About Energy-Efficient Lighting

Learn about CFLs and LEDs, your keys to saving energy

Energy efficient light bulbs last longer, lower our electric bills, reduce water and air pollution, are multipurpose and provide high-quality lighting. That traditional incandescent bulb you bought at the drugstore yesterday might not have been that pricey, but through all the days and nights of light it provides, it will use five to 10 times its purchase cost in electricity. Reach for a Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) or a Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulb instead, and save on your energy bills and light bulb bills in the long-run.

Why use CFLs?

Eco Geek Living, a retailer of eco-friendly products, reports that as the topic of energy efficient lighting has gained popularity, the number of homeowners purchasing CFLs has progressively increased. Although CFLs cost more than incandescent bulbs, according to Greg Seaman, green-living expert and founder of the Eartheasy website, CFLs illuminate up to 10 times longer than incandescents and use 50-80 percent less energy, ultimately keeping more money in your wallet.

A 2008 Consumer Reports study found that one CFL saves you $30 during the course of the bulb’s usage. According to Seaman, CFLs significantly reduce CO2 emissions, toxic waste and sulfur dioxide, thereby promoting cleaner air and water. Don’t be put off by the ‘fluorescent’ in CFL. The lighting is soft and warm and comparable to the incandescent lighting to which we have grown accustomed. CFLs can be used for any lighting fixture that an incandescent bulb can, from a reading lamp to a ceiling fixture.

Types of CFLs

CFLs come in all shapes, styles and sizes. There is the spiral lamp, suitable for most fixtures; the standard lamp, which looks like a typical incandescent; the globe lamp, perfect for bathroom mirrors; the triple tube lamp, best suited to table lamps and open hanging lamps; flood lamps for indoor and outdoor fixtures; and the candelabra, which is used for chandeliers and other small lighting fixtures.

Limitations of CFLs

CFLs are great energy-savers, but they do have their limitations. And, if not used properly, you can reduce the longevity of the bulb. Avoid using them for lighting fixtures that you frequently switch on and off. Using a CFL in a dimmer switch is fine as long as the CFL is designed for dimming. If it is a regular CFL, Seaman says, you'll shorten the bulb life span.

Not every CFL will fit into every fixture, so make sure you know the function and color temperature of the particular CFL bulb you are purchasing.

CFLs contain a trace amount of mercury, so they must be disposed of properly. Recycle your broken or burnt out CFL by returning it to a retailer like Ikea that runs a CFL recycling program.


Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are the most energy-efficient bulbs on the market. We are used to seeing LED bulbs in electronics, penlights, instrument panels and Christmas lights, but the capability of LED lighting has expanded dramatically.

Why use LEDs?

According to Seaman, LEDs have CFL bulbs beat when it comes to energy efficiency, as they last up to 10 times longer than the CFLs, saving on maintenance and replacement costs. LEDs use only 2 to 10 watts of energy, and, because they do not get hot or contribute to heat buildup, using them reduces summer air conditioning costs. LEDs are sturdy, mercury-free and cost-effective. LEDs provide either warm light, which is best for lighting a small area, or cool light, which is most effective for task lighting.

Types of LEDs

Use diffused bulbs for area lighting that isn’t frequently switched on and off, diffused high power bulbs for common household fixtures and spotlight and floodlights for ceilings and outdoors. LEDs are also available as track lighting, recessed down light and spotlight bulbs.

Energy-Star qualified lighting

Energy Star is a government program designed to promote energy efficient lighting. Purchase lighting with the Energy Star certification to ensure that your bulb is using up to 75 percent less energy and heat than incandescents.

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