For many people, the type of light bulbs they're using isn't a concern. Most just reach for the least expensive kind when they're buying replacements. Unfortunately, the cheapest bulbs are usually the ones that use the most electricity, costing the homeowner more money in the long run.
Finding Energy-Efficient Lighting
When you visit a home improvement or hardware store, you'll find a huge section devoted to different kinds of lighting options. Typically, there are four main types of light bulbs: halogen incandescent, compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), light emitting diode (LED) and the traditional incandescent bulb. The only poor choice, as far as energy-efficient lighting is concerned, is the traditional incandescent, since approximately 90 percent of the energy used is given off as heat instead of light.
- Halogen incandescent: These are most similar to the traditional incandescent bulbs, but they have a small capsule of halogen gas around the filament inside the bulb, which helps to prevent heat loss and energy waste. These bulbs come in a variety of brightness and colors, and can be used with dimmer switches. Although the halogens are more efficient than their traditional predecessors, they won't save you as much money in the long run as the other options available.
- Compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs: Compact fluorescent lamps are just like the long tubes that have been used for decades, but they 'oiled up into a smaller bulb. They use less electricity, but produce a very bright light, and can last years longer than the traditional incandescent bulbs. If you're purchasing a bulb for use with a dimmer switch, read the package carefully, as not all CFLs can be used in this way.
Compact fluorescent bulbs used to have a bad reputation for being too bright for a home and not having much variety in color. However, they've been greatly improved over the years and are now available in warmer (yellower) tones, different sizes and varied brightness. CFLs do contain trace amounts of mercury, so they should not be thrown away in the trash. Many hardware stores will collect old bulbs to recycle them safely.
- Light emitting diodes, or LEDs: Although these have been used for decades in traffic light signals and as indicator lights, they're finally making an appearance as energy-efficient lighting that can be used in the home. LEDs are currently the most efficient products on the market, as well as the longest-lasting. They use only a quarter of the energy that traditional incandescent bulbs use, but can last 25 times as long.
These lights are still in their infancy as a consumer product, and improvements in variety, color and brightness are being made yearly. They're more expensive than the other types of energy-efficient lighting available, but their life span and low energy use quickly make up for the initial investment.
Other Helpful Hints for Maximizing Efficiency
Energy-efficient lighting isn't only about what kind of bulbs you're using in your home. It also helps to know how to use them. Though it might seem like "turn the light off when you're not in the room" is always the answer, that's not necessarily so for some of the kinds of bulbs being used.
- Traditional and halogen incandescent bulbs – Traditional bulbs should always be turned off when not in use, since most of the energy used is making heat instead of light. In fact, in the summer, turning off the lights can even help you save on air conditioning costs. Although halogen bulbs are more efficient, it's also better to turn these off when no one is in the room.
- CFL bulbs – These are a little different. Their life span is dependent on how many times they're turned off and on, so limiting the times they're switched on is helpful. A good rule of thumb: If you'll be back in the room in 15 minutes, leave it on. If you'll be out of the room for longer than 15 minutes, turn it off.
- LEDs – Light emitting diodes use so little electricity that it almost doesn't matter if they're left on all of the time. However, some energy is still saved by turning them off, so flipping the switch when you leave the room is still a good habit. Unlike CFLs, their life span isn't affected by being turned off and on.
For more information on energy-efficient lighting, as well as other tips for saving money on your Baltimore home's electric bill, contact Griffith Energy Services, Inc today.
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