Light bulb bewilderment: 4 tips to picking the best one for you
Light bulbs didn’t used to be confusing. They would burn out and you plugged in another incandescent one just as people have been doing since Thomas Edison’s days. But when lighting manufacturers met federal energy-efficiency requirements, bulbs got complicated.
Now, there are many choices – energy-efficient light emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) – and consumers might not know which is the right one to save money and energy.
Lighting accounts for up to 20 percent of a home’s electricity use, according to Energy Trust of Oregon, which offers this information about the three main categories of energy-efficient bulbs consumers will see on the shelf:
LEDs: Using 85 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs, LEDs can last up to 25 years or more. Switching to an LED can save up to $11 a year in energy costs. The latest models are praised for their resemblance to traditional lighting, offering the same bulb shape and familiar, warm light. As technology advances, retailers are quickly dropping prices to as low as $5 or less per bulb, making LEDs a promising new option that can save on energy costs for years to come.
CFLs: Using 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs, CFLs can last seven to 10 years. Switching to a CFL can save up to $6 a year in energy costs, according to Energy Star. CFL technology has greatly improved in the past couple of years to help address some of the concerns about earlier models. They are also widely available and come in a shape, size or color for nearly any application. CFLs can be a great value, with prices starting under $1 per bulb.
Halogen incandescent bulbs: Incandescent bulbs haven’t gone away altogether, manufacturers just created a more efficient version – the halogen incandescent. These bulbs are 30 percent more efficient than traditional bulbs and offer a similar lifespan of one to five years. They can save up to $4 a year, but with a price of around $3 per bulb, they may not offer the best value over time.
Tips for buying energy-efficient bulbs:
- Pick a bulb type: Before you go to the store, determine if you would like to purchase an LED or CFL and count the number of bulbs you need. Make notes or take pictures of the styles you need to replace and consider the brightness and color you desire.
- Check the lighting facts label. Compare bulbs easily as you shop by reviewing the Lighting Facts label on the packaging. Similar to a Nutrition Facts label for food, this label offers information about brightness, light appearance (warm to cool), how long the bulb should last and estimated annual operating cost. The Federal Trade Commission now requires the Lighting Facts label on all lighting packages.
- Shifting to more efficient technology also means a shift from watts to lumens. Lumens tell you how much light a bulb will provide, watts only tell you how much power it uses. Overall, for a lower lighting level, look for fewer lumens; for brighter light, look for a greater number of lumens. Lumens are listed on the Lighting Facts label.
- Look for Energy Star: Be sure the light you pick is Energy Star labeled. These bulbs save energy and have been tested to ensure quality and performance. Energy Star-rated CFLs and LEDs offer significant advantages over standard incandescent bulbs, both in terms of efficiency and bulb life.
REF — Homes & Gardens of the Northwest staff
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