Buying lightbulbs for your home used to be so easy. For standard lamps, you had one type of bulb, incandescent. It came in clear or frosted and 60W, 100W, or 120W[att] ratings. They didn’t last a real long time, but they were cheap, so no one really cared too much.
Today a trip down the light bulb aisle requires a research analysis team, the stores lighting expert, and a bigger wallet. I hope to eliminate the lighting confusion and help you discover the best choice for your lighting needs.
First on our list is the bulb you are already familiar with. This bulb has been lighting the US since Thomas Edison invented it in 1879. While there have been a number of changes to the incandescent bulb over the years, not much has changed since the 1940s and the introduction of the “Soft light” bulb. These bulbs are made of glass and use a metal filament to create light.
If you’ve ever reached up into a lamp shade to turn off a lamp, then you most certainly are familiar with the warm.. hot surface of these bulbs. That’s because only 10% of the energy these bulbs use gets converted to visible light. The bulk majority of the energy is given off as heat. The heat isn’t anything to be alarmed about, but it does mean that most of your money to light a room is being lost in heat conversion.
Incandescents give off a beautiful light spectrum. You can still find them at most stores and they cost anywhere from $0.50 – $2.00, for a standard 60W bulb. They will last for about 3 months, unless you bump into the lamp while the bulb is on and accidentally bust the filament inside. The real price paid with this type of bulb is at the electric meter.
CFL (Compact Fluorescent)
CFLs became commercially available in the 1990’s, but it wasn’t until the early 2000’s that they start to gain in popularity, due to an increased awareness and desire for reducing energy consumption. CFLs use a fraction of the energy that incandescents use. To get the same amount of light as a 60W incandescent bulb, a CFL only needs 15W. That’s 75% LESS energy required! By using CFLs, you can reduce you energy consumption for lighting by 75%. Now we’re talking about saving some money and less energy is good for the environment… right? Right? The answer to that question is somewhat mixed.
Yes, less energy consumption is better for the environment, but CFLs have an issue that doesn’t get much press. Mercury. There are small amounts of mercury inside each fluorescent bulb. They are safe for you to use at home, but in the ground they’re not so safe. So should you use them? Yes. The solution is simple. When you are finished with a CFL, do not throw them in the trash. Instead, set them aside for a recycling drop off. *DO NOT PUT THEM IN YOUR RECYCLING CONTAINERS* CFL’s can be safely recycled separate from your typical recycling. Many stores have bins for recycling these bulbs. To find a CFL Return location near you, go to: http://recycleabulb.veoliaes.com/network?pid=1676
Besides the benefit of the lower wattage and energy savings, CFL’s outlast Incandescents big time. A typical Incandescent bulb will last for 1,000 hours. A CFL bulb can last 6,000 – 10,000 hours!
Color Choice. This is a bit more complex than the previous bulbs, but we can simplify it. To recreate the look of an Incandescent bulb, look for the package to say either “warm white” or “bright white”. For most homes, warm white is the way to go. Whichever you choose, just be certain to use the same for all lamps otherwise you will notice a big color difference in your lamps.
LED (Light Emitting Diode)
The last bulb on our list is the LED light. LED’s have been around for a long time. Remote controls, power light indicators, numerous toys, LED’s have been used as many things. But it really is just in recent years that they have found they’re way into our lives as actual light sources. When they first hit the market, the price was pretty high, topping over $20/bulb. But today you can buy a 60W equivalent (8.5W actual wattage) for as little as $1.72 each. How long do they last? 50,000 hours!!! At 12 hours of use/day, that’s around 11 years. In fact, as of November, 2016, I have 4 LED lamps in my home that are on 24/7 that I first plugged in 2009. They’re still shining bright as ever!
Each bulb costs about $1.00/year in energy. This makes LED bulbs the winner in efficiency and value. Just like the CFL, the LED comes in many light spectrums. Look for “warm white” or “soft white” for that typical home light spectrum.
Making Your Selection
Only you know what is right for your home. Hopefully this comparison has shed some light on the subject for you. (Get it? Shed some light…) One last thing; in the world of bulbs, the value of Wattage Rating is outshone by the value of Lumens. This chart should help you to make the switch from looking at watts to looking at lumens.