McClurg's Home Remodeling Blog

The Latest on Lighting: Compact Fluorescent and LED Lights

Posted by Brian Ciota on Tue, Jun 7, 2011

Lighting is important to every project we build. Our clients, both residential and commercial, often ask us about new energy saving lighting products, especially since in the near future consumers will no longer be able to purchase incandescent lights.

In December 2007, Congress passed an energy bill, signed into law by President Bush, which bans the incandescent light bulb by 2014. The phase-out of incandescent bulbs begins with the 100-watt bulb on January 1, 2012.

According to a recent AP story, creating alternatives to incandescent bulbs, particularly the 100-watt bulb, will be difficult because new bulbs will have to fit into light fixtures that were designed for the old technology.  

All light bulbs must use 25 percent to 30 percent less energy by 2014. By 2020, bulbs must be 70 percent more efficient than they are today. Two products that meet these standards are compact fluorescent lights and LED (light emitting diode) lights.

Compact Fluorescent Lights

Due to the high cost of LED lights, it is likely that most consumers will initially purchase compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) to replace incandescent bulbs. Here are some facts about CFLs from Eartheasy.com:

  • The cost of a CFL bulb is about $4.00 or less.
  • The “life span” of a CFL bulb is one fifth of an LED light of the same wattage but eight times longer than an incandescent light.
  • The energy used by a CFL bulb is one fourth of the energy consumed by an incandescent bulb.
  • The annual cost of operating a fixture that uses a 60-watt incandescent bulb is about $95.00. By switching to a 60 CFL bulb the annual cost would drop to $23.75.
  • A problem with CFLs is that they contain they contain a small amount of toxic mercury vapor which is released if they break or are disposed of improperly.
  • Brighter lights are bulky and may not fit into exiting fixtures.

LED Lights

Currently, LED manufacturers are focusing their efforts on making LED bulbs more acceptable to consumers and eventually this technology will replace CFLs. The first generation of LED lights had two major problems: a narrow light beam that’s less bright than incandescent or fluorescent bulbs; and the cost -- over 9 times the cost of CFLs, averaging about $36-$40 per bulb.

If you are considering installing LED lighting here are some facts you should know:

  • LED LightingBe cautious if you are considering using LED lighting under cabinets. If you are using the lights above polished counters, the brightness of the light will create glare on a reflective surface. LED lights work best over dulled surfaces such as honed granite, Corian or laminate.
  • In business settings, do some research before installing LED lights. You will want to assure that there is sufficient illumination in your space.
  • LED lights are excellent for uplighting. Think of placing LED lights over cabinets or tray ceilings. They are also effective in glass cabinets and can be mounted behind the hinges of a door.

While price makes purchasing LED lights prohibitive for many consumers, the future of LED technology may be bright if you consider the following:

  • LED prices are coming down quickly. The Department of Energy predicts that by 2015, a 60-watt LED bulb may cost $10.
  • The cost of operating an LED light is one tenth the cost of electricity consumed by and incandescent light and 40 percent of the cost of a CFL.
  • The LED bulb is less vulnerable to breakage the CFLs or incandescent bulbs.
  • The lifespan of LEDs is significantly longer, and some manufacturers advertise that their bulbs can last up to 25 years under normal household use.
  • LED Lights are now available in dimmable bulbs.

Local Lighting Suppliers

To learn more about some of the latest lighting products, you can click on the following sites or visit the showrooms of these suppliers:

I hope you find this information helpful as you select lighting products for your home or business. New lighting technologies will not only reduce our carbon footprint, but will help save on energy costs. Since the technology is changing so rapidly, you will want to discuss lighting products with us to determine the best options for your project.

Have you started to replace incandescent bulbs in your home or business with CFL or LED bulbs? What do you think about these products?

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Topics: Energy Efficiency, Lighting, Energy Star

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