Everybody is looking to save a little money these days, and there’s no better place to start saving than in your home. No, it’s not a get rich quick scheme, but you can save money literally with the flip of a switch, by changing the style of your light bulbs.
The average home has lots of light fixtures, all using energy to brighten our rooms. Recessed lighting is a popular style that offers clean and functional lighting, but also poor energy performance. The flood light bulbs used in recessed lighting use lots of energy to light a room resulting in higher electric bills.
In response to higher energy costs, today’s markets have produced the well-known compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) as well as the relatively new to the residential market, light emitting diode (LED) lighting. CFL bulbs have been in use for some time, but LED lights are gaining momentum. LED lights are available as actual bulbs or as retrofit kits which adapt existing recessed light fixtures or ceiling fixtures into LED lights. The adaptation is simple and is a great alternative to traditional lighting.
Each type of light has its strengths and weaknesses, but four major categories should be considered. Let’s examine the differences between the three types of lights based on these factors: energy cost, functionality, aesthetics, and replacement.
Incandescent bulbs use approximately 60-65 watts of power. This is the biggest downfall to traditional incandescent lighting because the energy use is so much higher than the newer, energy-efficient bulbs. CFL bulbs are typically using 13-15 watts of power while the newer LED lights are slightly better, using only 10-15 watts of power. From an energy savings perspective alone, the incandescent bulbs are dinosaurs in energy use. Switching light bulbs to CFL’s or LED’s can be a great way to save electricity and money.
Many people utilize dimming switches in their homes whether it is in the dining room, bedroom, or den. Dimmer switches can be a great way to set the mood or create off lighting for television or movies. Incandescent bulbs are typically able to be dimmed without problem; however, CFL bulbs have been notorious for not being dimmable. Dimmer switches can shorten the life of a CFL bulb or void the warranty. There are dimmable CFL’s on the market but they tend to be more expensive than standard CFL bulbs. LED lighting really shines in this area with precision control even down to 5%.
Another part of functionality is the light startup. Incandescent lighting is nearly instant in turning on when the switch is flipped. LED retrofit kits may have a slight delay due to the adaptation components, but probably not something that bother the average user. CFL bulbs can have a “start-up” period before reaching full light capacity. This might actually be of benefit in the mornings when you’re still trying to wake up, but if you’re talking about work space, CFL’s might make you wait. So when it comes to functionality, CFL lighting probably comes in second place to incandescent and LED lighting.
One of the biggest arguments for incandescent lighting is that traditional bulbs just “look better.” If you are a purist at heart, you may not be able to stray from the standard look and feel of a soft white bulb. CFL’s have a unique curly shape although recent models have sleeves designed to look like an incandescent bulb. LED light bulbs also have sleeves or diffusers to hide the more pointed light sources, but still look non-traditional. LED retrofit kits are like small discs that project an inch or so below the ceiling, taking away from the “true” recessed light look. CFL’s and LED’s try to hide their differences but they still might fall short in some people’s opinions.
Besides the look of the physical bulb, there is also the appearance of the light generated to consider. Since incandescent bulbs have been the staple of home lighting for decades, they are typically used for comparison. CFL’s tend to have a more fluorescent bluish, white light that feels more commercialized although some are color-corrected. LED’s have had a similar problem with many earlier versions in flashlights giving a very bright white light; but due to the technology, have been able to output virtually any color including soft white. If you are concerned about pure aesthetics and value yourself as a traditionalist, walking away from the soft white of incandescent may be difficult.
The last major area of comparison is replacement cost. There are two factors in replacing a light bulb that must be considered. How long will the light bulb last and how much will the light cost to replace? Since incandescent bulbs have had the lion’s share of the market, they are certainly the most economical bulb to purchase at the store, but also have the shortest lifespan. CFL’s will cost considerably more, but justify the higher price with significant lifespan. CFL’s have had problems though with shortened lifespans from dimming and constant operation. LED’s have a high initial cost but an extremely long lifespan, lasting up to 50,000 hours. To put that in terms that we can understand, you would have to keep the light on for 8 hours a day for more than 17 years before replacing. Replacement is certainly where LED lights really excel. Yes, there is more upfront cost, but imagine not changing your light bulb for almost two decades.
Everyone needs to light their house, and there are various factors to consider in choosing the right bulb for you. It really comes down to your choice, but there are certainly ways to save money. Changing your lights might just be the start to making the rest of your home more efficient. Even the Empire State Building is catching the trend. What do you think? Incandescent, CFL, or LED? Tell us what you’re doing to save money in your home. You can also watch the video for a more visual idea of the differences between these three lights.