Wave bye-bye to those old light bulbs

Posted Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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As you get used to saying 2014 and settle in to a short list of make-a-new-start changes and resolutions, you’d do well to add another habit change to the roster of must-dos: Learn something new about light bulbs. Specifically, you need to know about the phase-out of traditional incandescent bulbs.

Soon enough, you’ll be discussing CFLs and LEDs with the best of them, since Jan. 1 ushered in a new era for the illumination market, and those inefficient 40- and 60-watt incandescent bulbs — representing more than half of all bulbs sold — can no longer be manufactured in the United States or imported.

Of course, this doesn’t mean all incandescent bulbs will disappear. New, more energy-efficient incandescent bulbs (such as halogen) will still be available in addition to CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) and LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs, but they will use less power than traditional bulbs, while providing the same amount of light.

Because of varying needs, wattage will no longer be the bottom line for bulb shoppers. For example, a 13-watt CFL or a 43-watt new incandescent both provide the same amount of light as the old 60-watt bulb. So, your in-the-know-in-2014 light bulb vocabulary needs to incorporate the word “lumens,” which is a standard measurement of visible light.

The more lumens, the brighter the light. That 60-watt equivalent offers 800 lumens. A 100-watt bulb would be 1,600 lumens.

According to a just-released sixth annual Sylvania Socket Survey, 65 percent of Americans planned to switch to more-efficient bulbs, yet nearly 6 out of 10 consumers were still unaware that our familiar 40- and 60-watt bulbs faced a Jan. 1 deadline. Among those that knew about the phase-out, some went on buying sprees. That same survey found that 30 percent of shoppers planned to horde some old bulbs, buying up what remained available for their continued use.

Which of the new bulbs is most popular? Overwhelmingly, CFLs. Some 46 percent of those surveyed said they planned a switch to the compact fluorescents, as opposed to 24 percent who said they would opt for LEDs and the 13 percent that picked halogen.

Here are more tips for bulb shoppers, courtesy of the Natural Resources Defense Council:

• Not all CFLs and LEDs are created equal. To ensure quality, buy those that have the “Energy Star” label. These will save you energy and also perform well over time.

• CFLs and LEDs last 10 to 25 times longer, respectively, than traditional incandescent bulbs. Keep this in mind when you look at their price tags and gasp. Even though they cost more upfront, they will save lots of money over their lifetime and won’t require replacement as often.

• Light bulbs come in different “flavors” or tones. If you want the light to look just like it did with your old incandescent, buy “warm white.” Those that say “daylight” or “cool white” will have a much whiter, almost bluish white light, which many consumers say they don’t like.

• If you want a dimmable bulb, buy an LED or incandescent bulb. Most CFLs cannot be dimmed.

We tested it: This LED bulb can turn heads

GE’s new Reveal 60-watt equivalent LED bulb looks and works a lot like its familiar incandescent counterpart. It’s the same size and will fit the same fixtures — except it uses a lot less energy.

How much: $19.97 suggested retail price.

Where to buy: Available at Home Depot, Amazon.com and other chains.

Pro: This new LED bulb looks and acts a lot like the familiar 60-watt incandescent bulbs that are fading out of circulation. It fits in conventional fixtures (just screw it in) and will last more than 13 years while saving on energy costs (an estimated $80 over its considerable lifetime). Using just 11 watts, this bulb also has several positive features that CFL counterparts don’t. It’s mercury-free, instant-on and dimmable. The quality of light is warm and natural, much like sunlight. Prices are coming down, too.

Con: It’s still an investment at $20 a bulb, although this model was originally introduced at $30. It’s rated at 570 lumens, which seems a little low for a 60-watt equivalent. But, when tested, the light was very bright.

Rating: Four out of five stars

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