Say goodbye to your old light bulbs. The 2007 Energy Law has mandated that manufacturers must start making incandescent light bulbs at least 27 percent more efficient by 2014. In 2012, manufacturers started phasing out 100-watt incandescent bulbs, followed by 75-watt bulbs in in 2013 and 40 and 60-watt bulbs in 2014.
Angie’s List asked highly rated lighting professionals for advice on available options.
Alternatives to Incandescent Light Bulbs:
Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs): CFLs were designed specifically to replace incandescent bulbs. Most fit into the same size light socket as their incandescent counterparts. They contain two essential components: a curved tube lighting tube and compact electronic ballast.
- Pros: CFLs need only one-fifth to one-third the electricity of incandescent to produce the same amount of light, and they last approximately 10 times as long.
- Cons: These lights do contain mercury, however, making disposal more complicated and placing some groups (like young children or pregnant women) at risk if the bulb is damaged. Some people have complained that these bulbs produce light that washes out natural colors and makes homes seem pale or sterile, although new designs combat this issue.
Light-emitting diodes (LEDs): LEDs are the most recent contender in the lighting market. These compact bulbs have been used for years in Christmas decorations and children's toys, but they're becoming popular for whole-home lighting as well.
- Pros: These bulbs contain no filament and no mercury or other toxic materials; instead, they use diode chips encased in a plastic. When electricity passes through the diode, its electrons become excited and release light, but virtually no heat. As a result, these bulbs are up to 85 percent more efficient than incandescent bulbs and 10 percent more efficient than CFLs.
- Cons: They cost between 10 and 30 times as much as competing bulbs, though they should last longer. While they can now replicate incandescent light temperature, these bulbs may have problems with older sockets and may flicker or refuse to turn on when used with a dimmer switch.
When you choose lighting for your home, you have several factors to consider:
- Lighting mission? What are you using the bulb for? What kind of light are you trying to create? Do you want it to dim? Do you want a 3-way bulb? Not every bulb will work in all lamps/fixtures.
- Cost: You’ll pay more than incandescent bulbs, but they will last longer and not produce as much heat.
- Amount of energy: Check how much energy the bulb uses because that will have an impact on your electric bill.
- Durability: How long will the lights you choose last? A year? Two? Five?
- Appearance: Different types of bulbs produce different colors and temperatures of light, which can significantly alter the tone of a living room or kitchen.
Waste not, watt not:
With incandescent bulbs, a watt was a reasonable unit of measure to compare the intensity of light. So you knew that 100-watt bulbs were brightest, followed by 75-watt, then 60-watt bulbs, and so on. But a watt is a unit of power, not brightness. Those incandescent bulbs convert only about 5% of the energy they use into light.
Lumens are a better measure of brightness. A lumen is unit of measure for light perceived by your eye. So while an LED bulb may only emit 10 watts of energy, it can glow up to 44 percent brighter than a 60-watt incandescent bulb.
If you're looking to switch over to LEDs but can't make them work in existing sockets, it may be worth hiring an electrician to update your wiring and fixtures.
- Hire a licensed professional: Aside from the danger that goes along with it, faulty electrical work can lead to fires. Licensed electricians also come in two types: journeymen and masters. Journeymen are often paired with masters, and while they can't design whole-home wiring systems, they can do installations or upgrades.
- How much? A master electrician working alone should cost between $30 and $45 an hour, while a journeyman and master together can run from $50 to $75 per hour.
- Ask about education: A licensed electrician will know the code requirements for your area, and whether it requires a permit. A reputable company will require staff to attend monthly training courses and be up-to-date on the National Electrical Code, which is amended every three years.