3 Tips to Easily Phase-Out the Incandescent Bulb

incandescent-bulbAs we find ourselves halfway through the epic phase-out of traditional incandescent light bulbs, most of us need assistance with finding replacement bulbs.  We’ve assembled three easy and helpful tips that will guide you through this change.

It all started in 2007 when former President George W. Bush signed an energy efficiency legislation that would gradually phase out the standard incandescent light bulb.  The 100 watt bulb was eliminated in 2012.  This year, these restrictions have been extended to the 75 watt bulb.  Even further, 2014 will eradicate the 60 and 40 watt incandescent bulbs.  Although the use of these bulbs is not illegal, manufacturing and importing these bulbs are grounds for prosecution.  Stores that still have them in stock will still be able to sell them, but only until their inventory diminishes.

Pedro Villagran, manager of Light Bulbs Unlimited in West Palm Beach, said it best, “A lot of people are still surprised as to what is going on.  There’s still some confusion.”  Well no need to worry, we are here to reduce the bewilderment and give you some useful information to use when selecting replacement bulbs.

1. Lumens vs. Wattage

While browsing through the hardware store, you find yourself faced with dozens of different light bulbs.  You start to look for your desired wattage, since that has been the usual process.  But wait, what’s this?  Lumens?  Yes, lumens are the new way to decode light bulb lingo.

Contrary to wattage, the new lumens standard measures how much light is emitted from the bulb, not how much power it consumes.  Let’s break it down.  Old incandescent light bulbs have a range of 10 to 15 lumens per watt.  So, a 100-watt bulb will have 1,000 to 1,500 lumens.  Similarly, a 72-watt halogen bulb has 1,490 lumens, which means it will emit the same amount of brightness as the 100-watt bulb.

If a conventional incandescent light bulb and a compact fluorescent light (CFL) have the same number of lumens, know that the incandescent will consume three to five times the amount of watts needed by the CFL (more watts = more energy = higher electricity bills = no money left over to buy that newfangled contraption you’ve been drooling over for the past month).

2. Consider Kelvin

While still in the hardware store, you start to remember that some of those new bulbs emit different color tones.  Watts up with that?  Color temperature is another important factor when shopping for new light bulbs.  Measured in Kelvin (K), the number usually ranges between 2,700K and 5,000K.  We recommend steering clear of 5,000K, unless you are trying to light an operating room.  To get that romantic candlelight glow, try to find a 2,300K bulb.  One in the range of 3,500K to 4,100K will emit a strong, bright white light.

Higher temperatures may give off a bluish tone, which tends to be a bit unflattering.  Try to remember the Kelvin scale, because non-descriptive terms like “soft white” and “warm white” do not mean the same thing to every manufacturer.

3. Light Bulb Placement

So you finally understand lumens, and you have selected your desired color temperature, but don’t forget to think about where you will be putting this light bulb.  Cathy Choi is President of Bulbrite, a lighting manufacturer that has been in the business for 40 years.  She recommends, “If you are using it in your table lamp for reading, I would not suggest a compact fluorescent.  The way it produces light is not what the consumer is used to.  I would suggest a 72-watt halogen replacement.  The halogen replacement looks like the bulb you are used to.  The way it is made is a little bit different.”  Although, when lighting the laundry room, she suggests that a CFL would do just fine.

So let’s review.  Lumens measure how much light is emitted, not how much energy is required; higher Kelvin temperatures typically mean bluer color tones are emitted from the bulb; and the best light to read by is given off by a 72-watt halogen replacement.  Got all that?  Excellent, let’s head to the checkout.

Sarah Battaglia
Energy Curtailment Specialists, Inc.

Sarah can be found on LinkedIn and Google+.

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  • Jim

    As they burn out, my household has been replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent ones. I’ve been keeping the packaging and documentating the date of installation. While all the packages tout a 5-year life, the CFL’s require replacement in about a year. They may be more energy efficient, but certainly don’t last as long as advertised or the incandescent bulbs that they replaced.

  • Sarah Battaglia

    Jim, I have heard that other people are experiencing a similar problem. Where do you typically use your CFLs? There are several things that can shorten the life of a CFL…like if it is used with a dimmer switch, recessed cans, or motion sensors. I’ve read that most CFLs have an “on-off” lifespan of about 7,000 cycles, so if you keep turning it on and off every half hour or so, that will certainly impact the lifespan too. I would also recommend avoiding any off-brand products, but that’s just my personal opinion.

  • http://www.ecolightledsystems.com Aaron Morrison

    Sarah, Thank you, there is some good information in this article.

    Jim you are correct and not alone.. there should be a huge dis-calmer on their packaging because there is a very large gap between the stated life span and the reality of what people are experiencing.

