Published February 20, 2013
Incandescent light bulbs have changed little over the course of the last century. Much of the electricity these bulbs consume gets converted into heat, rather than light, costing consumers big bucks in monthly energy bills. Looking to force some energy efficient upgrades in the lighting market, Congress passed a law in 2007 that phases out traditional incandescent bulbs over a number of years. A restriction on 100-watt bulbs took effect last year, and 75-watt bulbs were phased out in January. Next year, restrictions on 60-watt bulbs will go into effect.
The law has not been without its critics, and fans of the old Edison bulb have rallied to its defense, causing Congress to vote to defund enforcement of the law it had passed just a few years earlier. Despite this, the law is still on the books and it looks like we’ll soon be saying goodbye to traditional bulbs as manufacturers, consumers and the federal government push for more energy efficient alternatives. So if you’re looking to upgrade your old incandescent bulbs, here are some energy efficient alternatives to light your home.
For those looking to replace their incandescent bulbs, the first option is, well, incandescent bulbs. One of the biggest myths about the phaseout plan is that it targets traditional filament-based bulbs, but what it really does is impose higher energy efficiency standards on all lighting options. In 2011, Philips debuted its EcoVantage line, an incandescent bulb that is up to 30 percent more energy efficient than traditional bulbs. These halogen-based bulbs, which cost just a little more than traditional bulbs, produce the same warm light that consumers have come to expect from incandescents, but last three times longer and meet the new energy-efficiency standards.
Compact Fluorescent Lights
Generally hated by consumers, CFLs are an imperfect solution to the problem of energy efficiency. The complaints about these soft-served-shaped bulbs are many. They cast a uncomfortable blue-green light instead of the warm hues we’ve come to expect from incandescent bulbs. They don’t work with dimmer switches. They often take a second or more to come on. And, while they greatly improve energy efficiency, these bulbs have mercury in them, creating a new environmental problem when it comes time to toss them out.
While the technology has improved over the years, with manufacturers now offering dimmable bulbs and warmer color spectrums, many are still suspicious of these incandescent imitators. However, the energy savings these bulbs offer isn’t in dispute. A CFL producing the same amount of lumens -- a measurement of the intensity of light -- as a 60 watt incandescent only uses 15 watts of power, a 75 percent savings. In addition to the reduced energy cost, these bulbs also outlast incandescents by a few years, so while they cost quite a bit more up front, the savings is considerable over the life of the bulb.
The latest, greatest new lighting technology to hit the market is the LED light. Relying on semiconductors and circuit boards to produce light, these bulbs are a significant tech upgrade over the options currently on the market. They produce the same warm glow as incandescents and avoid the shortcoming of CFL bulbs. They are also the most energy efficient bulbs on the market, requiring 75 to 80 percent less power than incandescents.
While these bulbs do currently carry a pretty big price tag, with some costing $20 or more or more, they also last 20 years, making them a pretty good investment over the next few decades. Note, however, that the cost of these bulbs is dropping rapidly, so you might want to hold off for a year or two and scoop up a pack when the price is more reasonable.