Over the past several years, lighting options and the way they are measured have changed as part of the movement toward energy efficiency. Traditional incandescent bulbs are no longer manufactured and are quickly becoming a nostalgic thing of the past! They’ve been replaced by more efficient lighting options including: halogen incandescent, compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. These energy-saving options offer choices of light levels, sizes, shapes, and colors. Which option is best will depend on the purpose and location of the lighting, as well as personal preference. Here’s what you need to know to make the right selection for each space in your home:
Halogen incandescents have the look of a traditional incandescent but are unique on the inside. Within the bulb is a capsule that holds a special halogen gas composition around the filament to increase efficiency. Halogen bulbs meet the federal minimum efficiency standard and are the most affordable option, but they are not the most efficient bulbs because they can cost more to operate and don’t last as long as other options.
Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL)
CFLs are typically identified by their corkscrew-like shape, although there are versions available in more traditional shapes. CFLs use 25-35% less energy than traditional incandescents and last about 10 times as long. They take about 30 seconds to reach their full brightness once turned on. It is worth noting that CFLs contain a tiny amount of mercury which means there are special health and safety guidelines to follow for recycling, disposal and clean-up of a broken bulb. The EPA Website provides more detail.
Light Emitting Diodes (LED)
While LED lighting tends to be the most expensive, these bulbs are expected to save you more in the long run due to longer life span and very low energy use. They use 75% less energy than a traditional incandescent and can last about 25 times longer.
Reading the Label
The Federal Trade Commission developed the Lighting Facts label for product packaging to provide consistent information about light output, energy used, durability, and color of light. Here’s a breakdown to help you decipher the label:
Brightness is measured in lumens and tells you how much light you will get from the bulb. The more lumens, the brighter the light. 800 lumens would be about equivalent to a 60 watt traditional incandescent bulb. The Estimated Yearly Energy Cost and Life measurements will help you compare your return on investment between different bulbs. Light Appearance, also referred to as Color Temperature, allows you to choose the desired hue of the light. Warm light is more yellow and creates a smooth relaxing feel, measuring between 2700-3000 Degrees Kelvin. Cooler light that measures higher (further to the right on the Kelvin scale) is a whiter light typically used in kitchens, bathrooms and work spaces. Energy Used indicates (in watts) how much energy will be consumed to give off a certain amount of light. When replacing incandescents, you will purchase lighting with lower wattage, while still getting the same amount of light.
Armed with this basic knowledge of energy efficient lighting, you will be able to make better selections to enhance the ambience and functionality of your living spaces, while saving energy and reducing costs.