Did you know that simply lighting your home can take up as much as 25% of your power bill? You may not notice that it's hard, if not impossible, to buy a "plain old light bulb" these days. That's because they're no longer being manufactured due to the government's new (as of 2012) energy efficiency standards. Old bulbs were extremely inefficient, giving off 90% more heat than light – a poor way to light a room. But with all of the new-fangled – and seemingly expensive – choices out there, how does one decide? Here are some things to think about as you decide what kind of energy efficient lighting you'd like in your home.
Halogen incandescent lights have a capsule inside which holds gas around a filament. This increases the bulb's light output. Halogen lights are available in many shapes and colors, and can be used with dimmers. These bulbs meet the federal minimum energy efficiency standard, but they're not only choice. There are many more economic and versatile choices available.
CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light)
Just like it sounds, these are fluorescent lights like the ones you might have in your garage that molded into shapes convenient for use in regular outlets. CFL lights are much more efficient than traditional incandescent lights, so the power you save by using them can add up. You'll save the cost of the bulb itself in just nine months. An Energy Star rated CFL used the the energy and lasts about 10 times longer. In addition a CFL only uses about 1/3 the energy that a halogen light does.
The downside to CFL lights is that not all of them are dimmer friendly. They also have a small amount of mercury inside, so they can not just be tossed in the trash. Like batteries, they require special handling when their lifetime is over. Some retailers recycle these bulbs, or you can check with your waste company to see how they prefer you dispose of CFL bulbs.
LED or light emitting diodes are solid state lighting. Inside the housing are semiconductors that convert electricity into light. At first these were mainly used for industrial applications like traffic lights. Today, they're one of the most energy efficient lighting choices. LED is also one of the most rapidly developing technologies.
ENERGY STAR-qualified LEDs use only 20% -25% of the energy and last up to 25 times longer than the traditional incandescent bulbs they replace. LEDs use 25% -30% of the energy and last 8 to 25 times longer than halogen incandescent bulbs.
LED bulbs have been manufactured to easily replace the typical 40, 60 and 75 watt bulbs. Since LED "light bulbs" are a new and developing trend they're more expensive for now. That said, they will still save you money because they last a long time and have very low energy use. As with other electronics, prices are expected to come down as more products enter the market.
We like LED lighting because despite the fact that it's new technology, it's surprisingly easy to install an LED fixture and these fixtures put out more light than you'd expect.