Wherever we work, rest, play or live, we depend on light. It illuminates our world, creates powerful ambiance, and has limitless applications.
So when the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) passed in 2007, there was some concern over what it would mean for consumers. The next seven years marked a count down to what would ultimately be a complete phase out of the ever popular incandescent bulb.
As of January 1, 2014, incandescent bulbs can no longer be manufactured in and imported to the U.S. However, most Americans say they feel left out in the dark about the phase out. Only 40% of Americans were aware of the changes, according to the results of our 2008 Socket Survey. But, with two-thirds of us already planning to switch to more efficient bulbs, the good news is most of us are well on our way to being prepared for life beyond the incandescent.
For over 125 years, the incandescent bulb has remained relatively unchanged: an electrical current passes through a filament, causing it to heat and give off light. However, these bulbs only harness 10% of that energy, and the other 90% is lost as heat. Multiply this by the EPA's estimated 3 billion incandescent lights in use today, and you get a lot of wasted energy. We've come a long way since Thomas Edison's breakthrough back in 1879, and we will never forget his historical legacy. But as an innovator, we doubt he'd approve of our continued use of inefficient technology.
While the truth is that new, more energy-efficient bulbs have a higher price tag, they're well worth the investment. That's because they are longer lasting, more durable and consume a fraction of the energy of their predecessors. By switching to smarter lighting choices - halogen, compact fluorescent and LED bulbs -American households could collectively save $6 billion on energy costs in 2015 alone.
Still not sure about your lighting choices? Don't worry. With today's energy saving options, we need to look at lumens to determine the brightness of a bulb, and not simply focus on wattage. Wattage indicates energy consumption. The higher the lumens, the brighter the light, and vice versa. Just as more efficient cars get more miles per gallon, more efficient light bulbs get more lumens per watt.
Here's a breakdown of what you can expect from the new lighting choices:
Halogen bulbs improve over traditional incandescent technology by putting a small amount of gas together with a tungsten filament. The new halogen general-purpose lamps meet EISA standards and last an average of 1,000 hours--the same as most traditional incandescent bulbs. The most affordable option of the three, halogen bulbs are available in most shape, style, and beam angle imaginable, and offer a range of color quality from clear, bright white to a familiar warm light of traditional incandescent bulbs.
Use for: high-quality task lighting for places like office spaces and craft rooms or pendant fixtures that hang over a kitchen island
Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) use up to 75% less energy than incandescent, and can last up to 11 years, making these bulbs more than worth the initial investment. Improvements in CFL technology have also reduced the harsh light often associated with them, and are now available in soft white, bright white, and daylight colors. However, if you plan to use a CFL with a dimmer switch, make sure to choose a bulb with "dimmable" on the packaging. Not all CFLs have this function.
Use for: bright, crisp lighting in places like garages and utility closets
LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs, like CFLs, have increased energy efficiency (up to 80% less consumed), generate a fraction of the heat, and last anywhere from 15 to 20 years. With solid state lighting, LEDs offer a great range and quality of color and are incredibly reliable and sustainable. Though these bulbs have a higher initial cost, in most cases the total cost of ownership over the life of the bulb is actually the lowest of the three. On top of that, many energy suppliers are encouraging customers to make the switch to LED lights, so keep an eye out for utility rebate programs.
Use for: general, ambient light for table lamps all around the home including bedrooms and living rooms
So consider this an opportunity to refresh your lighting lingo and make smarter lighting choices. Not only will you create a more energy-efficient home, but you'll do your part to create a more sustainable future. Because after all, there is life beyond the incandescent bulb.