With a push to reduce energy consumption, light-emitting diodes and other energy-saving lights are increasingly desirable and available alternatives to traditional incandescent bulbs. Although more expensive than their incandescent counterparts, LEDs and other energy-saving bulbs cost less to operate over their lifespans because they generate more light with less electricity. The energy savings ultimately offset the cost of the bulb.
According to Energy Star, as of 2011, LED bulbs use only 20 to 25 percent of the energy of incandescent bulbs, with efficiency matching or exceeding fluorescent lights (see References 2 and 3). In addition to energy efficiency, a U.S. Department of Energy report notes that the "benefits of LEDs include long operating lifetime, lower maintenance and life-cycle costs, reduced radiated heat, minimal light loss, dimmability, controllability, directional illumination, durability, safety improvements, and light pollution reduction." (See References 1, page 1).
Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
Fluorescent lighting has been around for decades, but compact fluorescent lamps are another energy-efficient replacement for incandescent bulbs. CFLs are simply smaller versions of the long lighting tubes used in commercial and industrial operations. Providing an energy savings of about 75 percent compared to incandescents, these bulbs have come a long way since their introduction. They are now available in a wide variety of styles and a range of colors. Additionally, there are now "instant on" versions, as well as styles suitable for use with dimmer switches. (See References 2)
Another energy-saving choice, halogen bulbs are incandescents that use halogen gas around the filament; this increases the efficiency and lifespan of the bulb. Halogens use only about 25 percent less energy than a traditional incandescents, however, so are a distant third behind LEDs and CFLs in energy efficiency. (See References 2)
To get light quality that is comparable to your old incandescent bulbs, choose energy-efficient bulbs based on the lumens they produce, rather than the number of watts they use. A lumen is simply a measure of the amount of visible light a bulb produces. A traditional 100-watt incandescent bulb produces about 1,600 lumens, for example, so a replacement LED or CFL should have a rating for the same output. As of mid-2011, new light bulb labels will show both a bulb's wattage and brightness in lumens. The labels will also provide information about the bulb's appearance -- if its light looks "cool" or "warm," if it contains mercury, and its estimated energy cost and life expectancy. (See References 4 and 5)
- U.S. Department of Energy: Energy Savings Estimates of Light Emitting Diodes in Niche Lighting Applications; September 2008
- U.S. Department of Energy: Lighting Choices to Save You Money
- Energy Star: LED Light Bulbs
- Energy Star: Shopping for Lights
- Federal Trade Commission; Coming in 2011: New Labels for Light Bulb Packaging; June 2010
Ann Deiterich has been a writer since 1984 in business-to-business communications, specializing in TQM, business/financial topics, office management and production efficiency. As an environmental proponent, nature and science are her areas of interest. Deiterich holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Albright college and has three expert rating certifications including Grammar, Words/Phrases and Advertising Skills.