When conventional incandescents were typically the only type of light bulb available, the choice was simple: 40-, 60-, or 100-watt bulbs. These inefficient bulbs waste most of their energy as heat. With advances and improvements in lighting technology and efficiency, selecting bulbs for your home or business today can be complicated, but the money and energy you’ll save is worth the effort.

Shedding Light on Lumens

For decades, consumers shopped for light bulbs based on wattage. A 100-watt bulb, for example, would be brighter than a 40-watt bulb. In today’s world of energy-efficient lighting, lumens are the more important factor. Wattage is the power that goes into the bulb; lumens measure the light that the bulb emits. Energy-efficient bulbs provide more lumens per watt than conventional incandescent bulbs.

For example, a 60-watt incandescent bulb provides 800 lumens, while a 15-watt compact fluorescent lamp provides about the same amount of light for much less energy.

When selecting lighting products, look for lumens.

Lighting Choices

Three of the most common energy-efficient lighting options available are:

  • Light-emitting diodes (LEDs)
  • Halogen incandescent bulbs
  • Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)

Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
LEDs are made of a solid semiconductor material that converts electricity into light. LEDs are up to 80 percent more efficient than conventional incandescent lamps and last up to 25 times longer. Because they are made of a solid material, LEDs are difficult to break, a distinct advantage over conventional light bulbs made with glass.

LED products are currently available as replacements for 40-, 60-, and 75-watt conventional incandescents. Although they are more expensive to purchase, LEDs pay for themselves over time through their long life and low energy use.

Halogen Incandescent Bulbs
Halogen incandescent bulbs are about 25 percent more efficient and can last up to three times longer than conventional incandescent bulbs. A capsule inside the bulb holds gas around a filament to increase energy efficiency. They are available in a wide range of shapes and colors, and can be used with dimmer switches.

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)
CFLs are smaller versions of tubular fluorescent lamps commonly used in office buildings. CFLs cost more to purchase than traditional incandescents, but because they use about 75 percent less energy, they typically pay for themselves in less than a year, and last up to ten times longer.

CFL bulbs are available in the familiar warm (yellowish) tone of conventional incandescents, and some are encased in a cover to diffuse the light and give the bulb a traditional look. CFLs do contain a small amount of mercury, which is a hazardous material, and should be disposed of properly. Minnesota law bans fluorescent lights, including CFLs, from disposal in the trash. They must be recycled.

Lighting Facts Label

When comparing lighting products, look for the Lighting Facts Label, which is required on most lighting packages by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. The label, modeled after the Nutrition Facts label on food products, provides information in an easy-to-read format, including:

  • Brightness – measured in lumens, not wattage. The higher the number, the brighter the light.
  • Estimated Yearly Energy Cost – cost based on 3 hours per day and 11¢ per kWh.
  • Life – bulb life in years based on 3 hours per day usage.
  • Light Appearance – Color emitted on a scale of warm to cool, in degrees Kelvin.
  • Energy Used – power consumption measured in wattage. The lower the number, the lower the power consumed.