Residential Lighting: Today’s Bulbs are More Energy Efficient Than Ever


The type of blub you buy depends on what you need it to do

The lighting sections in most hardware stores can easily take up half an aisle. This advance in choices is great, but also daunting. Which bulb is best for you: halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps or light-emitting diodes? Here’s some information to help you make informed choices.

The Oregon Department of Energy recommends replacing traditional incandescent bulbs when they burn out with higher-efficiency bulbs. Some of those old bulbs and wattages are no longer available in stores as energy standards for lighting have become more efficient. Newer bulbs cost less to operate and last thousands of hours longer, saving you money over the life of the bulb.

The three most common options today:

  • Halogen incandescent bulbs use about 25 percent less energy than traditional incandescents. They are generally a whiter, cooler light. Bulb life is about the same or slightly better than incandescent.
  • CFLs use about 75 percent less energy and last 7 to 10 times longer than the traditional incandescent bulbs. CFLs can take slightly longer to fully brighten and should be recycled when burned out as they contain mercury. Some are dimmable.
  • LEDs use about 25 percent less energy than CFLs and some should last upwards of four decades when used about three hours a day. Prices are dropping rapidly and the variety of light presented is increasing.

Three things to look for in any new bulb:

  1. Color Rendition – a term for how “warm” or “cool” the light is. Many retailers have displays where you can see how objects look under various types of lights.
  2. Lumens – Instead of shopping by “watts,” look for equivalent lumens for what you are used to in an incandescent. For example, a 60-watt incandescent produces about 800 lumens. The equivalent light from a CFL is a 14-watt bulb, and LED is 9 watts.
  3. Hours – Packaging will display the rated life of a bulb. You can use bulb life to compare bulbs that may cost more, but last a lot longer. Divide the hours on the package by the bulb cost to determine the best buy.

Want More Help? Contact Roger Kainu, ODOE energy efficiency specialist, at 503-580-7469 or via email at