Save money on your lighting costs

Did you know the standard incandescent light bulb only uses 10-20 percent of the energy it consumes for light? The rest of the energy it uses is given off as heat. 

Posted by Guest Blogger on February 14, 2012

Did you know the standard incandescent light bulb only uses 10-20 percent of the energy it consumes for light? The rest of the energy it uses is given off as heat. 

Some of you may argue that extra heat is fine in the winter, but think of the affect it will have in the summer. That extra heat will make your air conditioner run longer, causing it to use more energy, ultimately increasing your electric bill.

The incandescent light bulb was a great breakthrough technology at the time it was invented – in 1879. However, just as computers have made typewriters obsolete, these bulbs have passed their prime. There are better lighting options that last longer and are much more efficient. The incandescent may be the cheapest lighting option to purchase initially, but spending a little extra money up front for a more efficient bulb may save you money in the long run. 

Halogen bulbs

Halogen bulbs were the first upgrade after the incandescent bulb was invented. These light bulbs use a very similar technology to what incandescents use when converting electricity into light. However, halogen bulbs have a special gas inside the lamp, which helps create more light and helps the bulb last longer than the standard incandescent bulb.

These lights are brighter and more energy efficient than incandescents, but do cost more to initially purchase.

Compact fluorescent light (CFLs)

The next advancement in lighting technology was the invention of the compact fluorescent light (CFL). These bulbs can be around 60-80 percent more efficient than incandescents.

CFLs are filled with mercury, which causes the bulb to create more light and less heat than halogen and incandescent bulbs. This material also helps CFLs last longer. However, if a CFL breaks or goes out, special precautions need to be taken because of this substance. If you happen to break a CFL, you should use a damp paper towel to pick up the remnants. When your CFLs go out, don’t throw them away – they need to be recycled. Recycling CFLs is fairly simple, as there are many places that will do this for a small fee, including Wright-Hennepin.

Some drawbacks to this innovation include that the light takes a short time to warm up and does cost more than an incandescent to initially purchase. However, keep in mind that the bulb will last much longer than an incandescent and use much less energy.

Light emitting diodes (LEDs)

Last, and certainly not least, is the light emitting diode – or LED bulb. LEDs will use significantly less energy and last much longer than the bulbs mentioned above. Additionally, these bulbs don’t create nearly the amount of heat that the other bulbs do.

The actual light emitting diode (from which the bulb gets its name) inside the light bulb looks like a small microchip. Several of these small LEDs are grouped together creating a cluster, each shining in a different direction.  

Because they are extremely efficient, last a very long time and are made up of safe materials, the only major drawback to LEDs is that they are the most expensive form of lighting.

Which is the best option?

In my experience, I’ve found that some bulbs don’t live up to the hype. The most important thing to consider when purchasing these bulbs is to consider what application you’ll be using them for. If you need to replace a bulb in a stairwell that is difficult to access, you might be better off spending the extra money for an LED bulb, as the bulb will last for nearly 30 years. If you’re replacing a bulb in a floor lamp that you hardly ever use, then you might want to use an incandescent.

When choosing a bulb, don’t just consider what wattage you need. Many light bulbs are designed with the consumers’ needs in mind and can vary in size, shape, color, durability or have dimmable options.

Please keep in mind that light bulbs are like anything else you may have had a bad experience with – don’t let one brand ruin your outlook on a type of bulb. The price shouldn’t sway your opinion; some bulbs are extremely low in price because they are not the quality they should be. Also, as the years go by, every type of light bulb is improving in regards to how long they last and their quality of light. Keep an eye on prices, too, as they have been coming down in the past few years and will likely continue with that trend.  

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