Facts About Energy Efficient Light Bulbs

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Using an energy efficient light bulb helps reduce energy consumption and is is a small step you can take to help protect our planet. There are two types of energy efficient light bulbs readily available to the consumer: the compact florescent light bulb (or CFL) and the light-emitting diode (or LED). Each of these less traditional light sources have benefits and drawbacks..

Why Choose Efficiency?

  • Both CFLs and LEDs use at least 75 percent less energy than a traditional incandescent bulb and can last much longer. Depending on the type of bulb, an energy efficient light bulb can last 10 to 35 times longer than an incandescent. In 2008, the average American household spent $185 a year on lighting, but energy efficient light bulbs will save you at least $30 over their lifetime, cutting down on that expenditure. Switching is a simple step that saves you money and can reduce your pollutant output.

History

  • Both CFLs and LEDs were separately invented in their current forms in the mid-1900s by researchers at General Electric. The technologies were originally too expensive for mass production but in the 1990s, both types of light bulbs became available for purchase and use in homes. While energy efficient options are still more expensive than traditional bulbs, CFLs and LEDs pay for themselves and then some within their lifetimes.

About CFLs

  • CFLs are a smaller version of the long florescent light bulbs you see in an office building. They work by running a current through mercury vapor inside the tube. The mercury vapor gives off ultraviolet light which then reacts with a coating on the inside of the tube to create visible light. Most CFLs that are available for regular use are integrated CFLs, meaning they have been adapted to be used interchangeably with incandescent bulbs.

About LEDs

  • Since 2000, LEDs have gained popularity as a good choice for flashlights and decorative lights. They are well suited to these jobs because they are far more durable than incandescent or CFL bulbs, and have a longer lifespan. LED lights also emit very little heat when they are running, making them a good choice for in-home decorative lights. As of 2009, LEDs are still fairly expensive and so have not been as popular with homeowners for regular use, but the price continues to drop. LEDs, like CFLs can be adapted for use in traditionally incandescent light fixtures.

Mercury in CFLs

  • CFLs are a great choice for many lighting needs, but they do have some limitations. Most importantly, CFLs contain mercury, neurotoxin that can be deadly to humans. This means you must treat CFL lights very carefully; don't dispose of them in regular garbage unless there are no other options available. Many hardware stores collect CFLs for recycling, and many towns and cities will collect household hazardous wastes including used CFLs.

Other Considerations

  • The energy efficient options use less wattage to create the same amount of light as a higher wattage incandescent light. A 3-watt LED is equivalent to a 45-watt incandescent light. Make sure to get the right amount of light for the job. Additionally, the quality and color of CFLs and LEDs is different from incandescent bulbs, an important consideration when switching to the new bulbs. There are different styles of CFL and LED bulbs, which may also alter the appearance of the light. Read the package for information on how the light appears.

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