    In the article there is no mention of LED. Wondering why you would go from a non-polluting, non-hazardous product to one which is both CFLs?

    LED’s are replacing the 40w to 60w range with ease consuming on average 5 watts in doing so, and they shape is exactly the same an an incandescent light bulb. The 100w LED replacement will be along shortly.

    The added bonus is that this will be the last light bulb most people will buy with a 30 to 40,000 hour life span. Also they can be turned off and on as often as you like, many are dimmable, and can be hooked up to occupancy sensors. The big plus is LED like incandescent and not a bio hazard.

    The average home consists of mainly 40 and 60 watt light bulbs, and you can replace 12 of them in your home with LED and use the same energy as 1 60 watt light bulb. That is true energy saving.

    Halogen is a very temperamental light and produces a very large amount of heat as a byproduct. Certainly not energy efficient lighting by any means, as heat adds to your HVAC costs.
    Full disclosure I own an LED Lighting Company.

  • Sarah Battaglia

    Aaron, from your professional perspective, could you give us an estimate of how the price varies between a CFL, LED, and halogen?

  • http://www.ecolightledsystems.com Aaron Morrison

    That is a good question. There are several costs.. If you are looking for initial purchase price, that is one price, if you are looking for the total price over the life of the lights that is another, and if you are looking for a price to the environment that is yet another.

    Initial costs vary depending on quality, but you are looking at approx CFL $4.00 LED $20.00 Halogen $2.50

    Quick reference for pricing: http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1vZbmbu/h_d2/Navigation?catalogId=10053&langId=-1&storeId=10051

    On the surface LED appears to be “very expensive” but in the long run it will be the overall best choice and “lowest cost” both to you and your family, and the environment.


  • Megan Roney

    They are now manufacturing led’s with a colour rendering index of around 95 (which mimics the ambience of a halogen beautifully. In addition, the led also mimics a halogen when dimming. Prior to this, led’s failed to produce a deep amber colour when dimmed, and was too white or cool for some environments- especially in one’s home. They are now available. So if you are looking for the best bang for your buck, and the ambience your used to from traditional bulbs, LED is your best bet.
    They are often rated at 50,000 hours- but that doesn’t mean they will burn out at 50,000 hours. The standard of 50,000 hours actually represents how long that led will burn at its full lumen output. After 50,000 hours, you should only see a 30% drop in lumen levels. It will have 70% of its light output. In other words, that bulb is going to last a really, really long time.

    Make sure you are purchasing a name brand you recognize with energy star approval as well. Otherwise you may be wasting your money.
    It may seem less appealing at the time to purchase the more expensive bulb, but your return on investment will be quick and when you factor in rising electricity costs, you’ll be saving money the moment you screw in your new LED’s.
    Full disclosure: I represent various electrical manufacturers and those who manufacturer lamps, manufacturer both LED’s and CFL’s.

  • Sarah Battaglia

    Thanks for the numbers, Aaron. $20 seems worth it if an LED bulb really lasts for at least 50,000 hours. A little more money upfront can make a difference in the long run.

  • http://www.ecolightledsystems.com Aaron Morrison

    Your Welcome Sarah, Just a couple of notes.. even if they lasted 35,000 hours, at 5 hours a day 365 days a year you would get 19.17 years out of the bulb… How many CFL’s will you replace in that time period? Lots…

    If you are going to buy an LED Light, the guide I recommend is to look at Lumens per watt. If the product lists a LPW of less than 90 chances are it is an older generation technology. We are constantly cycling the latest product lines, much like just in time delivery, so our products are always the latest generation.

    Another interesting point, related but in a different way.. How much Mercury does it take to pollute a 50 acre lake with an average depth of 10 feet?

    Answer: 20 grams. The equivalent of 4 US Nickles , or the amount of mercury that is found on average in 5000 CFLs / 4′ Fluorescent Tubes. Pretty amazing isn’t it….


  • http://www.greenlivingeveryday.com Green Living Everyday

    This is great info. With the soaring energy cost, making little changes like this should be on everyone’s mind and this will help to inform consumers as they switch to more efficient products.

  • Todd Hanson

    Thank you all for this informative discussion. As our incandenscents burned out we replaced them with compact fluorescents and we’ve been disappointed with their lamp life. I am guessing we are a rarity when we collect our used CFLs (and batteries) and take them to our city’s disposal site. I fear a majority of folks just toss them in the trash and seeing the current market share they now enjoy this has to be a very serious environmental concern. How long do people think it will be before CFLs are banned?
    We are now trying various LED options and are pleased with the improved light quality over CFLs especially in places like bathrooms where by the time the CFL has reached full light level it’s time to turn it off.
    I am also noticing LED prices dropping as they get better established in the market.

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