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How many apps does it take to change a light bulb?

Two green-thinking innovators have created smartphone software that won the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) top award for Apps for the Environment. The app, called Light Bulb Finder, can tell you in an instant the correct wattage to use when replacing those inefficient incandescent bulbs with LED or compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) models.

Kudos go to Andrea Nylund and Adam Borut of Eco Hatchery, a think tank that creates solutions for green homes where owners want to conserve water and energy and cut their utility bills. Light Bulb Finder is a free smartphone app that not only suggests the correct energy-saving replacement bulb, but tells users about programs in their state that offer rebates or assistance in energy conservation.

Crunching the energy numbers

According to Matthew Loveless of the Department of Energy, the winning app uses data from the EPA on carbon emissions, the Energy Information Administration on electricity costs and ENERGY STAR light bulb statistics to recommend the best solution for your replacements.

Installing a CFL bulb in place of a traditional incandescent bulb can save consumers about $10 in energy costs the first year, according to Loveless. You can multiply the savings against the total number of bulbs you replace and see how much sense it makes to change.

Here is where you can download the app for an Apple or Android.

Other smartphone energy-saving apps to consider

Joe Romm of Climate Progress lists the Light Bulb Finder app at the top of his list of key smartphone software. Romm also likes the iGo Vampire Calculator app that helps you determine how much electricity you waste by leaving appliances plugged into your walls even though they're technically turned off. You inventory the appliances, room-by-room, to take a snapshot of devices that guzzle electricity while they sleep. You can download the Vampire Calculator for your Apple phone.

As you buy new heating, cooling and lighting products in the future, ask the merchant if they come with smart apps that let you control them from your phone. Many app-controlled thermostats are already on the market.

Someday, perhaps, there will be a smart app to determine the best window installation cost for your home when you upgrade to energy smart windows. For now, you can determine your window installation cost and choose the right features for your climate by visiting non-profit organizations like The Efficient Windows Collaborative or the ENERGY STAR Windows, Doors, and Skylights Manufacturer Search Tool.