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Shopping For a Light Bulb? Your Choices Have Changed.

Along with death and taxes, change is an inevitable component of life. We each have to deal with a certain amount of change as we make our way through our lives. And though change is sometimes of our own choosing, at times it is forced upon us.

In 2014, one form of change is being forced upon all Americans. For most of your life, you’ve probably used primarily one type of light bulb: the old-fashioned incandescent, as invented by Thomas Edison more than a century ago. That is something that you’ll have to change.


The passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) in 2007 mandates that standard incandescent bulbs may no longer be manufactured or sold in the United States. So you’ll have to choose from other options when shopping for light bulbs.

The good news is that there are several alternatives to the soon-to-be-gone incandescents. And each is considerably more energy-efficient than the old-style incandescents.

Here’s a brief overview of the choices you’ll be left with once the last incandescents disappear from retailer’s shelves.

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFL)

CFLs are essentially the same technology as the long-tubed fluorescent bulbs you’re accustomed to. But CFLs are designed to harness fluorescent technology for use in fixtures that require screw-in bulbs, just like the old incandescents.

If you use CFLs, you’ll need to be particularly careful in handling the bulbs. That’s because CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, a dangerous heavy metal. Special precautions must be taken when cleaning up a broken bulb, and when discarding a bulb.

CFLs use about 25% of the energy of an equivalent standard incandescent. And they’re likely to last anywhere from 6 to 15 times as long.

Light-Emitting Diode Bulbs (LED)

LEDs generate light through the use of semiconductor technology, a radical leap from the filament-burning technology of incandescent bulbs.

LEDs are the most expensive of the incandescent replacements. But they’re also the most energy-efficient bulbs on the market, and the longest-lived. So while you’ll pay more upfront for an LED, odds are good that an LED bulb will deliver the best overall cost-per-service-hour numbers.

LEDs use roughly 20% of the energy of standard incandescent bulbs, and last up to 25 times longer.

Halogen Incandescents

Incandescent technology isn’t going away entirely. A newer version of the technology will continue to be manufactured in the form of halogen incandescent bulbs.

Halogen incandescents achieve greater energy-efficiency than standard incandescents through the injection of halogen gas within the bulb (or sometimes iodine or bromide).

Halogen bulbs aren’t nearly as energy-efficient or long-lived as LEDs or CFLs. But the upfront cost of halogens is considerably less than the cost of LEDs or CFLs. Halogen bulbs will offer consumers the least traumatic sticker shock when comparing prices to the old-style incandescents.

On average, halogen incandescents consume about 1/3 less energy than standard incandescents, and offer roughly double the lifespan.

A Change for the Better?

Many consider the mandates of EISA to be a step in the right direction in making the U.S. a more energy-efficient nation. Others consider the law to be an intolerable governmental restriction of the freedom-of-choice that rightfully belongs to the individual, and not the government.

Regardless of opinions about the law, everyone will have to make a change, because the old-style incandescents will simply cease to be available. But there’s no question that lighting technology has dramatically evolved since the time of Edison’s invention. And the bulbs that are available to replace the old incandescents are superior in many ways.

Given the choice, odds are good that you’d choose one of the new alternatives over the old incandescents anyway. But that’s really a moot point, isn’t it?

This entry was posted on Friday, January 10th, 2014 at 9:52 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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