How To Make Energy Efficient Lighting Choices

Changes in lighting material standards have motivated manufacturers to create more energy efficient options for consumers. Recent technological advances give consumers more options to use when choosing lighting materials. The main options for lighting materials are LED, CFL, and halogen/incandescent light bulbs.

What Difference Does Energy Efficient Lighting Make?

energy efficient lightingBy making some small changes in lighting choices, consumers can see several benefits. New regulations are mandating that light bulbs need to more energy efficient. Current models of light bulbs can lose up to 90% of their energy through heat, so new innovations are focused on using more of their energy for lighting. Newer versions of light bulbs are able to use less energy to produce more light, which saves energy and reduces energy costs.  Manufacturers are now introducing lighting choices that measure their output in lumens rather than watts. Watts measure power, but lumens measure actual light output. This change in measurement allows consumers to get a better idea of the kind of light a bulb can put out without buying a bulb that uses too much energy.

Current Lighting Options

Halogen/Improved Incandescent

These bulbs follow the model of traditional light bulbs. Essentially, these bulbs heat a thin coil of wire until it glows and produces light. New changes to these kinds of bulbs use different materials, such as different wires and new inert gasses within the bulb.  Halogen bulbs are one such example of a new material in an incandescent bulb. These changes in materials create a more efficient bulb that looks more familiar. These bulbs also have an easier time fitting into existing lighting sockets. Despite being more efficient than older models of bulbs, these models are not as efficient as other alternatives.

Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL)

Compact Fluorescent Lights, or CFL bulbs, use less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. Instead of burning a small wire, these bulbs heat a tube full of gas. The heated glass reacts with a coating inside the tube; this process is what creates the light. The materials last longer in these kinds of bulbs, which means that consumers save money by not having to replace bulbs as often.

While CFL bulbs have been championed as a next alternative to incandescent bulbs, they have some disadvantages. The mercury vapor inside of the bulbs can be toxic to the environment and to people, especially if the bulbs break. Disposing of these bulbs requires taking them to a specific recycling provider. Additionally, the bulbs are as fragile as traditional incandescent bulbs and require additional steps to clean up if they break. Most CFL bulbs are not suitable for outdoor use, especially in cold weather climates. Some CFL lights have a brighter and starker white light that some may not prefer over the warm light of an incandescent bulb. Finally, not all CFL bulbs will fit into existing incandescent fixtures.

Light Emitting Diodes (LED)

LED bulbs contain semiconductors with solid substances that show light when an electrical current runs through them.  LED lights are already in use in areas such as traffic lights and control panels, so more companies are trying to adapt this technology for home use. One of the major advantages of these bulbs is they are not as fragile as incandescent or CFL bulbs. Because LED lights have no filament to burn out, they can last for a much longer time than either incandescent or CFL bulbs — some estimates of the lifespans of LED bulbs expect a lifespan in the thousands of hours, which translates to decades of use. The durability and efficiency of these bulbs reduces costs over the lifetime of the bulb.  Another benefit of LED lights is they do not produce as much heat as CFL and incandescent bulbs, which reduces energy use and fire risks.

LED bulbs have some disadvantages. The main disadvantage is these bulbs are much more expensive to purchase initially when compared to incandescent and CFL bulbs. LED bulbs light in a specific direction, but cannot disperse the light in a more general direction. This means LED bulbs are great for lighting specific areas, such as under a cabinet, but they are less effective to light an entire room through a lamp.


Incandescent, CFL, and LED bulbs are all valid and useful lighting solutions. Determining which ones to use where requires thinking about the kind of light you need and what you already have to use. The main goal in choosing more effective lighting is to use energy more efficiently in a way that fits your needs.

What kinds of bulbs do you use to light your home? What do you consider when you buy lighting?

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