Bang for your buck

Insulating shades are designed to replace venetian blinds with a fabric made of bonded polyester, structured with cells that trap air.

Insulating shades are designed to replace venetian blinds with a fabric made of bonded polyester, structured with cells that trap air.

Light bulbs

Replacing conventional incandescent light bulbs with their energy-efficient successors is a simple way to save money. The dilemma is whether to choose LED (light-emitting diodes) or CFL (compact fluorescent lighting). LEDs have the advantages of being more energy-efficient, less fragile and less toxic than CFLs, which contain mercury. On the other hand, until recently, LEDs were prohibitively expensive and not capable of providing the diffuse light required by most situations. But those problems are being solved.

Prices are dropping for LEDs, and will continue to drop, with recent advances such as the use of silicon wafers instead of sapphire-based technology. Light diffusion has been accomplished with special lenses and reflectors. While an LED bulb is now around $35.95, compared to $3.95 for a CFL and $1.39 for an incandescent, the LEDs last five times as long as CFLs and use so much less electricity that the total cost for 50,000 hours of use is approximately the same, around $85 or $90. You would need to buy 42 incandescents for that amount of light, and with electricity costs you would pay $352, according to eartheasy.com.

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Insulating shades

Insulating shades are designed to replace venetian blinds with a fabric made of bonded polyester, structured with cells that trap air. The shades prevent warm air from diffusing through windows in winter and keep outdoor heat from entering in summer, reducing both heating and air-conditioning costs. Metal tracks cost extra but effectively seal off the borders of the shades to prevent leakage of heat around the edges. Some types filter light, reducing glare and blocking UV rays that fade fabrics, while admitting a soft light. The shades have cords so they can be opened and closed as desired.

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