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What to Look For When Buying Energy Efficient Bulbs

Buying Bulbs
Everyone has talked about the new energy efficiency standards and how these relate to the standard 40 and 60 watt incandescent light bulbs. While the changes did not happen overnight, over time these bulbs began to disappear from store shelves. By now you know these bulbs were replaced by compact fluorescent (CFL) and LED bulbs, and that these bulbs are far more efficient. If you have to replace your bulb today, these are your options.
Here are some things you need to know.


You may need to know exactly what to look for when buying new, more energy efficient bulbs. The incandescent bulb you've known is generally classified by wattage. With CFL and LED bulbs, that is not necessarily true in every case, and the wattages you've grown accustomed to will change. So what will you be looking for when purchasing CFL and LED bulbs? Here are a few of the key things to know:

Wattage: While wattage isn't as important as it used to be with incandescent bulbs, it is still important to know. After all, the lower the wattage, the more you will save on your energy bill.

Lumens: This is what will tell you how much light the bulb puts out. A 40 watt incandescent bulb puts out around 500 lumens, so to replace it look for 500 lumens on the package of a CFL or LED bulb. Make sure to look at lumens before watts, because LED and CFL bulbs can use the same number of watts but give off different lumens.

Rated Hours: This is perhaps the coolest and most important aspect of the new generation of light bulbs. Traditional incandescent bulbs worked for about a year at most before needing to be replaced. CFL bulbs can last anywhere from a few years to a decade, or between 7,000 and 10,000 hours. LED bulbs can work for 20 years or more, or up to 30,000 hours!

Rated hours is not a warranty, though. It is simply the point at which half the bulbs in a test sample are deemed to have reached the end of their life, either by complete failure or by dimming to below a certain lumen output. Different factors can lower a bulb's life, such as constantly turning it on and off, and using a non-dimming bulb on a dimmer switch.

Color Temperature: We talked about color temperature last week. Newer technology allows for bulbs with the same brightness to give off different color temperatures. There is no wrong answer when it comes to color temperature, it is all about personal preference. You may even want to have different color temperatures in different rooms of your home. Warm white in the bedroom, cool white in the kitchen? Easy to do with CFLs and LED.

Obviously, replacing incandescent bulbs with CFL or LEDs will come with some immediate sticker shock. Incandescent bulbs typically cost less than $1 per bulb, while CFLs sell for around $3-$4 and LEDs are can cost up to $10 or more, although LED prices are coming down due to decreased production costs and increased demand.

In the long term, however, CFL and LEDs pay for themselves many times over. Up to 90% of the energy used by an incandescent bulb is given off as heat, not light. CFL's give off far less heat, and thus more lumens per watt. LEDs are even better, giving off almost zero heat. All in all, CFL and LED bulbs use about 70%-80% less energy.

As we have said all along, we understand why you would be unsure about the new regulations, but you shouldn't fear them. In fact the sooner you embrace the change, the sooner you will see savings on your energy bill. That's a change that will make anyone smile.