Lighten Up With Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs

By choosing to replace incandescent bulbs with more energy-efficient light bulbs, such as LED lights and CFL bulbs, you can be guaranteed to have effective light with less overall energy use.

| January 16, 2011

Energy efficiency begins at home, which can often be improved easily with the right knowledge, tools and materials. This excerpt comes from The Energy-Smart House (Taunton Press, 2011) is a collection of articles on how to reduce the amount of energy your home uses, from installing energy-efficient light bulbs to insulation and windows. The following is adapted from Part 5, “Lighting and Appliances.”  

Although still a relatively small slice of the incandescent-dominated lighting market, energy-efficient compact fluorescents (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have gained traction over the past few years, thanks to green-building programs and some progressive local energy codes.  

Be sure and look at the Efficacy at a Glance and Sources boxes (in the Image Gallery) for even more information on energy-efficient light bulbs and where to buy them. 

CFLs Come of Age 

CFLs were introduced in the early 1990s, but they weren’t ready for prime time. Early CFLs produced harsh blue light, hummed, and flickered, making a poor first impression. Today’s CFLs, however, produce light at around 2,700 degrees Kelvin (the measurement of light hue), mimicking the warm, amber-hued light of incandescent bulbs. Also, the old magnetic ballasts have been replaced with quiet electronic ballasts that don’t flicker. 

CFLs are dramatically more efficient than incandescent light bulbs, using between 50 percent and 80 percent less energy, and they last for about 10,000 hours, nearly 10 times longer than incandescents. They also cost dramatically more. However, replacing one 50 cents, 75-watt incandescent bulb with a $3.50, 19-watt CFL saves 563 kwh of electricity over the life of the bulb. That comes to about $75 in savings, depending on the cost of electricity where you live.  

On the downside, a typical CFL contains somewhere between 4 mg and 5 mg of mercury. Critics of CFLs highlight the health and environmental hazards of mercury, and special precautions should be taken if the bulbs break in your house. Proponents argue that the mercury in a CFL is far less than the amount of mercury emissions that would be released from a coal-fired power plant if you were using an incandescent bulb. Regardless, when a CFL burns out, it must be recycled so that the mercury doesn’t end up polluting the environment. Some retailers of CFLs, including Ikea and The Home Depot, offer CFL recycling. To find other recycling locations, visit the EPA website.

4/7/2018 5:09:49 AM

I wish mother would stop sending out old out of date articles. Cfls come of age? Really? Cfls are on the way out.

4/6/2018 12:14:58 PM

I've been using LED bulbs for about 3-years and love them, they are just as bright as the incandescents but are far more efficient, saving on my electric bill. I wish there had been LED bulbs when I lived in my camper trailer. I had a dual 110/12 volt system with lighting being 12 volt incandescent automotive bulbs which drew a large amount of current. The 12 volt system was powered by 3-12 volt automotive batteries in a parallel configuration and a 12 volt charge/trickle charger to maintain them. The refrigerator, T.V. heater and small appliances were 110 volt, Many years ago I lived in my first travel trailer also with a dual voltage system with the lighting being 12 volt incandescent standard size bulbs. The rest of the trailer was run on 110 volts. At one point I even had a 12 volt window fan made with a 12 volt heater blower motor turning the same blades that came out of the burned out window fan (motors were same size only way to tell them apart was the wires coming out of them the 12 volt had a red and black the 110 volt had to black wires).

4/6/2018 12:14:57 PM

LESTER MARTIN......I have been using LED bulbs for about three years now and I think they are the way to go,they are efficient but save on the electric bill. I wish there had been LED bulbs when I was living in my camping trailer. It would have been even better if there had been 12 volt LED bulbs then because the trailer was wired for 12 volts, but used 12 volt incandescent automotive bulbs which drew a very large amount of current. I ran the trailer on a dual 110/12 volt system with the 12 volt system being powered by 3-12 volt auto batteries in parallel configuration with an automatic charge/trickle charger. The refrigerator, T.V., electric heater and appliances all ran on 110 volts along with the charger.

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