Here’s a Bright Idea – Energy Efficient Lightbulbs

In case you haven’t heard, the federal government is about to rock your dark little world. Before you go out and buy a lamp that uses a traditional incandescent bulb, keep in mind that buying replacement bulbs will be very difficult.
Here are the who, what, when, where, why and how of these changes:
Most ordinary bulbs, the type introduced by Tom Edison more than a century and a quarter ago, waste their energy consumption by putting out lots of heat. That’s why you can’t touch such a bulb with your bare hand after it’s been on for a moment or two. So, most of the energy is expended as heat, not light. The government wants less of that energy wasted. The aim is to save Americans $13 billion per year and reduce CO2 emissions by 100 million tons annually.
Starting next January, it will be lights out for traditional 100-watt bulbs. Manufacturers will be prohibited from making those bulbs as of that date. 75-watters go the following year. As of 2014, 60- and 40-watters will be discontinued. If you have a fixture that uses candelabra, appliance, or three-way bulbs (the ones that typically have two elements and can click to 50, 100 or 150 watts), not to worry; you’re protected for the foreseeable future.

Sylvania LED Bulb

     So what can we do to keep the lights on when we run out of old-style bulbs? There are plenty of alternatives around with more to come than you can shake a filament at. You probably already have compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs, in your home already. They are the ones that look like swirled soft ice cream cones. Some folks don’t like their spirally looks, the color of their light, or the fact that you can’t clip light shades onto them. The first two objections are being dealt with. Some newer versions encase the swirls in an outer globe. And there is a growing variety of shades of light available.
Halogen bulbs produce more light per watt than do incandescent bulbs. They’ve been around a while in the form of tubes that snap into clips at either end for use in lamps that are designed to accommodate them. They can, however, get very hot.  A greater variety of halogens is now available, including those that screw in like the incandescents.
I recently bought a bunch of flashlights that were on sale at a local electronics store for a buck apiece.
Each one is about the size of a lipstick except that it’s a little thicker. At the front end are nine tiny LED (short for light emitting diode) bulbs. The amount of light this thing emits is awesome. The LEDs don’t get hot because most of their energy – which comes from three AAA batteries (side note: how come there are no A or B batteries?) – goes to making light. The little suckers are amazingly bright. LEDs are the light of the future because of their small size, exceptionally long life, and their efficiency.
All of these alternative bulbs (while most of them are no longer bulb shaped, the term has come to mean almost any man-made item that gives off light) are much more expensive than traditional incandescents, they earn back their initial cost by using way less energy. And they tend to last a lot longer.
The October 2011 edition of Consumer Reports has a nice breakdown of a variety of bulb types, by function. It rates them according to brightness, expected bulb life, light color, warm-up time (for CFLs), and other characteristics.
Briefly, when shopping for bulbs, look for price, life expectancy in hours, brightness (in lumens), and color of the light. The colors can be cool or warm, daylight bright or slightly yellowish.


  1. Cary Kozlov says:

    What about the mercury content in these bulbs? Should I be concerned when recycling or possibly breaking these?

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