Energy saving light bulbs are designed with efficiency in mind, turning more of the electricity into light and less of it into heat
Traditional incandescent bulbs are very inefficient as 90 percent of energy used is lost through heat and only 10 percent or less of the energy produces light.
During summer months, the problem of high energy use is worsened by the use of incandescent bulbs and air conditioners that have to work harder and use more energy to keep homes cool.
The reduced energy usage of energy efficient bulbs not only save money on your electric bill, but they also benefit the environment by reducing the amount of electricity that needs to be generated by power plants.
In turn, this reduces the pollution produced by the power plants as well as water use. From an ecological standpoint, energy saving bulbs are the most prudent choice.
Many governments around the world are attempting to phase out the use of incandescent bulbs through regulation on sale, importation, and or production of the bulbs or by offering incentives for switching to energy efficient bulbs and investing in public media campaigns to persuade citizens to make a change.
- Cuba and Brazil are the only countries with a full ban on all types of incandescent light bulbs.
- Venezuela and India have initiated an exchange program where citizens can replace their incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient lighting.
- Other countries with legislation intended to phase out incandescent bulbs include Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Israel, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Switzerland, United States, and all of the countries in the European Union.
Some of this legislation is very strict, and while many laws do not actually ban incandescent bulbs, they set the standards so high that manufacturers are unable to meet them, in effect, eliminating incandescent bulbs from the market.
In the United states, there is a widely spread rumor that there is a ban on production of incandescent bulbs that are 40, 60, 75, and 100 watts, but this is not entirely true.
In reality, the US government has set mandatory standards on the maximum wattage for incandescent bulbs that produce between 310 and 2600 lumens of light. Basically, it is not a ban at all, they only require that efficiency of incandescent bulbs be increased.
The EU has banned the most standard types of incandescent bulbs. Manufacturers, however, have found a loophole to sell their bulbs despite the ban by marketing them for a use that is exempt from the ban.
This has led to a price increase on the bulbs of up to 25 percent. The EU also has a plan to phase out halogen bulbs and any bulb that does not have a ‘B’ energy rating or higher.
With all of this regulation, most of the people in industrialized nations will no doubt be using energy saving light bulbs whether they like it or not, which poses some problems.
The most obvious problem for consumers is that they will now be paying much more to purchase light bulbs than they used to.
Another issue is the massive lack of understanding of watts versus lumens.
To compare Watts and Lumens visit:
Due to this misunderstanding, many people do not realize the overall savings provided by energy efficient bulbs and there is a lot of confusion over what kind of bulb to buy to get the amount of light desired.
Watts are units of measure of electrical power, while lumens are units of measure of emitted light.
Most people are accustomed to determining the light emitted from a light bulb by its watts, but this has become confusing with the change from incandescent to energy saving light bulbs.
Energy efficient bulbs have a much lower wattage than incandescent bulbs for equivalent lumens.
We know that a 100 watt incandescent bulb emits a good amount of light that is appropriate for rooms that we want to be brightly lit, like an office or kitchen, but you are not going to want a 100 watt CFL bulb as that would be too bright.
There are many charts on the internet comparing the lumens between incandescent and energy efficient bulbs as well as updated packaging for energy efficient bulbs to help determine how many lumens you need for your desired light output.
A good rule of thumb when choosing a CFL bulb is to choose one with one-third to one-quarter the amount of watts of an incandescent bulb for the equivalent light output.
There are several different types of energy saving light bulbs
Halogens, CFLs, and LEDs being the most common for household use. Other energy efficient lighting systems are available, but these systems are not made for typical household use.
Halogen light bulbs are the least expensive to buy and they are also the least efficient in the energy efficient bulb category.
It is likely that halogen bulbs will see an eventual phase out in many countries just like incandescent bulbs have.
Halogen bulbs are similar to incandescent bulbs in that electricity heats a tungsten filament to the point where it glows.
Halogen bulbs differ from incandescent bulbs with the addition of a halogen gas, which rejuvenates evaporated tungsten and bonds it back onto the filament that extends the bulb lifespan by 2.5 to 3.5 times over incandescent bulbs.
The energy efficiency of a halogen bulb is up to 20 percent higher than that of an incandescent bulb, which is not very impressive when compared to CFLs and LEDs.
Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are basically the same thing as the long tube fluorescent lights found in many kitchens and garages, only they have a different bulb shape and various sized base elements that can screw into standard household light fixtures.
CFLs are far more efficient than incandescent bulbs using only one-third to one-quarter of electricity for each lumen compared to incandescent bulbs.
They also produce considerably less heat, reducing the chance of burns and lowering home cooling costs.
When cared for properly, the lifespan of CFLs is about ten times greater than that of incandescent bulbs as well. So even though the initial cost of the bulb itself is higher the savings on electricity is substantial enough to make up that cost within 9 months and with an expected life span of four to five years, the overall cost of CFLs is considerably less than incandescents.
A warning about CFL bulbs
Since CFLs contain mercury, they cannot be disposed of with regular household garbage and must be taken to a recycling facility.
Manufacturers often have programs to accept used CFLs as do many hardware stores. Unfortunately, there are too many people that are not aware of these programs and do not know where to take the bulbs.
Some people simply do not want to be inconvenienced by the extra effort to dispose of their used CFLs properly and will toss them in the trash instead. This has contributed to the idea that CFLs may be worse for the environment than incandescent bulbs.
A broken CFL bulb is a hazard because it contains mercury vapors so precautions must be taken when cleaning up the mess.
This is enough of an issue that the United States Environmental Protection Agency has issued a bulletin detailing how to clean up a broken CFL safely. If you plan to use CFLs, I suggest getting familiar with these safety precautions first so that you are prepared in case of accidental breakage.
For more information on CFL safety see the EPA’s website: http://www2.epa.gov/cfl/cleaning-broken-cfl-0
Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are the most expensive to purchase bulbs. They are also the most energy-efficient lighting option and have the longest life span.
Even with the high cost of the bulbs themselves, LEDs offer the highest savings over the lifespan of the bulb.
The main advantage of LEDs over CFLs are their lifespan, which is 15 to 50 times higher than incandescent bulbs.
LEDs provide directional light, which is great for accenting walls or cabinetry, but might not be a good choice for table lamps or ceiling lights.
Innovations with LED bulbs are helping to make them more suitable for lighting large areas and are also making them more affordable, so the future is looking bright for LEDs.
LED bulbs also do not contain mercury making them safe for the environment, people and pets as well as being convenient to dispose of.
It is likely that the future of energy saving light bulbs is with LED bulbs
- Incandescent bulbs are almost completely legislated away.
- It is expected that halogens are next.
- CFLs are also expected to be eliminated once LED technology has advanced enough to provide for all the typical household applications.
While many people express dissatisfaction over government regulation of light bulbs, in the end making these changes will save everyone money and reduce harm to the environment and no longer will we need to worry about making the wrong choice.
Image by: Shaun D Metcalfe
List of LED light manufacturers:
Act One Communications
Aura Light International
Green Energy Lighting Corp
LED Eco Loght
Lighting Components & Design
Osram Opto Semiconductors
Sunbe Solar and Electric