Say goodbye to the 75-watt incandescent light bulb.Production of the bulb was stopped this month, just as it ended last year for the 100-watt bulb. Next January, the 40- and 60-watt incandescent bulbs will go, and after store supplies sell out, that will be the end of your grandfather's type of bulb in the U.S. forever.The phaseout was part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, signed by President George W. Bush as a way for homeowners to save on energy usage. The law requires most screw-in light bulbs to use at least 27 percent less energy by 2014, and incandescent bulbs don't make the cut.While you'll have to buy new, more expensive bulbs to replace your burnt-out incandescents, the savings in energy usage from switching to the more efficient bulbs is substantial.The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that changing just one light bulb to an Energy Star efficient bulb will save a household $40 or more over the life of the bulb. On a national scale that adds up even more: If every American replaced one bulb, it would save enough energy to light more than 3 million houses for a year, save more than $600 million in annual energy costs and reduce greenhouses gases equal to the emissions of 800,000 cars, EPA said.Retailers don't have to immediately pull their existing stock from the shelves. But a year after the 100-watt bulb was put out of service, it is difficult to find one at area stores. Lowe's at Interstate 30 and Eastchase Parkway in Fort Worth had one box left recently, while Wal-Mart and Target had none.Fortunately, consumers have several choices of more efficient bulbs, and quality is increasing as prices are falling, said Cathy Choi, a board member of the American Lighting Association education foundation and president of Bulbrite, an energy-efficient lighting manufacturer."The American people are realizing they don't have to give up that much in quality of light than what they've been used to," she said. "There are options."The cheapest replacement bulbs are halogen bulbs, which sell for around $2.50 apiece for a 72-watt bulb (the equivalent in light of a 100-watt incandescent.) The bulbs will save you 25 percent on energy cost compared to an incandescent and last about as long, according to Consumer Reports. But the halogen's short life span is one of the reasons it doesn't meet Energy Star standards, so even though it's the cheapest alternative, it still isn't the best choice for saving energy. On the plus side, the brightness level and light color are comparable to traditional bulbs, and halogens are the only alternative lights that will dim completely.Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) are more expensive -- around $4 to $5 apiece -- but save you 75 percent in energy costs and last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. So a CFL bulb that is run three hours a day should last a little more than nine years.The lead content in the squiggly-shaped bulbs has dropped dramatically, according to a study by Consumer Reports. The amount in the bulbs tested dropped 60 to 75 percent, compared with already low levels found in 2008, without affecting performance.But even with the lower lead content, dead CFLs should be recycled and not put into the landfill. Several retailers, including Home Depot, Ikea, Lowe's and some ACE Hardware stores, will accept used bulbs. If you break a bulb, follow the clean-up tips provided by the EPA at www.epa.gov/cfl/cflcleanup.html.CFLs have the same color temperature as the old bulbs, but its Color Rendering Index, which measures how colors look under the light, is 20 percent lower than a 100-watt incandescent bulb.The last choice in new bulbs is the light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, which provide as much energy savings as a CFL but last a lot longer -- almost 23 years if on three hours a day. While LEDs are the most expensive choice, the price has come down considerably, Choi said.LEDs cost on average around $20, but you save more than half of that in annual energy costs, so the bulbs pay for themselves in two years, according to Consumer Reports.Teresa McUsic's column appears Saturdays. TMcUsic@SavvyConsumer.net
Know your lumens. Watts tell energy use, while lumens measure brightness. Look for at least 450 lumens when replacing a 40-watt bulb, 800 lumens or more for a 60-watt bulb, 1,100 lumens for a 75-watt bulb and 1,600 lumens or higher when replacing a 100-watt bulb. For floodlights, look for a lumen count at least 10 times the wattage of the current bulb.
Look for brightness, not color. Kelvins measure the whiteness, yellowness or blueness of light. Incandescent bulbs produce a warm, yellowish light with a color temperature of about 2,700K. Halogen bulbs give off a cool, bright white light at 3,000K to 4,100K. Natural light or daylight is mimicked by 5,000K to 6,500K bulbs, but can have a bluer tone that may be unflattering indoors. Use kelvins to get the right color light because terms on the box like "soft white" and "warm white" mean different things among manufacturers.
Check out CRI. The Color Rendering Index shows how accurately colors appear under the light and ranges from 0 to 100, with daytime sunlight at 100. Most of the bulbs are in the low 80s, with a few in the upper 80s and low 90s. A CRI of at least 80 is generally recommended for interior lights. Differences of fewer than five points are insignificant.
Read the package. A Lighting Facts label must now appear on the packages of most bulbs to show brightness, energy use, estimated energy costs, expected life, light color in kelvins, and, for CFLs, mercury content. Only the information on Energy Star bulbs has been independently verified.
Keep your receipts. The bulbs are supposed to last for years, so be sure to save the receipts and UPC codes in case you need to return a bulb to the manufacturer or retailer.
Source: Consumer Reports