Efficient Home Lighting Choices: Page 2 of 4

Intermediate

Inside this Article

Lighting Examples
Informational lightbulb packaging
Lighting packaging usually gives you all the data you need.
DOE lighting facts
Some products will bear the U.S. DOE’s Lighting Facts label, which helps identify a bulb’s characteristics, such as light output, efficacy, and color rendering.
Compact Fluorescent examples
Incandescent examples
LED examples
LED bulbs in stores.
LED lighting for many applications is now available at your local hardware store.
Beam angle matching
Matching beam angle to the lighting task is important—wide for area and ambient lighting, or narrow for task lighting. Until recently, LEDs were hampered by narrow beam angles, but that is changing.
Lighting Examples
Informational lightbulb packaging
DOE lighting facts
Compact Fluorescent examples
Incandescent examples
LED examples
LED bulbs in stores.
Beam angle matching

Correlated color temperature (CCT; reported in Kelvin, K) tells you how “warm” or “cool” the light from a bulb appears.  Residential users typically favor warm (approximately 2,700 K) CCTs similar to incandescent bulbs, or 3,000 K (similar to halogen bulbs). In the 4,000 K to 6,000 K range, the resulting light can appear bluish. It is common for people who live in very sunny and tropical locations to favor bulbs with higher CCTs, given their greater similarity to daylight or midday sunshine.

The Energy Star label appears on energy-efficient products that deliver good performance in most of the attributes listed above. But thousands of models now qualify for it, so you need to be more selective to find the best performers. Also, be aware that many new energy-saving lighting products are introduced to market a few months before they have completed enough accelerated lifetime testing to earn the Energy Star label. The manufacturer will later change the packaging to reflect receipt of that certification, but the product inside the package can often be the same as the one selling a few months earlier without the logo.  This means that the most recently introduced models without an Energy Star logo can occasionally be more efficient and affordable than older models that are labeled.

More specialized information can often be found on product packages or manufacturer websites, including beam angle and center-beam candlepower for reflector lamps, compatibility with common dimmers, etc. If you are buying a large number of efficient bulbs, check online reviews to find products that have been consistently popular with other users, or buy from a retailer that will allow you to return the products for a refund if you are unhappy with their performance.

Lighting Technologies

Incandescent bulbs employ a thin tungsten filament that conducts enough electricity to glow white hot. Although this technology is more than 100 years old now, it has received only a few upgrades since Thomas Edison’s original invention. However, incandescents remain widely available on the market, but most are now filled with halogen gas to allow them to comply with federal energy-efficiency standards. Unfortunately, the federal standards were drafted in such a way that many manufacturers are meeting the new power limits by making their lamps dimmer. So it takes careful label reading and comparison-shopping to get a true replacement. Use the “Incandescent Replacements” table to ensure that the halogens you buy are just as bright as the old incandescents you are replacing. 

For example, if the new halogen bulb you are considering claims to replace a 75 W incandescent but only provides 900 lumens, it’s really more like a 60 W incandescent—and won’t give you enough light. General Electric sells a Reveal halogen bulb that claims to replace a standard 100 W incandescent using only 72 W, but it only provides 1,120 lumens. It is barely bright enough to replace a standard 75 W bulb, yielding almost no energy savings!

Many types of halogen bulbs cut power use by 25% to 30% but often cut light output substantially as well, barely improving efficiency.  Modified-spectrum halogens (the bulbs’ glass has a bluish-purple hue) are the worst offenders—avoid them. When buying halogens, look for infrared-reflective (IR) models with special low-e coatings that bounce heat back onto the filament while letting visible light pass through. This allows the best incandescents to deliver more lumens per watt. 

The old-fashioned incandescent lamps that remain legal to sell without halogen gas largely fall into particular niche product categories like three-way, vibration-resistant, and extremely bright (more than 2,600 lumens).  Avoid these products as well—there are more efficient choices.

A new, promising incandescent technology potentially doubles the efficiency and life of standard incandescents by using IR coatings to reflect bulb heat back to the filament, which makes it even brighter. These bulbs may achieve a remarkable 32 to 37 lumens per watt, compared to the 7 to 18 lumens per watt seen with typical incandescent bulbs. CFLs and LEDs are still more efficient than these new incandescents, but can cost more and have subtle differences in color quality.

Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) are widely available in a range of sizes, prices, and light levels. They have miniaturized the technology found in typical linear fluorescent lamps, bending the tube into a small amount of space.  Thousands of models are now Energy Star qualified, and many utilities provide rebates for them.

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