If you go to a hardware or home improvement store and check out the lighting section, you'll likely find rows and rows of light bulbs to choose from. It used to be that if you needed to replace a light bulb, the big decision was the wattage such as 40, 60, or 100. On rare occasions, you might even select a fun, colored light bulb. Every household in the country used incandescent light bulbs.
Stores shelves now have replacement bulbs that say "60-watt equivalent.” And the upfront price of these newer bulbs is substantially more than (some cases 10 times) the price of the familiar 60-watt incandescent bulb.
The United States and other countries around the world are phasing out incandescent light bulbs. The bulb that Thomas Edison gave to the world was a marvel of its time, however, now there are more efficient, longer-lasting bulbs that conserve energy in your home and that can shine brighter than ever.
There are a few factors to consider before buying new light bulbs for your home. Learn more about LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs, CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) bulbs, energy efficiency, cost savings, and more.
Why the Change?
At the end of the Bush administration in 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which was designed to go into effect in 2011. This gave lighting manufacturers time to design and retool bulbs that would be more efficient in American homes.
The requirements set the maximum amount of power, in watts, that can be used to produce a certain amount of light in lumens. The law does not ban any specific light bulb. But, by requiring light bulbs to be more efficient or produce more lumens per watt, it makes it difficult for the lighting industry to continue to meet the requirement with incandescent light bulb technology. It's much easier to do it with other technologies such as CFLs and LEDs.
Do You Have to Buy a CFL or LED Light Bulb?
Quite simply, you should buy a CFL or LED light bulb. You do have the option to get incandescent bulbs, but, it's not the best choice. Light bulb makers actually wanted (and lobbied) for the passage of the new Energy Act because while most Americans were beginning to make the switch already to new lighting technology, many were not.
Since this dichotomy existed, the manufacturers had to make both the old and new bulb types for years, and they wanted to get out of that trap. Since the country was on the path of energy conservation and cutting its reliance on fossil fuels, improving light bulb technology was clearly part of the solution. The newer light bulbs save a significant amount of energy. As more and more American households reduced their energy usage, the countrywide energy savings grew exponentially.
The Math on Energy Savings
A standard 60-watt incandescent bulb puts out about 820 lumens. That translates to a 60-watt incandescent bulb producing 13.67 lumens per watt. One of the better CFLs on the market, the GE Reveal Bright from the Start light bulb, uses 15 watts to produce 740 lumens. That bulb has an efficiency of 49.33 lumens per watt. That’s a nice improvement.
LED bulbs go even further. The standard Cree 60-watt replacement LED puts out 800 lumens using only 9 watts of power. That is an efficiency of 84.21 lumens per watt.
The LED bulb is more than six times as efficient as the incandescent bulb it is replacing. To put it another way, switching from an incandescent 60-watt bulb to a 60-watt-equivalent LED bulbs saves nearly 84 percent of the price.
If you go to the store and have an LED in one hand and an incandescent in the other, off the bat, you would be thinking the new-fangled bulbs are highway robbery since the upfront cost of LEDs is much more expensive. But, again, look at the math.
When the bulbs first came out, to buy a 60-watt equivalent LED would cost $10. Now, you can buy a 4-pack for about $6. The prices are coming down as production ramps up. It used to be that you could buy a 60-watt incandescent light bulb for less than a dollar. But here is the math: that incandescent bulb was only rated for 1,500 hours or 1.4 years. So, it cost 59 cents a year to buy and replace them. The LED bulb is rated for 25,000 hours or 22.8 years. That brings the cost down to pennies per year. Not only will you not have to hassle with changing out the light bulbs, but they also cost a lot less to buy as well as to power up.
The Best Bulbs
Choosing the best bulbs to buy is a bit of a moving target as manufacturers are continuously working on new designs and fine-tuning their production methods. If you grew up with incandescent light bulbs in your house, then you're likely used to the warm tone given off by the light in contrast to the stark white brightness of fluorescent lights. The lighting industry is working on that. The quality of the light is determined by its color or color temperature. This term in the industry is known as the Color Rendering Index. Everyone has a preference there.
If savings are what you're after, then any LED or CFL bulb will be better than an incandescent. Some of the standouts include TCP 60-Watt Equivalent A19 LED Bulbs, Philips 60-Watt Equivalent LED Bulbs, Philips 455576 2700K A19 LED Bulb, and the GE 13-Watt Energy Smart 60-Watt CFL.