Bye-Bye, Incandescents (It’s the Law) — Hello, High-Efficiency Lightbulbs

Legislation going into effect starting this year is pushing all of us into the brave new world of Light-Emitting Diode (LEDs) and Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). According to the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, most screw-in light bulbs must use at least 27 percent less energy by 2014. Here’s the timetable for phasing out the old-school incandescent bulbs that Americans have used for 100 years:

  • 2012: As of January 1, 2012, 100-watt bulbs are no longer being made or imported, but they can be sold until supplies run out
  • 2013: The 75-watt incandescent bulb can no longer be made or imported
  • 2014: 60- and 40-watt bulbs get phased out

Why are incandescent bulbs going away?
When you look at the energy used by the 3 billion incandescent bulbs currently in use, less than 10 percent produces light; the rest creates heat. That’s a lot of wasted electricity. Here’s a quote from the EnergyStar program:

If every American home replaced just one light bulb with a light bulb that’s earned the ENERGY STAR, we would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year, save about $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars.

I don’t like the light quality of the new bulbs.
The latest LED bulbs offer several shades of white light, depending on your needs and preferences:  warm (the closest to the yellowish light of incandescent bulbs), cool white or daylight, a bluer shade. (See a demo here.) CFLs also come in a complete range of hues, including a warm white light (2,700 to 3,000 Kelvin) that’s identical to the incandescent glow you’re used to (learn more here).

I heard that CFLs are dangerous because they contain mercury.
They do contain a minute amount of mercury, but in much smaller amounts than the original CFLs- risk is very low. Read the EPA CFL information page to get the facts.

I don’t want to pay the extra money for the new-fangled bulbs.
Compared to the old, inefficient incandescent, there can be a bit of sticker shock with the high-efficient bulbs. But first off, prices have dropped considerably (you can find 60-watt CFLs now for under $2). A typical CFL uses less than 1/4 of the energy of  an incandescent bulb of comparable wattage—and lasts 10 times longer. LEDs are more expensive than CFLs, though prices are getting lower all the time.  ENERGY STAR-qualified LED bulbs use about the same amount of energy as CFLs and last 20,000 to 50,000 hours. If you use an LED three hours a day, that’s between 18 and 46 years!

Got more questions? Learn more at the Lighting FAQs page and this Right Light Guide from CERTS (Clean Energy Resource Teams). Have you made the transition to energy-efficient bulbs? Where are you using them? What differences  have you noticed? Please share you experiences in the comments below.

Thanks to Flickr user CERTs