Lighting is one of the top energy users in the home.
The familiar incandescent intervention of Edison is being phased out in all sizes, except for some specialty bulbs, being replaced by new, more energy-efficient light bulbs.
Angie Hicks advises, “There are changes on the way for light bulbs. For example, incandescent bulbs are being phased out. If you are not sure what this is going to mean for you, check with your electrician because you might find you have lighting fixtures that will need to be changed.”
The most common alternatives to incandescent light bulbs are CFL’s and LED’s. CFL’s only need one-fifth to one-third the electricity of incandescent to produce the same amount of light and last about ten times as long.
Lighting Designer Don Dragoo says, “They start up initially, but takes them awhile to warm up. So, to reach those optimum light output it’s going to take a couple of minutes.”
LED’s are up to 85 percent more efficient than incandescent and 10 percent more efficient than CFL’s.
“What we are seeing now is the emergence of the LED lighting. We’re seeing a lot of that being used in under cabinet lighting, accent lighting, and recessed lighting," explains Don.
Don continues, “A lot of the LED’s require a special type of dimmer. People who are replacing incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs have to be cognizant of the requirements of replacing that dimmer with a specialty dimmer that works in conjunction with the LED’s.”
While energy-efficient light bulbs last longer, they do cost more than incandescent.
“We are seeing a lot of different bulbs coming out, but because of the competition haven’t really set in strongly, we are seeing that the cost is still pretty high. I think as we get further into the development stages and the competition becoming stiffer we will see the prices starting to come down," Don suggests.
Good Cents Managing Director Bob Nuss says, “When you look at total life of that bulb versus what you paid for that bulb versus what the amount of energy that bulb is using, these are much cheaper. So the tradeoff there is if you want to keep your old incandescent light bulbs you’re going to pay more and change them out more. They are going to create more heat in your home as well.”
Angie’s List, the nation’s leading provider of consumer reviews, asked highly rated lighting professionals for advice on available options.
Alternatives to Incandescent Light Bulbs:
- Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs): CFLs were designed specifically to replace incandescent bulbs. Most fit into the same size light socket as their incandescent counterparts. They contain two essential components: a curved tube lighting tube and compact electronic ballast.
- Pros: CFLs need only one-fifth to one-third the electricity of incandescent to produce the same amount of light, and they last approximately 10 times as long.
- Cons: These lights do contain mercury, however, making disposal more complicated and placing some groups (like young children or pregnant women) at risk if the bulb is damaged. Some people have complained that these bulbs produce light that washes out natural colors and makes homes seem pale or sterile, although new designs combat this issue.
- Light-emitting diodes (LEDs): LEDs are the most recent contender in the lighting market. These compact bulbs have been used for years in Christmas decorations and children's toys, but they're becoming popular for whole-home lighting as well.
- Pros: These bulbs contain no filament and no mercury or other toxic materials; instead, they use diode chips encased in a plastic. When electricity passes through the diode, its electrons become excited and release light, but virtually no heat. As a result, these bulbs are up to 85 percent more efficient than incandescent bulbs and 10 percent more efficient than CFLs.
- Cons: They cost between 10 and 30 times as much as competing bulbs, though they should last longer. While they can now replicate incandescent light temperature, these bulbs may have problems with older sockets and may flicker or refuse to turn on when used with a dimmer switch.
Lighting is one of the top energy users in the home so when shopping for light bulbs check how much energy the bulb uses because that will have an impact on your electric bill.
“Look at the mission of the light bulb. What are you using it for? If you’re just trying to get general light out of it, then I go with the bulb that uses the least amount of energy," Bob advises.
When you choose lighting for your home, you have several factors to consider:
- Lighting mission? What are you using the bulb for? What kind of light are you trying to create? Do you want it to dim? Do you want a 3-way bulb? Not every bulb will work in all lamps/fixtures.
- Cost: You’ll pay more than incandescent bulbs, but they will last longer and not produce as much heat.
- Amount of energy: Check how much energy the bulb uses because that will have an impact on your electric bill.
- Durability: How long will the lights you choose last? A year? Two? Five?
- Appearance: Different types of bulbs produce different colors and temperatures of light, which can significantly alter the tone of a living room or kitchen.
Waste not, watt not
With incandescent bulbs, a watt was a reasonable unit of measure to compare the intensity of light. So you knew that 100-watt bulbs were brightest, followed by 75-watt, then 60-watt bulbs, and so on. But a watt is a unit of power, not brightness. Those incandescent bulbs convert only about 5% of the energy they use into light.
Lumens are a better measure of brightness. A lumen is unit of measure for light perceived by your eye. So while an LED bulb may only emit 10 watts of energy, it can glow up to 44 percent brighter than a 60-watt incandescent bulb.
The higher the wattage is, the larger the bulb has to become. So, physically it might not be an attractive as appearance.
If you're looking to switch over to LEDs but can't make them work in existing sockets, it may be worth hiring an electrician to update your wiring and fixtures.
- Hire a licensed professional: Aside from the danger that goes along with it, faulty electrical work can lead to fires. Licensed electricians also come in two types: journeymen and masters. Journeymen are often paired with masters, and while they can't design whole-home wiring systems, they can do installations or upgrades.
- How much? A master electrician working alone should cost between $30 and $45 an hour, while a journeyman and master together can run from $50 to $75 per hour.
- Ask about education: A licensed electrician will know the code requirements for your area, and whether it requires a permit. A reputable company will require staff to attend monthly training courses and be up-to-date on the National Electrical Code, which is amended every three years.