings of $20 a month on the aforementioned PG&E bill.
Wolcott says the immediate difference was stunning: "When I tell people we had saved that much on the CFLs they'd kinda give me this look like 'Yeah yeah I don't know about you' But it was true! And, you know, I wanted to wave my bill at them, I was so pleased about it!"
Another welcomed savings presented itself in the form of an unwelcome surprise: the family refrigerator needed to be replaced, soon after the big CFL swap.
Wolcott shows me the new, Energy Star-certified refrigerator, "We found this refrigerator that said it uses $50 worth of electricity a year, and I really didn't believe that It just didn't seem possible. With the addition of the CFLs and with the refrigerator, we have gone from paying $113 a month, year round, to paying $48 year-round."
If you are not in the market to buy a new large appliance, as Barbara did, simply changing something as small as a few light bulbs around the house can make a big difference.
An Energy Star-qualified CFL uses 75% less energy than an old incandescent bulb. Just one CFL will save about $30 over its singular lifetime, and it will pay for itself in about half a year.