Shed Some Light: A Guide to Choosing Lightbulbs

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Shed Some Light: A Guide to Choosing Lightbulbs
Photo courtesy Philips

In honor of Earth Day, 2012, Philips released a 10-watt LED bulb that lights up a room with 83 percent more energy efficiency than a traditional 60-watt incandescent bulb. In fact, this new bulb is the most energy efficient light bulb available to consumers today. But with a hefty price of up to $50 per bulb this new eco-friendly bulb has consumers more concerned with saving their own green than with going green. We've spotlighted various light bubs in order to help shed some light on which is the right option for both you and the environment.

Incandescent Bulbs
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Incandescent Bulbs

Incandescent bulbs produce light by heating a thin filament wire until it reaches a temperature that causes it to glow. As a result, these bulbs expend most of their energy in the form of heat, not light. This heat-driven way of producing light causes this little bulb to burn out quickly, so even though an incandescent bulb may cost only about $2, it only has a lifespan of about eight months. Soon, this inefficient bulb will be a thing of the past. As of January, 2012, 100-watt bulbs will no longer be imported, manufactured or sold in the United States, and by 2014 all incandescent bulbs will be phased out.

Fluorescent Lights
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Fluorescent Lights

Fluorescent bulbs use electricity to excite Mercury vapor in order to produce UV waves that cause a phosphor to fluoresce and produce light. The original T-12 fluorescent bulbs only cost about $3 per bulb, but produce cool, somewhat harsh light. As a result, they are commonly used in warehouses and commercial settings. However, newer T-8 bulbs produce warmer light that is more conducive to residential use. Low energy costs typically offset the initial installation costs, as fluorescent bulbs require ballasts in order to regulate the electrical current through the lamp. There are environmental and health risks associated with fluorescent lights due to the Mercury vapor that they contain, so use caution when recycling and installing these bulbs.

Compact Fluorescent Lights
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Compact Fluorescent Lights

CFLs, or compact fluorescent lights, are similar in shape, size and light emission to incandescents, but they use up to one-third the electric power and last up to fifteen times longer. "CFL prices vary with size and wattage, but the most commonly used household CFL is 13 watts," says Benjamin Rorie of 1000Bulbs.com. They cost around $5 and last up to 7 years." One disadvantage to these bulbs is that they contain small amounts of mercury, so handle them with care.

See more from 1000Bulbs.com here.

The CFL Family
c/o GE (gelighting.com)

The CFL Family

"CFLs come in the well-known spiral shape as well as just about any shape associated with incandescent or Halogen: A-line, globe, candelabra, reflector, PAR, you name it," Rorie says. "All of these CFLs actually have a spiral CFL within the outer shell." CFLs are very versatile and can be used in anything from desk lamps to chandeliers.

Halogen Bulbs
c/o 1000bulbs.com

Halogen Bulbs

Halogen bulbs are modified versions of incandescents. "Halogen is a very big family; however, in a residential setting the most commonly used Halogens are PAR30 and PAR38 bulbs (shown), which cost about $3 to $5," Rorie says. Because they operate at very high temperatures and the filament is so close the the surface of the glass bulb, halogen bulbs pose fire and burn risks. These risks require that lamps are well equipped to handle the heat and to protect the people who come in contact with them.

HID
c/o 1000bulbs.com

HID

HID stands for “High Intensity Discharge,” and HID bulbs definitely live up to their name. HIDs have very long lifespans, especially in comparison to standard incandescent bulbs. While one incandescent bulb might produce 1000 hours of light, an HID bulb can produce 20 times that-- 20,000 hours of light. HIDs should not used in residential settings due to the fact that they produce significant amounts of UV radiation and require UV-blocking filters to prevent UV-radiation induced deterioration of lamp fixtures. HIDs are commonly used when a large amount of light is required to light a large area, like a parking lot.

Hybrid Halogen CFL
c/o GE (gelighting.com)

Hybrid Halogen CFL

GE recently combined three technologies – CFL, halogen and incandescent – to make a “hybrid” bulb. It recently received the “Energy Star” qualification, meaning it passed through both the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy with flying colors. These bulbs have a lifespan eight times longer than standard incandescent and cost about $9 each.

LED
c/o GE (gelighting.com)

LED

LED, light-emitting diode, technology has been around for a while but simply hasn't been affordable for the average consumer. Thanks to recent innovations, LED prices are slowly coming down, but as the price goes down, efficiency goes up. Current LED bulbs can last from 25,000 to 50,000 hours, which equates to17 to 34 years.

LED -- Pay Now, Save Later
c/o rejuvenation.com

LED -- Pay Now, Save Later

An LED alternative to the standard 60 watt incandescent bulb uses only 12.5 watts and lasts up to 25,000 hours. According to Home Depot, that equates to roughly 80 percent energy savings a year. This lamp, from Rejuvenation.com, is compatible with dimmers and contains no mercury, so the only disadvantage that it cannot be placed in an enclosed lamp shade. Prices start around $60 dollars but rebates are often available.

See bulbs from Rejuvenation here.

User-friendly LED
c/o rejuvenation.com

User-friendly LED

LEDs have been expensive and unattractive, but this petite 8 watt LED is shaped to fit under a lamp shade. It costs about $39, but that's for 25,000 hours of light at 8 watts. Still not sure which LED is right for you? "For a residence, most people will need a dimmable A-line LED of roughly 10 watts, which replaces a 60 watt incandescent," Rorie says. The new L Prize LED bulb from Philips is another example of this and can be purchased for as little as $25 after rebates.

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