New Energy-Saving Bulbs Are Coming: Here’s How You Find the Right Ones For Your Home

Editor’s Note: EarthTechling, always looking to forward the cleantech revolution discussion, is proud to bring you this article via a cross post from partner Natural Resources Defense Council. Author credit goes to Noah Horowitz.

Come January 1st, a new light bulb standard goes into effect that gradually phase out the 125-year-old inefficient incandescent bulbs. The old 100W bulb as we used to know it will go away in 2012 and be replaced by more efficient incandescent bulbs as well as other energy saving bulbs such as CFLs and LEDs. The old 75W incandescents will be phased out in 2013 and the 60 and 40W bulbs in 2014.

Back in 2007 these standards were signed into law by President Bush with broad bipartisan support and will require new bulbs to be roughly 30% more energy efficient. These standards have huge benefits and will cut our nation’s electric bill by approximately $13 billion/year and eliminate the need for 30 large power plants.

image via Shutterstock

Well guess what, January 1, 2012 is around the corner and there continues to be a lot of misinformation out there. Let me be clear: Consumers will continue to have an array of lighting choices, including new and improved incandescent bulbs. In an attempt to help consumers better prepare for this new standard and find the right energy saving bulbs for their home, I put together in David Letterman style list of the “Top-5 Tips on How to Select the Right Energy Saving Bulbs.” So here it goes:

Top number 5 for consumers to find the right energy saving bulbs is … Buy the bulb that gives off the amount of light you need.

In the past we all bought bulbs based on the amount of power it used.  We all got the call — “bring me home a pack of 100W bulbs from the hardware store.” While consumers were basing their bulb purchase on the amount of power it used, in reality they were trying to buy a certain amount of light and chose between the 40, 60, 75, or 100W incandescent bulb. Given the range of efficiencies the new bulbs provide, buying a bulb solely on the amount of power it uses no longer makes sense and  we’ll have to shift to buying lumens. For example, a typical 60W light bulb produces around 800 lumens. The CFL that produces 800 lumens only uses 15W.  To help consumers during this transition, bulb packages will likely contain a claim like “as bright as a 60W bulb” or “15W = 60W” to indicate the bulb is a suitable replacement for your old 60W incandescent bulb.

See chart below:
chart: buyers' guide to energy-efficient lightbulbs

Number 4: Buy the quality of light you are used to.

Most consumers are most familiar with and used to bulbs that are marketed as “warm white.”  CFLs and LEDs come in many flavors, some offer light that is similar to the slightly yellowish glow a “warm white” incandescent bulb provides while others offer “cooler” white light that is blueish/white in color. While numerous surveys show that more than 80% of consumers who use CFLs state that they are very happy with them, the reason that some are dissatisfied is likely because they bought the wrong one. When shopping for a CFL or LED, be sure to look for one marketed as warm white. Those marketed as cool white or day light have much different light color, which only a small minority of consumers prefer.

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