NEW YORK – It's an old kitchen-table debate: Does it cost more to turn the lights off when you walk out of the room than it does to leave them on? The answer is worth considering because many homes today have more — and more varied — electronic gadgets. Wasted electricity can really add up.
It is smart to turn off lights when you're not using them. Incandescent bulbs, the cheapest but least efficient kind, do last longer if they're left on but burn through enough electricity to make it worth flipping the switch. With fluorescents, especially the bulky institutional tubes, you'll save less but turning them off won't cost you anything.
Switch to bulbs with a lower wattage where you can. Halogen bulbs are more efficient than traditional incandescent ones and compact fluorescent bulbs cost 10 to 20 times more but last 10 to 15 times as long and use far less energy.
Many electronic appliances — DVD players, stereos, video-game consoles — draw power even when off. You can cut down on the draining of "idle" energy by hooking your appliances to a power strip and flipping the power switch on the strip when you turn your gizmos off. There are even "smart" power strips that cut the power automatically.
You may be tempted to leave you computer on since most now come with a sleep mode. But even in sleep mode, your computer will use 30% of the energy it uses when active. As with other electrical appliances, you can look for computers that carry the federal government's Energy Star rating, indicating energy efficiency.
Copyright (c) 2006 MarketWatch, Inc.