Light Bulbs: The Shape of Things to Come

GE light bulb incandescent Despite what you may have heard—the incandescent light bulb is not going the way of the dinosaur.  “It will, however, need to become more energy efficient to conform to new Federal Energy Efficient Lighting Legislation adopted by The Department of Energy (DOE),” according to Jim Crowcroft, Vice President of Marketing, Technical Consumer Products, Inc.

The Legislation, which took effect in California this January and starts rolling out to other states next year, will begin phasing out the current incarnation of incandescent bulbs by 2014. The upside is that it will require both manufacturers and consumers to look at bulbs in a whole new light.

Related: Which Lighting Where? 9 Pro Tips for Improved Illumination

If you are serious about saving energy—and money on your monthly utility bill—you don’t need to wait until 2014 to take action.  There are a variety of innovative products on the market today, including new incandescents, that offer the same lumens (the true measurement of light output and brightness) as the standard light bulb, with the added benefits of longer life (10,000 hours and up) and reduced wattage (the energy required to generate lumens).  Here’s what you need to know:

EcoSmart CFL 14-Watt Light Bulb Home Depot

EcoSmart CFL 14-Watt Light Bulb

Compact Florescent Lights (CFL)  Unlike earlier versions of these lamps—which emitted a florescent-like glow—the new varieties offer the same amount and quality of illumination as the standard incandescent, but with 75% less energy.  They are available in a wide range of wattages, from 5 to 68 (equivalent to today’s 25 to 300-watts), come in three color temperatures—soft white, bright white and daylight—and last approximately 10 times longer than current incandescent bulbs.  They are also dimmable with standard light dimmers.  The EcoSmart CFL 14-watt (60-watt equivalent) Spiral Light Bulb is available in a four-pack for $5.85 at The Home Depot.

Philips LED 75-watt Light Bulb, Home Depot

Philips 17-Watt LED Light Bulb

Light Emitting Diodes (LED)  LED bulbs—which employ a semi-conductor technology to provide illumination—use 85% less energy than incandescents and 50% less than CFLs to produce the same amount of light; making them the highest lumen per watt in class.  LEDs offer precise color quality and come in a range of light temperatures from soft ambient to daylight. They are fully dimmable, although they may require a LED-supported dimmer switch, like those from Lutron, for best performance. They are pricier than CFLs, but given their long life (25 times that of standard bulbs) and energy savings, LEDs may well be worth the initial outlay. The new Philips 17-watt LED bulb (75-watt equivalent) is available at retail for $39.97.

And, for those who find it hard to imagine using anything but the familiar bulb shape, there are new varieties on store shelves today that offer improved energy savings, like the EcoVantage Halogen bulbs from Philips. At 43-watts (380 Lumens) and 1,000 life hours, the bulbs are equivalent to current 60-watt incandescents with 28% greater energy savings. You can pick up a 2-pack for $2.99.

Philips EcoVantage 43-Watt Halogen Light Bulb

Philips EcoVantage 43-Watt Halogen Light Bulb

For more on lighting and home energy savings, consider:

The Basics of Lighting Design
The Lighting Designer
Choosing the Right Energy-Saving Bulb and Fixture