Light Bulbs 101: Discover Which Bulb to Buy

Light Bulbs

Do you remember when picking out light bulbs was as simple as walking into the store and grabbing a box based on brightness? These days, some folks feel like picking the right bulb requires an advanced degree and a phone call to your favorite electrical service company.

There are two things you should know about the new world of light bulbs:

  1. The choice isn’t as difficult as it seems.
  2. This is a good thing, because you will save money!

In order to fully understand how to choose a bulb, one must understand the different types of light bulbs and the long-term costs of each.

First, let’s explore the incandescent bulb. This bulb runs the electrical current through a wire filament. Incandescent bulbs are inexpensive to purchase (about $2 per bulb), making them an attractive choice. However, they waste a great deal of energy by putting off heat as they create light. Incandescent bulbs also do not last as long as the newer counterparts, as they are used an average of 1,200 hours.

On the other hand, the Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) drives the electric current through a tube containing argon and mercury vapor. This creates an ultraviolet light. The main advantage of CFLs is that they use 70% less energy and last years longer, approximately 8,000 hours for a $3 bulb. However, they cannot be used with a dimmer switch and they do take a few minutes to reach full brightness. In addition, mercury is harmful to your health and the environment, which means these bulbs are not safe if broken and they cannot be tossed into the trash.

Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) work by bringing together currents to create energy released in the form of light. LEDs provide instant light and can be dimmed. They last even longer than CFLs, an average of 25,000 hours. The major drawback is the cost, which is usually more than $8 a bulb. While they can last as much as four times longer than CFLs, LED prices are dropping as they become more mainstream.

The bottom line is this: Incandescent bulbs require the least initial investment, but do not last anywhere near as long as CFLs or LEDs. According to numerous studies, over the course of 25,000 hours, an incandescent bulb will cost just over four times as much as a CFL in energy costs and replacements, and well over 5 times as much as an LED. The savings of LEDs over CFLs is much less (about $10 over 25,000 hours), but given the other negative aspects of CFLs mentioned above, LEDs are often the way to go.

Remember, you don’t have to replace all your bulbs at once, but replacing each one as they go out will save money in the long run. Also, businesses can save a great deal more than the average homeowner by changing their light bulbs, and may even be eligible for incentive programs. Contact us for details.

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