Light Bulbs Aren’t What They Used to Be

The transition to more energy-efficient lighting means a quick trip to your local hardware store could take much longer than expected. The EPA suggests every household replace incandescent bulbs with “Energy Star”-rated LEDs or CFLs (compact fluorescent), to save on energy and costs. However, there are so many different types of bulbs, price points and life spans, it is easy to get frustrated and lose focus of the goal – save $/energy while creating the ambience you want for your home and landscaping.

Quick tips to help you navigate the light bulb aisle:

Watts and Lumens

Bulbs are often shopped for by wattage. Did you know that wattage is actually a measure of a bulb’s electricity not its brightness? The amount of brightness a light bulb generates is measured in lumens. So when shopping for energy efficient bulbs wattage isn’t necessarily an accurate gauge when determining what you need and what will save on energy and costs. For example an incandescent 60-watt bulb gives off 800 lumens of light. LED bulbs, which are more energy efficient, can provide the same amount of light using as little as 10 watts. You can easily find conversions rates of watts and lumens on the internet, which you may want to do before heading to the store.

What are CFLs + tips for use and disposal?

Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) use a fifth to one-third the electricity, and can last up to eight to fifteen times longer than their counterparts. Although they can be more expensive, in the long run you can save money as the bulb lasts longer while using less energy. A few things to consider:

  • Buy CFLs with the Energy Star logo as they are the only ones that are guaranteed to meet the EPA’s testing requirements for performance and longevity.
  • Frequent flipping the on/off switch of a CFL can shorten its life span.
  • CFLs don’t always work well in cold climates so they may not be the best choice for outdoor lighting.
  • Please note that CFLs do contain mercury, so you will want to dispose of them properly. Visit and search CFLs to find the many locations where you can dispose of them safely.

What are LEDs and how are they different than incandescent and CFLs?

Light–emitting diodes (LEDs) are semiconductor devices that produce light very efficiently. LEDs are different in that they can be more durable and often times have a longer life span than incandescent light bulbs. They are also more versatile when it comes to architecture and design. You can find them in amber, red, green, and blue. And believe it or not, there is no such thing as a white LED. To get white, colors are mixed or covered with a phosphor material that converts the color of the light to appear white. A few things to consider:

  • LEDs are great for directional lights (recessed cans and downlights), sockets that are connected to a dimmer as well as hard-to-reach sockets. They can last up to 25 years. If used correctly, you won’t have to change a light bulb for a really long time!
  • While the cost of LEDs may seem high, prices continue to drop. Also, LEDs are getting more efficient, which means you are using less energy and saving $ over the lifetime of the bulb.
  • LEDs do not contain mercury but do contain nickel, lead, and trace amounts of arsenic. When used and disposed of properly, they pose no risk. However, they can pose significant health hazards when left in a landfill. More than 95 percent of LEDs are recyclable. Contact your local waste management company to learn how to recycle your bulbs.

How do I choose the right light bulb?

Check out the back of each light bulb package that includes lighting facts. Here with the information from our previous blog post you will be better equipped to choose the right:

  • Brightness
  • Energy cost
  • Life expectancy
  • Light appearance (for example, color or warm” or cool)
  • Wattage
  • Mercury content
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