Regular incandescent light bulbs work by using electricity to heat the filament “white hot” and that white heat gives us light. A good deal of electricity — electricity from coal-fired powered plants responsible for greenhouse gases — is required to make an incandescent bulb burn brightly. Only 10 percent of that energy goes toward making light. The rest is wasted as heat.
With lighting accounting for about 20% of the average American’s monthly electrical bill, the waste involved with incandescent lighting is a problem and it makes sense to look at alternatives.
Greenzer.com recently held a faceoff between CFLs and LEDs (light-emitting diodes). With CFLs costing around $4 or less per bulb versus LED bulbs at $30-50, are LEDs really worth the extra investment?
CFLs have improved in the past few years and you can now find dimmable bulbs, warm and cool whites to match your taste and a range of styles – for example, chandelier or enclosed in a regular looking bulb – to match your décor. Downsides include the small amount of mercury they contain, necessitating special care with breakages and recycling and the short warm up time they take to achieve full brightness.
LEDs perform well in all lighting applications, including recessed lighting, and they’re easily dimmed. Because of recent advances in optics, LEDs have a quality of light superior to all other types of lighting—and they deliver it more efficiently. For example, Lighting Science Group’s Definity LED delivers 112 lumens per watt compared to a CFL’s 50 to 70 lumens per watt. They also have a marathon life span: LEDs can last up to 50,000 hours, more than eight times as long as CFLs. At $40 though, an average home would have to pony up around $1600 to replace 40 bulbs.
The bottom line – for now – is that CFLs remain a cost effective way to reduce energy bills without a lot of upfront investment, but they are a transitional technology. LED prices should drop over the next 12 to 36 months. A lower retail price for the 60-watt replacement combined with rebates, will provide strong incentives for consumers to replace CFLs with LEDs.
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