If you’ve stopped by the hardware store recently looking to replace a light bulb, you’ve probably discovered that the store no longer carries the standard incandescent light bulbs that are so familiar to all of us. Instead, you’ve likely encountered a wide array of new light bulb products, some of which don’t look anything like our old bulbs.
Many of our customers, both residential and commercial, have been asking us about the new energy saving lighting products and what they should be using when it comes time to replace a bulb. Since this is an issue that affects all of our customers, we thought this would be a good time to share information about the phase-out of standard incandescent bulbs and provide our views and recommendations about replacement products.
Lighting is important to every project we build. This kitchen features recessed lights, under-cabinet lighting placed in work areas and decorative pendants over an island.
1. What is the Incandescent Bulb Phase-Out?
Light bulb standards established under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 effectively required the phase-out of 100-watt, 75-watt, 60-watt and 40-watt incandescent light bulbs by 2014.
Some specialty incandescent bulbs were exempt from the phase-out, including 3-way bulbs, appliance bulbs, bug lights and decorative bulbs. Twenty-two types of bulbs are currently exempt.
2. What new products should I look for when replacing incandescent bulbs?
There are three types of bulbs on the market that save energy and replace incandescent bulbs: compact florescent, light emitting diode lamps and halogen. Here are descriptions and comparisons of each of these these products:
Compact Florescent Lamps (CFL)
CFLs now come is a variety of shapes from the cork screw models that we are all familiar with and more recent designs that look like traditional incandescent and decorative bulbs. CFLs last about 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs and are 60 to 70 percent more efficient.
A disadvantage of CFLs is that they don’t come on instantly. They generally start at 20 percent of their brightness and it takes a few minutes to reach full brightness.
One concern we often hear is that these bulbs contain mercury and that they must be disposed of properly. CFLs contain a small amount of mercury encased in a glass tube. Mercury is not emitted during use. The amount of mercury in a CFL lamp is significantly less than the mercury in a thermometer, but when a bulb is broken mercury can produce a vapor.
Stores and communities generally have recycling programs for disposal of CFLs. Here are the disposal options for residents of Onondaga County.
If a CFL breaks don’t use a vacuum to clean it up. This will spread the mercury vapor and powder. Have people and pets leave the room, shut off the heating or air conditioning system and open windows to allow the vapor to escape. Cleanup the glass and mercury powder with a piece of stiff paper or cardboard. Use tape to pick up tiny shards and powder. Place the remnants of the bulb in a plastic bag or glass jar with a top.
Light Emitting Diode (LED)
LED bulbs are 10 percent more energy efficient than CFLs. There is a split second delay with LEDs before they reach full brightness. A bulb can provide 25,000 to 50,000 hours of light. They last 10 to 15 times longer than CFLs and are 90 percent more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs. They can be tossed in the trash. Many manufacturers offer a 3-year warranty. While LED lights won’t burnout like incandescent and CFL bulbs, they will dim and the color of the light they emit can change over time.
Halogen light bulbs don’t have more longevity than incandescent lights. They burn at a high temperature and lighting is harsh. They are the most expensive to operate.
Left to right: incandescent, CFL and LED bulbs
3. How do I choose the right bulbs for my light fixtures?
When shopping for bulbs it’s important to look at the manufacturer’s information on the package. With incandescent bulbs, we learned to look for the wattage. With the new products, lumens will describe the brightness of a bulb. By law the packaging label must tell you the brightness, yearly cost of operation, life, light appearance, amount of energy used and if it contains mercury.
Watts vs. Lumens
The higher the number of lumens, the brighter the bulb will be. Here is a quick guide to replacing the most common incandescent bulbs:
Light appearance tells you about the color given off by the bulb. A warm light is one that produces white light. A cool light is one that produces a bluish light.
Best Bulbs for Light Fixtures
- CFLs. CFL light bulbs save a considerable amount of energy and are the least expensive of the new products replacing incandescent lights. Because they contain mercury, we recommend that they not be used in fixtures such as table lamps where they could be knocked over and break.
- LEDs. LED light bulbs have come a long way and can be used in almost any light fixture. LED light strips are ideal for under-counter lighting.
- Halogen. Halogen light bulbs are not the choice for typical illumination. They provide a narrow beam of light. They are best used in recessed lights or directed toward on object you may want to illuminate such as a painting or sculpture.
4. Which replacement bulbs are best for decorative lighting fixtures?
You may have noticed that manufacturers of decorative lighting fixtures have been placing a lot of ads recently in home improvement magazines. As the market is becoming more competitive, bulb manufacturers are responding. LED bulbs are replacing the 10- and 60-watt bulbs in decorative fixtures even though the incandescent bulbs used for these types of fixtures are exempt from the phase-out. Interestingly, there are some great new decorative bulbs being produced including LED bulbs with a visible filament.
5. Can I use my current dimmer switches with the new bulbs?
Dimmer switches help to save on energy costs but they must be compatible with dimmable CFL and LED bulbs. To determine which bulbs and dimmer switches are compatible look at the bulb or bulb packaging to identify the brand, wattage, model number and that it says "dimmable." Then, go to the Lutron website to find a compatible dimmer switch.
Halogen lights can be run off the same dimmer switches used for incandescent lights.
6. Which brands are best?
CFL, LED and halogen bulbs are constantly being improved. Familiar brands include GE, Phillips and Sylvania. Other brands such as Cree, an innovative LED light manufacturer, are gaining in popularity in this market segment. Of special interest, Soraa, a California-based LED light manufacturer, recently announced it will be building a new manufacturing plant in DeWitt and creating many new jobs right here in Central New York!
Because these replacement bulbs are available in many shapes, sizes and appearances, we recommend that you look at the bulbs either online or, preferably, at a hardware or lighting supply store that offers displays of the new products before making a selection.