Guest Blog: The True Impact of Turning on the Lights

By Ella Pumford, content manager at St. Modwen Homes

As evening sets in, do you find yourself reaching for the lamp? A light and bright area can help our homes feel energised, adding valuable extra hours to the day for us to complete our work and activities.

But as our homes become beacons of brightness, are we considering the true impact of turning on the light? What really changes when we flick the switch or, forget to turn it off? According to research, lighting contributes to about 6 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

The International Dark Sky Association estimates that 35 per cent of artificial light is wasted by being poorly aimed or unshielded. Most of us are used to a natural urban glow rather than a naturally dark night sky, which negatively impacts migrating birds, insects and other animals too, by disrupting the light-dark cycle they are tuned into. Artificial light can also affect our sleep and health.

New data from St. Modwen Homes, a national housebuilder and creator of energy-efficient homes across the UK, investigates the energy output of our homes’ light installations. By comparing this energy usage to other activities, it could help us gain a new perspective on just how much power we use in our homes.

A lightbulb moment

How many lightbulbs do you have in your house? You may be shocked to learn that the average is 67 lightbulbs per house. The number seems large, but as you start to count, you may come across multiple lamps in your living room and ceiling lights that need a few bulbs to illuminate the space.

Our home electricity use is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). To power one kilowatt for one hour, or one kWh, would cost you around £0.12.

The average lightbulb is 60 watts, which means to power it for one hour would be 0.06 kWh. So, powering all 67 lights in your house for one hour would use 4.02 kWh. The cost of powering all these lights for one hour would cost £0.48. We’re not breaking the bank just yet.

However, with 28.1 million houses in the UK, it would take an impressive 112,962,000 kWh to power all homes’ lights for one hour. The cost of powering these homes’ lights for just one hour would cost a whopping £13,488,000.

But how could all this energy be put to a different use? How can we show just how much power is being fed into our homes? By comparing this energy use to other everyday activities, we can understand how electricity waste is a dim situation.

With the power needed to light up all UK homes for one hour, you could also:

Boil a kettle 617,278,688 times

Who doesn’t love a good cuppa? Well, the electricity used to power all UK homes’ lights for one hour would allow you to make a few extra cups than you may need on your next tea round.

Drive 201,192,020 miles

If you’re looking for an extensive road trip, you could’ve used the UK’s lightbulb energy to go for a long-distance drive in a petrol car. How long you ask? With the equivalent energy, you could drive to the moon and back 421 times.

Charge 9,738,003,525 smartphones

You’ve got a text! And it’s telling you to turn the lights off. That energy could be put to use on other things, namely charging over 9.7 billion smartphones.

Watch 141,202,500 hours of Netflix

It may feel like you’ve watched more than 141 million hours of Netflix over subsequent lockdowns during the pandemic, but that’s just the amount of time you’d have to watch if you used the equivalent lightbulb energy on the streaming platform. As of April 2020, UK Netflix subscribers had access to 36,000 hours of video content. So, you could watch the entire Netflix catalogue 3,922 times.

Go round the London Eye 451,848,000 times

Instead of sitting in a bright house, you could enjoy a bit of sightseeing instead. You’ll be able to see all the best monuments in London by riding the London Eye over 450 million times. Let’s just hope you don’t get dizzy too easily, it would be a long ride if you converted our lightbulb energy consumption to power this large wheel.

Power a football stadium for 4,518 matches

Change those home lights for stadium lights and enjoy some football games using the UK’s home light energy. At the 2022 FIFA World Cup, countries around the world will play a combined 363 matches. This means that the UK’s lightbulb consumption for one hour could power at least 12 opportunities for the England team to bring it home!

Power the Eiffel Tower for 14 years

Have you seen the lights on the Eiffel Tower? With laser beacons, projections, and spotlights, the monument shines like a diamond in the centre of Paris. But if you took the UK’s combined home lightbulb energy for one hour, you’d be able to power the Eiffel Tower for 14 years.

There’s a lot of power in our homes. Turning off the lights every now and then can do a lot to conserve energy for the good of the planet and our pockets. Doing without an illuminated home for a while is certainly a bright idea, but also getting into the practice of using more efficient lightbulbs could help reduce greenhouse gases and minimise the number of power stations. Even better, find a home that features higher ceilings and light windows, allowing natural light to spill into your living room, kitchen, and bedrooms for a full day of vibrant and sunny illumination.