Looking at Lightbulbs
As you may have noticed, whenever they are not about research, my blog posts have a tendency to reflect things that are happening in my life. Specifically, they are often about things that I have had to research or look into for some practical reason or because I want to try a new hobby. Today will not be the day that I deviate from the pattern. I recently moved, and now have to pay my electric bill separate from my rent. My friend, Shannon, lives in a similar place and recommended switching my lightbulbs to be energy efficient and really cut down my electric bill. This left me with the problem of deciding what qualified as an energy efficient lightbulb and how to minimize my overall expenses on electricity, as well as figuring out how to buy lightbulbs in general. Thus, below, I present you all with a summary of my findings from my lightbulb research.
First, there are 3 main types of lightbulbs worth talking about for the purpose of this research. Essentially, three types that go in normal household fixtures. Obviously, depending on your needs, you would look at different sizes or brightnesses of lightbulbs. In any case, these are: incandescent (or standard/halogen) lightbulbs, compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL), and LED (light-emitting diode) lightbulbs. Each of the three has specific qualities that may suit your purposes. Beyond the requirements of the fixtures or for your own personal preference, there are several factors to keep in mind. I'm a very visual person, so I've decided to give you all this table to help showcase the properties of the different types of lightbulbs.
Each of these comparisons (LEDs and CFLs) are juxtaposed against the incandescent lightbulb. This is the standard lightbulb. Sometimes halogen incandescent lightbulbs are used, which are more efficient than standard incandescents, but still nowhere near an LED or CFL. The CFLs and LEDs are the two versions of more energy efficient lightbulbs. If you look closely at a lightbulb box for a CFL or LED, you will see that under where it might say 60 watts or 100 watts it will then say something like "Replacement. Actual 10.5 watts". Essentially, these lightbulbs will produce the same amount of light as a standard 60 watt lightbulb, but only take 10.5 watts to do it. ENERGY EFFICIENCY.
Another way to look at this is by looking at the lumens. The lumens are a measure of the brightness of the bulb. So a 60 watt standard bulb might produce 800 lumens. By looking for an LED that produces 800 lumens, which might be a 15 watt LED, you can get a lightbulb that produces the same brightness, with significantly less energy.
Essentially, there are a few key takeaways from this table and a couple of things that I need to add and that you as a lightbulb buyer need to keep in mind.
So let's talk about CFLs. This table is very simplified. In actuality, CFLs are much closer to LEDs in these categories than they are to incandescents. If you are picking between and incandescent and a CFL, the CFL will always be the better call. But CFLs are a convenient middle ground in other important areas. Like an LED, they are very energy efficient. They are much more similar in their energy use to an LED than other types of lightbulbs. And they are sometimes cheaper than LEDs, which can be the real practical reason to buy a CFL. However there are downsides to CFLs. As demonstrated in the table, a CFL still gives off heat, which uses extra energy, and is also something you have to keep in mind when putting a CFL in a light fixture. You don't want to use it around something flammable or delicate. Additionally, CFLs have a very small amount of mercury in them. This is not really an issue and damaging them won't cause you harm, but they need to be properly disposed of when they stop working. They also do not last as long as LEDs, so while they are cheaper in the sort run, they will have to be replaced more often.
Having covered the downsides of CFLs, lets talk about LEDs. This table largely shows the benefits of LEDs. They are very energy efficient, they last a very long time, and they are cool, not emitting heat. The downside to LEDs is that they are comparatively pricier than CFLs and incandescents. However, as I mentioned when discussing CFLs, they will very rarely need to be replaced, so they are easier on your wallet in the long run, and not ridiculously expensive to begin with. LEDs are also dimmable, so they offer fun options for lighting, depending on your preference.
So all of this information really points to LEDs being the leading option for energy efficient lighting. This fact begs the question: why doesn't everyone use LEDs? There is one main reason for this. Light color.
When LEDs were first mass produced, they only came in a bright, blue light, often referred to and white light, cold light, or daylight in terms of light color. Consumers did not really like this kind of light for their everyday use. Think of sort of the sterile bright feeling of a hospital. That is how many people felt the LEDs made their houses feel. As a result, many turned to CFLs, which were capable of a yellow, warmer, soft light (actually cooler in light/temperature terms, but a more yellow color, which is considered "warmer" light). This look was much more appealing to consumers.
Since that time, LEDs have changed and now come in the warmer colors as well as the brighter, blue-white light colors. However, many people still retain their original feelings about LEDs and do not buy them.
While there is still a need for consumers to switch to buying LEDs, these lightbulbs are the clear front-runners in energy efficiency and were a very clear choice for me as I bought new lightbulbs for my house. Here is a picture of the ones I bought!
Good luck with buying your lightbulbs!
Here are my sources (including my mom!):
Personal communication with Denise Sacks
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