Save Energy with Light Bulbs
Making the Right Lighting Choice for You
Lighting accounts for approximately 20% of an average household’s electric bill, but you can save money and energy by switching to energy-efficient lighting. Switching from traditional incandescents to ENERGY STAR® light bulbs is a simple, yet effective way to reduce energy use in your home. Not only will these bulbs use 75-85% less energy than incandescent and halogen alternatives, they will help save money on energy bills and prevent greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change.
Traditional incandescents waste energy and money by using 90% of electricity to produce heat instead of light. Yet, with numerous energy-efficient bulb options, you can make smart lighting choices. The two most efficient lighting technologies are compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and lighting emitting diodes (LEDs).
Why Are Some Light Bulbs Going Away?
New Federal Lighting Standards
In 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), which included new, higher efficiency standards for the basic light bulbs we use today. Beginning in January 2012, and over the course of a three-year period, these new standards require bulbs to be roughly 30% more efficient. That is, they will be required to consume less electricity for the same amount of light produced.
Types of Light Bulbs
LEDs are made of a durable plastic and they do not contain mercury. Many can also be used with dimmer switches making them more versatile as well. The lifespan of a LED is pretty impressive, lasting over 25,000 hours. One LED can last up to 25 times longer and save up to 85% more energy than an incandescent light bulb and up to 2.5 times longer than a CFL.
LED bulbs are becoming more efficient and less expensive. Convection-based technology is being developed that replaces the heat sink base with slots at the top of the bulb and bottom of the base so heat can rise out of the top and cooler air can rise through the bottom. These shatter-proof bulbs will look very similar to incandescent bulbs, but use 85% less energy and last about 25 times longer.
Once the electricity starts moving in a CFL, it uses about 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs. A CFL's ballast (the electronic part that regulates the electric current through a fluorescent lamp) helps "kick start" the CFL and then regulates the current once the electricity starts flowing.
Typically a CFL bulb will pay for itself in less than nine months, a CFL lasts a minimum of 10,000 hours and many last 12,000 hours or more. One important point to note is that they do contain a small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing that can be exposed if broken. CFLs should not be used in lamps that can be easily knocked over or in places where they can be easily broken. See the Lighting FAQs for more information.
OLED lighting is still being developed, but the technology is anticipated to have wide-reaching effects. OLEDs are light emitting panels. When electricity is applied to the panels, the carbon based (organic) materials they are made of emit light. While they are very efficient, their cost is higher than other types of lighting. These types of panels do not contain mercury, can be flexible, transparent, and color tunable. OLEDs are becoming more widely available in the manufacturing of cellphones, TVs, and other electronic devices. Currently they are still rare in the lighting world but are anticipated to take off within the next couple of years.
|Not currently available on the consumer market|
|Expected to last 15 years|
|Susceptible to water damage|
|Color tunable, flexible, and transparent|
|Ultra-thin, carbon-based material|
A New Way of Looking at Light: Shop lumens, Not Watts
For decades, we have been buying light bulbs based on how much energy they consume (watts) — no matter how much light they give us (lumens). Lumens measure the true brightness of a bulb. More lumens means it's a brighter light; fewer lumens means it's a dimmer light. When buying new bulbs, the best way to determine the brightness of the bulb is to look for lumens on the label.
Choosing the Right Color and Lighting Facts Label
Understanding the Color of Light
An important consideration is the color of light, which can affect a room’s appearance. Two bulbs with equal lumen ratings can produce very different results if they have different color temperatures. Coloration is directly related to the bulb’s Kelvin (K) rating and affects the appearance of home furnishings. The Kelvin scale measures the temperature of color in light.
Bulbs with lower K have a warmer yellow light while bulbs with higher K have whiter or bluer light. Most ENERGY STAR certified bulbs match the color of incandescent bulbs in the 2,700K-3,000K range. To maintain consistent light quality, it’s best to use bulbs with the same color temperature throughout a room.
Lighting Facts Label
The Federal Trade Commission requires a new product label for light bulbs called the Lighting Facts Label. It helps you buy the right bulb for your lighting needs.
Like the helpful nutrition label on food products, the Lighting Facts Label helps consumers understand what they are really purchasing in terms of:
- Brightness – lumens
- Energy cost – how much energy used per year
- Life – estimated life of bulb
- Light appearance – Color temperature (Kelvin)
- Energy Used – amount of energy (watts) the bulb consumes when illuminated
- Mercury – if bulb contains mercury
For more help finding the right bulb, check out our Energy Efficient Lighting Guide.
|Saves up to 75% in energy costs||Saves up to 85% in energy costs|
|Lasts 8-10 years||Lasts 20-25 years|
|Delayed warm up time||Instant-on|
|Must be paired with a compatible dimmer; may flicker when dimmed||Must be paired with a compatible dimmer; most dim down to 10%|
|Contains mercury, recycling required||Mercury free|
|Sensitive to cold temperatures||Performs well in cold|
|Limited colors and styles||Available in a variety of colors and styles|
|Base spirals can shatter; some covered CFLs are available in a shatter resistant material||Most models currently available are made of durable plastic|
|Not all are suitable for use in enclosed fixtures; check label||Not all are suitable for use in enclosed fixtures; check label|
|Comparable cost to incandescent with utility incentives||Greater upfront cost, but becoming more affordable with declining prices and utility incentives|
- Keep people and pets away from it
- Wear disposable gloves
- Scoop up pieces with cardboard
- Wipe the area clean
- Place everything in a sealable bag or container with a lid
- Ventilate the room
For more information, visit the CFL Guide.
CFLs contain a small amount of mercury so EPA recommends that consumers take advantage of available local recycling options for CFLs.
These major retailers offer free CFL recycling for unbroken bulbs:
- Ace Hardware
- The Home Depot
Contact your local municipal solid waste agency:
If your state or local environmental regulatory agency permits you to put used or broken CFLs in the garbage, seal the bulb in a plastic bag and put it into the outside trash, or other protected outside location, for the next scheduled trash collection. Never send a fluorescent light bulb or any other mercury-containing product to an incinerator.
For more information, visit Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection or call 860-424-3366.
You can also visit Earth911 to help find recycling programs for LEDs in Connecticut.
Efficient Lighting in Connecticut
Not sure where to buy energy efficient bulbs? Look for the blue ENERGY STAR® label and the Energize Connecticut display at participating retailers, or visit the ENERGY STAR® Lighting page for more information.
Why stop with just new light bulbs? You can also find ENERGY STAR® Certified Light Fixtures that can match your style while saving you energy.
ENERGY STAR® also certifies Decorative Light Strings.
What Can I Do With Old Bulbs and Light Fixtures?