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.

1/24/2012 5:21:14 PM

LED is about a clean as you get.

Jason Hinton
1/23/2012 2:32:41 PM

I know who Al Gore is. Again, what does THIS law have to do with Al Gore? The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 was passed with broad bipartisan in congress and signed into law by George W. Bush. If you are going to blame someone blame the right people. ------------ Am I trying to save the earth? No, the earth did just fine before humans existed and will still be doing fine once we are gone. I guess it was my Midwestern upbringing and its Puritan influence that simply makes me believe that wasting resources is wrong. --------------- Having spent 2/3's of my life in Michigan I understand the limitations of CFL's in cold environments. I also understand the halogen incandescent bulbs do not have cold start issues. How many halogen incandescent bulbs have I purchased? None. However, at $3.50 for a two pack I really doubt they would break the bank. I may purchase one for our front porch light to replace our one remaining standard incandescent bulb. We converted all of our interior lights to CFL's back in 2000. That was when each bulb was $10, so we purchased one or two per pay period. The majority of those GE bulbs are still working more than 10 years later.

1/23/2012 5:36:44 AM

Which planet are you from? Al Gore? Apparently you don't live in cold weather and the nights are longer during the winter. You need brights lights to check the inside a unheated building and other uses for momentary lights required. I use CFL's in places that are warm and the lighting is on for more than 15 minutes. 100, 60,and 40 CFL's in the dining room, kitchen, living room etc. 300 and 200 CFL's in my farm shop. Why are you worried about inefficiency, going to save the planet? How many halogen incandescent bulb have you bought? Did it break your pocket book?

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