The coming changes in available lightbulbs
The Energy Independence
and Security Act of 2007
takes effect in January,
which means that shopping
for lightbulbs will
never be quite the same
again. The act requires
lightbulbs to deliver light
levels similar to those of
bulbs but to use 25 percent
less energy. Between
now and 2014, conventional
will be phased out, starting
with the 100-watt
bulb in 2012.
“From an energy standpoint, lightbulbs are the low-hanging fruit.
As soon as you use more efficient lighting, the dial on the electric
meter stops spinning so fast. It’s a no-brainer.”
Mary Beth Gotti,
Manager of the Lighting and Electrical Institute at GE Lighting
The good news is that
there are excellent energy-efficient
bulbs already on
the shelves, with many
more to come in 2012. The
bad news is that shopping
for new bulbs includes a
learning curve because
none are exact replicas of
the incandescent bulbs
we’re used to. To make
smart choices and avoid
frustration, you’ll need to
know a bit more about
And after reading this
article, you will.
Although most incandescent bulbs will be phased
out, popular specialty bulbs, such as appliance bulbs,
are exempt from the new standards. Other exempt
bulbs include three-way, rough service and colored
lights, as well as bug lights and plant lights. Visit
energysavers.gov for a complete list of exempt bulbs.
Main lighting technologies 1: Halogen incandescents
Pros: The most similar in
looks, light quality and
light distribution to a traditional incandescent
bulb, yet it’s 30 percent more efficient
and lasts several times longer. It
starts up instantly, it’s dimmable, its life
span isn’t affected by frequent on and off
activity, and it doesn’t contain mercury.
Cons: At about $1.50, it costs four times
as much as a conventional incandescent
bulb and uses a lot more energy than
CFLs and LEDs (both are at least 75 percent
more efficient than traditional
incandescent bulbs). It also burns much
hotter and doesn’t give off the exact
same glow we’re accustomed to. It produces
a brighter, whiter light with an
intense glare, so it needs to be shaded,
shielded or directed so the filament isn’t
in your line of sight.
Best uses: Reading lamps, exterior floodlights,
track lighting, under-cabinet lighting
and accent lighting.
Handling halogens: Don’t handle a halogen
bulb with your fingers; use a clean rag.
The oils from your skin will cause the bulb
to burn hotter and shorten its life.
Main lighting technologies 2: CFLs
Pros: Compact fluorescents
are now better than
earlier incarnations at
delivering a warmer light
without long warm-up times, flickering or
buzzing. There are also more CFLs
designed for different household fixtures,
including recessed cans, outdoor lights
and track lights. Most CFLs now contain
60 percent less mercury than five years
ago, and prices for CFLs have plummeted.
A quality CFL now costs less than $2 a
bulb and can save $30 per bulb in electricity
costs over its lifetime, compared with a
Cons: Some CFLs still warm up slowly and
cast a bluer light than conventional bulbs,
and most don’t work well with three-way
switches or dimmers (even CFLs designed
to be dimmed may not work with all
dimmer switches). They also contain some
mercury. CFL longevity claims are still
unreliable; bulb life can be diminished by
vibration, cold, overheating in recessed fixtures
and being operated in short spurts.
Best uses: Interior fixtures that are left on
for extended periods, with a minimal
amount of cycling them off and on. Also
good for lighting large areas.
Main lighting technologies 3: LEDs
Pros: LEDs are at least as
efficient as CFLs, mercury
free and excellent for cold
weather use. There’s no
startup delay, and they work with dimmers.
They also have a very long life:
25,000 hours vs. 6,600 for an equivalent
CFL. And overall, their light quality is more
pleasant than that of many CFLs.
Cons: There are almost no 60-, 75- or
100-watt equivalents on the market; most
only shine light in one direction; and they
cost $20 to $50. The few on the market
that shine light in all directions run in the
$50-plus range. Also, LED bulbs that are
brighter than 40 watts are still generally
dim and don’t fit most existing fixtures.
But the future will be brighter. Prices will
come down radically over the next few
years, quality choices will expand and
most industry watchers believe LEDs are
the future of lighting...eventually.
Best uses: High-use fixtures such as
recessed cans and porch lights, and hard-to-reach fixtures (closets, high ceilings and
crawl spaces), where changing a lightbulb
They’re like old soldiers: LEDs don’t burn
out; they just fade away.
