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Green Light Know How: Your Guide to Energy Saving Light Bulbs

It is human nature. We are always eager to explore the newest products, especially the ones that are promoted to make our lives better. At the same time, we can be skeptical about new product technologies, and it can be difficult to decide what to buy and whether to buy it. This is certainly the case with energy saving light bulbs. The Energy Independence and Security Law, passed in December 2007, started the clock on the end of the cheap and reliable incandescent light bulb. While it’s true that some light bulb manufacturers have flirted with the idea of ​​increasing the energy efficiency of Mr. Edison’s classic enough to meet the requirements of the law, it now seems likely that US consumers will need to switch to green light bulbs of the 21st century. for most uses as of 2012.

The mainstream media has been abuzz with news about the upcoming light bulb revolution. Only in the last week of May, both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times published high-profile articles addressing emerging trends in CFL (compact fluorescent lamps) and LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs.

Since they cost more than traditional light bulbs, most people buy energy efficient light bulbs for two main reasons: they save money in the long run and they are better for the environment. Specifically, because green light bulbs use so much less energy to produce the same amount of light, they reduce harmful gas emissions from coal-fired power plants (which generate 50% of the electricity used in the United States).

So consumers need to immediately replace all their incandescent bulbs with energy efficient bulbs, right? Well, not so fast. With lighting, quality matters especially in our homes where we gather, read, cook, eat, celebrate and entertain. There is a perception that green light bulbs require sacrificing light quality. Do not believe it. Many eco-friendly light bulbs give off beautiful, soft light. And no one should feel guilty for not turning off every appliance that contains a regular light bulb. Invest in replacing your most frequently used bulbs first. With this approach, the savings will be greater and the payback periods shorter. And truth be told, there are scenarios where the best bulb is the old-fashioned incandescent.

7 keys to choose the best green light bulbs for your home or office

Choosing among the many energy saving light bulbs on the market today can be tricky. Gone are the days when all that mattered was the wattage and shape of the bulb.

By keeping these seven simple guidelines in mind, you’ll be on your way to making smart decisions about what to buy to meet your energy-saving light bulb needs in this new green age:

1. Pay more, not less – To save money in the long run, your new green bulbs should be able to last several thousand hours. If you buy the cheapest ones you can find, the chances are higher that they won’t.

2. Choose your places – if a fixture is fully enclosed or turned on for less than 15 minutes at a time and less than two hours a day, CFLs are a poor investment. Mercury-free, low-energy halogens are available and are worth considering in these situations. Wait until the existing bulb burns out (or save it for later use; see #6).

3. Nobody likes the blues – the bluish light emitted by many fluorescent tubes is not attractive to most homeowners. When shopping for CFLs and LEDs, choose “warm white” or “soft white” labels for a pleasantly familiar color. Energy saving light bulbs labeled “cool white,” “daylight,” or “daylight” are blue-hued and best for specific applications such as reading, task lighting, and exterior fixtures, not for living area, atmosphere, or lighting of accent.

4. getting dark – most CFL and LED bulbs cannot be used with dimmer switches. Look for green light bulbs that are clearly labeled “dimmable.” And while the industry has made great strides in recent years, most energy efficient light bulbs don’t dim as well as traditional incandescent bulbs. However, the large energy savings are compelling to most homeowners. Making the switch to dimmable LED or compact fluorescent lamps in a busy family kitchen can be a real money saver, including reducing cooling costs because neither generates as much heat as incandescents. Last point: the dimmer switch must be compatible with the green light bulbs you purchase.

5. let’s do the twist – Spiral or “twisted” compact fluorescent lamps are the least expensive type. If these green light bulbs are concealed behind a shade (although not totally enclosed), purchasing a spiral lamp will reduce the payback period compared to glass-covered CFLs.

6. Stay out of the closet – most closets need short bursts of instant light. This is often true of vanities, bases, attics, and garages. Among energy saving light bulbs, CFLs in particular are not suitable for this purpose. Traditional bulbs (or again, energy efficient halogens) are better in these scenarios until something better comes along.

7. Innovative, intriguing, expensive – Mercury-free LED bulbs are the future of lighting, case closed. These green light bulbs use less electricity than even CFLs and last 30,000 hours or more. However, current prices per bulb are as high as $100, which means the payback period for most home uses is too long to justify the price. If you’re curious about this new technology and live in an area with high retail electricity costs, you may want to consider replacement LED bulbs for one or two appliances that are heavily used (6+ hours per day). Please re-read key #1 before investing in these types of energy efficient light bulbs.

Ignore the naysayers: Green light bulbs are here to stay

One last point: Mercury makes CFLs (and fluorescent tubes) work. Some serious people, including syndicated columnist George Will, say we should avoid energy-saving light bulbs for this reason. We disagre. Coal-fired electricity generation is the largest contributor of mercury to the environment. Through reduced electricity use, a single CFL will keep much more mercury out of the environment during its lifetime than it contains. Still, releasing mercury into the environment is a bad idea, so it’s important to recycle CFLs when they stop working. Recycling used light bulbs is becoming easier.

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