A Brighter Future for Light Bulbs

Update on Lightbulb Phaseout The traditional incandescent light bulb has been in use for over 100 years, without many major changes. So why all the hoopla over our trusty incandescent bulbs the past several years? Well for starters, they’re not very energy efficient. Less than 10% of electrical power used is converted into visible light, while the remaining energy is lost as heat. A federal law was passed in 2007 to raise minimum efficiency standards for traditional incandescents, as well as a gradual phase-out plan. In 2012, 100-watt bulbs were no longer being produced, followed by the 75 watt bulbs in 2013. At the beginning of this year, both 60 and 40 watt bulbs have met the same fate as their higher watt counterparts. Your first reaction may be to go out and buy every last traditional bulb they have left on the shelves, but don’t panic. Technology has come a long way, making alternatives to incandescents more viable options than just a few years ago. Compact Florescent Bulbs  Many folks might picture compact florescent bulbs, also known as CFL’s, as the curlicue bulbs that give off harsh, bluish-hued lighting and are slow to turn on. These bulbs have been continuously improving since they were first introduced, and are available in a variety of sizes, wattages, and color temperatures. Today’s CFLs use one-fourth the amount of energy for the same light as traditional incandescents, and can last 7-10 times longer. The price of these bulbs has dropped over the past few years as well, making them an affordable choice. If you’re looking to replicate the light temperature of the old incandescents, look for bulbs that are labeled “soft white” or “warm white.” “Daylight” bulbs give of the bluish-white hue. As these bulbs do contain a small amount of mercury, take advantage of free recycling receptacles that retailers, such as Lowes and Home Depot, offer. Not all CFLs will work with dimmer switches, so if you’re replacing a bulb look for CFLs labeled “Dimmable.” It should also be noted that dimmable CFLs aren’t able to produce the same range of light levels as incandescents, typically dimming down to about 25% of full brightness, which is still fairly bright. Halogen Lighting  Halogen bulbs are actually a type of incandescent, as they use the same tungsten filament as traditional bulbs. However, they didn’t receive the same fate as standard incandescents, as the filament is surrounded by halogen gas, allowing the bulb to glow just as brightly, while using less electricity. These bulbs turn on instantly, give off a warm light, and can be used with dimmer switches. Although they are less expensive than CFL’s or LEDs, they do get very hot, so the amount of energy saved isn’t as impressive and their lifespan isn’t as long. Consider using halogen bulbs for highlighting artwork or under-cabinet lighting, as they do work well for both accent and task lighting. LED Bulbs  LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs have become an increasingly popular option as technology has been improving over the past few years and the price has decreased. Although the price has dropped significantly, they are still the most expensive type of bulb upfront. However, they use as little as one-fifth of the energy that traditional incandescents do, and can last 25 times longer. They can be up to 10% more energy efficient than CFLs and last up to three times longer, making them more efficient and (in the long run) less expensive than CFLs. Due to their long lifespan, they are a great choice for hard to reach sockets. Additionally, they have no start up delay once turned on. LEDs are also good for use in recessed cans and downlights, as they are better at serving as directional lights. If you’re looking for an LED bulb to replace a traditional bulb-style incandescent, look for bulbs that are labeled omnidirectional, which allow the light to be dispersed in all directions. While most LED bulbs do work well with dimmers, please keep in mind that if you choose to replace a bulb that’s on a dimmer switch, you may need to switch out the dimmer itself, as not all are compatible with the new bulbs. No matter what type of bulb you’re considering buying, look for products that are ENERGY STAR certified, which are tested for brightness and longevity. Consumers should also note that the wattage only measures the amount of electricity used. A 60-watt bulb is the equivalent of a 13-16 watt CFL. For brightness, look for the number of lumens listed on the package instead, which measures the amount of light a bulb generates. Light temperature is measured as a Kelvin rating. If you’re looking for a cooler, white light, look for a bulb that’s around 3000K. Or, if you’re looking to replicate the yellow, warmer light of traditional incandescents, you’ll want a bulb in the range of 2700K. If you’re thinking of making a change in your home and would like the assistance of a lighting professional, please don’t hesitate to contact us.