Read the Label to Compare Bulbs
Lightbulbs now carry package labels to help you choose the most efficient bulbs. For the best quality, buy Energy Star–rated bulbs from a reliable supplier. If you’re buying high-priced LEDs, look for bulbs with at least a three-year warranty and hang on to your receipt.
New bulbs are
terms of lumens.
The higher the
brighter the light.
Energy used/watts: A measure
of energy use, not
Color accuracy/color rendering index: How accurately
the bulb will
display the colors
in a room.
than 80 is good.
light, similar to
a lower color temperature
Kelvin scale (2,700
to 3,000K). Cooler,
bluish light has a
higher color temperature
Labels may also include:
Life: Bulb lifetimes are an average
based on ideal conditions.
Traditional incandescent bulbs
are rated for about 1,000 hours,
so even CFL bulbs that last only
half as long as they’re supposed
to will save you money.
Energy star ratings: These
ratings indicate that the claims
for lifetime, brightness and
color temperature have been
Top-rated halogen bulbs
Industry analysts and consumer groups gave a high rating to the halogen bulbs shown here.
Top-rated hybrid bulb
Industry analysts and consumer groups gave a high rating to the hybrid bulb shown here.
Top-rated CFL bulbs
Industry analysts and consumer groups gave a high rating to the CFL bulbs shown here.
CFL second chance: If you swore off CFLs a
few years ago, give them another try. They’re
way better now. But don’t buy the cheapest
ones. You’ll just be disappointed again.
Top-rated LED bulbs
Industry analysts and consumer groups gave a high rating to the LED bulbs shown here.
Photo courtesy of SwitchlightSwitch60 warm white LED bulb
Photo courtesy of GEGE Energy Smart LED bulb
Photo courtesy of PhilipsPhilips 10-watt EnduraLED bulb
Newest LED Arrivals
As the technology develops, many new LED bulbs will appear. Here are three.
Switch60 Warm White LED liquid-cooled 60-watt equivalent.
At about $30, the least
expensive 60-watt equivalent
LED available—scheduled to hit
the market in early 2012.
Bright but hot to the touch. A
75-watt and 100-watt will come
in late 2012. The glass orb is
filled with a cooling agent and a
bank of LEDs.
GE Energy Smart LED 60-watt incandescent replacement 13-watt LED.
This bulb (about $45)
was scheduled to hit the
market in December
2011. Seventy-five- and
are due out in 2012.
Philips 10-watt EnduraLED 60-watt replacement.
“L Prize” to replace the
60-watt incandescent and
the PAR38 halogen. (Not
yet for sale but will cost
about $45.) Dimmable;
same shape and size as
an incandescent, so it fits
traditional fixtures; has a
strong and pleasing light;
and will last 25,000
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Which bulbs should I use here?
Garage door openers: Choose
a “rough service” incandescent
bulb (yep, they’re still permitted
under the new law). CFLs can’t
handle the vibrations and may
interfere with your remote control.
High ceilings: Tough-to-reach fixtures
are perfect spots for LED
bulbs. Although LEDs are still expensive,
they last for 10 to 20 years.
“Lightbulbs are becoming
a long-term durable goods
purchase rather than a
Peter Soares, Director of Consumer
Marketing at Philips
Lamps and general lighting:
CFLs are your best option and they
come in both spiral and covered
versions. Most LEDs are still too dim
or too expensive for general use.
Halogen PAR bulbs are the most
reliable outdoor bulbs, but if you
live in a mild climate, weatherproof
CFLs are also a good choice. (Read
the package label to see if they can
be exposed to rain.)
Motion detectors: LEDs or halogens
are a better choice than
CFLs. Fixtures with electronic controls
can significantly shorten a
Workbench, reading lamp
and office light: Halogen
incandescent bulbs produce the
brightest, purest light and are a
good choice for task lighting.
Recessed fixtures: LEDs or
CFLs—read package labels carefully.
Bulbs that are not designed
for totally enclosed fixtures will
state that on the package.
Chandelier: Choose dimmable
halogens. Conventional incandescent
candelabra bulbs are exempt
under the new law, but halogens
will last three times as long.
“LED lighting today is like
the Wild West—many
companies are making
false claims about brightness,
and are getting
away with it.”
CFO and CSO for Switch Lighting