Have you purchased a new light bulb lately and had difficulty figuring out how to replace that incandescent bulb with the same wattage you had before? The way that lighting options are measured and evaluated has changed as part of the movement toward energy efficiency.
In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy issued new standards for lighting in an effort to reduce the amount of energy consumed by light bulbs. The efficiency standards are being phased in from 2012 to 2014. While there is no ban on any specific type of bulb, the standards do require that bulbs sold in the U.S. use about 25% less energy. Traditional incandescent light bulbs, which do not meet the new efficiency standards, are currently being phased out of stores.
In place of the inefficient incandescent bulbs, consumers now have several lighting options to choose from including: compact fluorescent light (CFL), light-emitting diode (LED), and energy-saving incandescent (halogen). The energy-saving options offer a choice of light levels, sizes, shapes, and colors. Which option is best will depend on the purpose and location of the lighting, as well as personal preference.
How do new lighting options compare to traditional incandescent bulbs?
Lumens vs. Watts
In order to properly evaluate new lighting options, the most important thing to consider is how to measure the performance of one bulb compared to another. If you attempt to purchase a bulb with the same wattage as your old incandescent bulb, you will encounter some confusion. Here’s why:
Traditional incandescent light bulbs were measured in terms of the amount of energy they used. The number of watts indicated how much energy was consumed in order to give off a certain amount of light. With the introduction of energy efficient lighting, lumens are the new unit of measure. Lumens are a measure of brightness, or how much light you are getting from a bulb. More lumens mean brighter light. Now that you are choosing energy-efficient lighting based on lumens, you will likely be purchasing lights with lower wattage, while still getting the same amount of light.
Reading The Label
Understanding how to compare watts (energy consumed) to lumens (amount of light produced) is helpful when replacing incandescent bulbs. The following chart is useful in determining how many lumens you need to ensure you are getting the same amount of light with the conversion to energy-efficient lighting. A good rule of thumb is to find the light bulb with the brightness (lumens) that meets your needs, and then choose the bulb with the lowest number of watts (energy used).
The Federal Trade Commission has developed the Lighting Facts label to provide consistent information on product packaging, including light output, energy used, durability, and color of light. It is interesting to note that both Brightness (lumens) and Light Appearance are listed. Light Appearance, also referred to as Color Temperature, allows the consumer to choose the desired hue of the light, in addition to the Brightness. Warm light is generally more yellow and more closely matched to the color of incandescent bulbs, measuring between 2700-3000 Degrees Kelvin.
The Energy Star label goes further in verifying the potential energy savings of a light bulb. Compared to incandescent light bulbs, Energy Star Qualified light bulbs use less energy, last longer, produce less heat, save on electricity costs, have manufacturer-backed warranties, and meet strict performance requirements.
Return on Investment
While it is true that the initial price of energy efficient bulbs is higher than traditional bulbs, the value of the long-term investment is undeniable. The newer bulbs cost less to operate each year and last longer. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it costs approximately $4.80 per year in electricity costs to operate a traditional incandescent bulb. Compare this to $1.20 per year to operate an Energy Star CFL bulb and $1 per year to operate an Energy Star LED bulb. When it comes to durability, Energy Star CFL and LED bulbs last between 10-25 times longer than incandescent bulbs with the same light output.
Given the potential for energy and cost savings resulting from efficient lighting options, it is no surprise that smart lighting choices are a key component to energy efficiency upgrades. To learn more about residential and commercial energy management, check out Everblue’s Energy Efficiency Programs.