Recently, I discovered that I was down to one old-fashioned incandescent 60-watt light bulb. The day of reckoning had arrived. I was finally going to have to figure out the new energy-saving light bulbs.
The standard Thomas Edison incandescent light bulb is extremely inefficient, wasting about 90% of its energy as heat rather than light. As part of a federal law passed in 2007, increasing efficiency standards for light bulbs, the traditional bulbs have now been phased out. In 2012, the phase-out began with the 100-watt bulb, followed by the 75-watt in 2013, and the 60-watt and 40-watt in 2014.
Here are factors to consider when replacing traditional bulbs:
According to Energy Star, the brightness of a bulb is determined by lumens and not watts. To save energy, determine the lumens you need, and then choose the bulb with the lowest wattage. You can look for a bulb that is labeled as equivalent to the standard bulb you are replacing. Energy Star also has a handy chart that gives you the equivalent lumens based on watts. For a 60-watt bulb, the minimum lumens is 800. Energy Star also has a handy guide on what type of bulb works in different situations such as a ceiling fan or a recessed light.
The color of light may also affect how bright a light appears, even if the lumens are the same. Since most people are used to the soft yellow glow from incandescent light bulbs, bulbs that produce light closer to the color of daylight (color temperatures above 3000K) may appear brighter because the color of the light is less yellow. A lower the color temperature makes the light more yellow. A higher color temperature will appear more blue. The middle of the temperature range will be white. The color temperature will be listed on the package.
Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are lamps that have a small ballast in their base. The ballast causes the bulb to light and is why CFLs take longer than other bulbs to become fully lit. CFLs with decorative covers like globes or flood light shapes versus plain spirals take longer to warm up and reach full brightness. The time varies from 20 seconds to two minutes. You may not want to use a bulb like this in a stairway or entrance. They also don’t do well in the cold so you need to be sure that it’s designed specifically for outdoor use.
CFLs need a little more energy when they are first turned on, but once the electricity starts moving, CFLs use around 70 to 75 percent less energy and they are alleged to last 7-10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
The bottoms of some of these lightbulbs are different sizes so I would bring an old incandescent to the store to make sure you get the right size replacement. Frequently turning CFLs on and off affects the life of the bulb, so they shouldn’t be used in locations with this type of use. CFLs contain a small amount of mercury and have to be recycled. Home Depot and Lowe’s offer free CFL recycling.
Finally, most CFLs don’t work with dimmers unless they are three-way bulbs and are compatible with your type of dimmer switch. You can go to the light bulb manufacturer’s website for a list of compatible dimmers. Before that, though, you may have to call your electrician to find out what type of dimmers you have. This is the point where I contemplate going back to candles.
Searching on Home Depot’s website, a CFL comparable to a 60-watt bulb ranges in price from $6.50 to $16 each. The average CFL lasts 9 years. There were seven options.
LED (light emitting diodes) bulbs are up to 80 to 90 percent more efficient than incandescents and are claimed to last up to five times longer than CFLs and 50 times as long as incandescents. They don’t contain mercury, so they can be disposed of in the regular trash. Not all LEDs are good at casting light in all directions. The shapes may be unusual and the bulbs can be heavier. Not all LEDs are compatible with all dimmer switches, although more LEDs will work with dimmers than CFLs. The average LED life is claimed to be 23 years.
Home Depot offered 32 LED options comparable to a 60-watt bulb ranging in price from $8-$20 each.
Another issue with both CFLs and LEDs is that not all of them can be used in fully enclosed fixtures. This will be indicated on the light-bulb package. The issue is that the heat build-up can be a problem in enclosed fixtures and can affect performance and shorten the life of CFLs and LEDs.
Halogen bulbs, also called eco-incandescents, are incandescent bulbs that use about 25 to 30 percent less energy than standard incandescents. Halogen instantly produces light, is fully dimmable, and can be used almost anywhere and with dimmers and other devices. The A-type bulbs, named for their bulbous shape and used as general purpose bulbs, cast light in all directions and accurately reveal the color of objects and furnishings. Some don’t last much longer than standard incandescent bulbs, but cost more.
Home Depot had 11 halogen options ranging in price from $1.50-$4.00 each.
|Type||Average life||Price range||Operating cost*|
* Average annual operating cost of 60-watt equivalent bulb
The amount of time it takes to recoup your cost is the longest for the LED bulbs as they are the most expensive. If you live in an area where electricity is expensive, then the payback period is shorter. Some estimates put the savings at $30 to $80 in electricity costs over the lifetime of LEDs and CFLs. It all depends on your local electricity rates.
LEDs are supposedly getting less expensive so you may not want to stock up just yet. Another consideration is that some manufacturers, like GE and Cree, offer multi-year warranties on their LED bulbs.
Clearly, the days of just running into the store and picking up bulbs is over. The best way to shop is to do all your homework and try out one bulb to see if you like it. All light bulb packaging is required to have a “Lighting Facts” label that includes everything from the estimated yearly cost of using the bulb to lumens and color temperature. I telephoned my local Home Depot and they said I could return a bulb if I didn’t like it as long as I had all the packaging and a receipt. Your results may vary. Once you find a brand and a type you like then you can figure out how to buy them for less.
“Fluorescent Bulb” photo by Gualberto107, freedigitalphotos.net.