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What does it cost to leave a light bulb on all night?

October 17, 2011

Wonder what it costs to leave a light on all night? How much money is bleeding out of your wallet?

I polled 12 college educated friends. The answers varied widely from $0.10-$5.00/night. The average was $1.17.It’s nice to be educated. The reality is surprising. It costs $.03 to leave a light on all night. Lacking data, best guessers are off by 300%, and most people are unknowingly exaggerating the real cost energy by 3900%. That’s a problem because it causes people to focus their time trying to save money when they’re really saving pennies instead of dollars.

Here is a very easy to use energy calculator for a variety of home appliances. In Benton County, WArates are $.0649 (plug into the calculator).

Interesting data that puts expenses in perspective. How much electricity does it cost to:
Leave a 60W light on all night? $0.03/night
Run a dryer, full load, on high? $0.19/load
Leave a 32” TV on all night? $0.14


Bottom-line: electricity is cheap. Really cheap. Much cheaper than people think. It’s a human tendency to focus on expenses you can see, but ignore the “unseen” expenses. Things that people see (the hallway light left on at night while they’re lying in bed) “seem” expensive. For example, leave a light on every night for a year (and it’s unlikely a light will be left of 365 days in a row) will cost $11. However, most people don’t know what they pay each year for house insurance. A little shopping around on house insurance could save you $150, or $250 on car insurance. Another example of a killer unseen expense: Depreciation. Buy a new car and depreciation could be an average of -$2,400 a year for the first 5 years. Make that mistake and you might as well leave 20 lights on 24 hours a day for 18 years. My house barely has more than 20 60watt candecent lights!

Do a little research and make sure you are making data-based decisions. Over a long period of time it will make a huge financial difference.

Stepping up the electricity awareness another notch:
In some areas, power companies charge up to 4 times more for electricity at different times of the day. It’s called peak vs non-peak hours. For example, my friend Janalyne is moving to Las Vegas, Nevada. Vegas peak time (1pm-7pm) during summer is 4 times more expensive than non-peak times. (Source) This means you’re much less expensive to cool off the house at noonthan at 1pm or to dry all the clothes at 7:01pm
Benton County, WA doesn’t have peak rates. If you live in another county, to find the cost of electricity, simply call the utility company on your electric bill and ask, “What does electricity cost per kilowatt hours?” Also ask, “Is there a peak rate? If so, when are the dates/times peak rates are in effect?” You now know more real life data about electricity costs than 90% of the population – now you can make decisions on reality instead of an mis-leading sense. Easy.

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