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Light Bulbs - Halogen, CFL, and LED Replacements for Incandescent Bulbs

Updated on September 22, 2015
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Old-Style Bulbs Being Retired

As of January 1st, 2014, most sizes of old-style incandescent light bulbs have been phased out. They’re no longer being manufactured or imported into the US. The 100-watt bulb disappeared in 2012, the 75-watt bulb in 2013, and the 40 and 60-watt bulbs ceased to be manufactured in 2014.

Why Did This Happen?

The types of incandescent bulbs affected are very inefficient. Only 10% of the electricity used by those bulbs is converted to light; the other 90% is wasted as heat.

In December 2007, President George W. Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 into law. Among other things, this law mandated a 25% increase in efficiency of light bulbs phased in from 2012 through 2014. The intended effect was to increase energy independence by increasing efficiency and thus lowering the amount of energy consumed.

Less energy consumption means lower electric bills and fewer power plant emissions.

Do you support the new lighting standards?

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Not Just the US

The United States is not the only country to discontinue old-style, inefficient incandescent lighting. Brazil and Venezuela began this process in 2005 - two years before the US.

Other countries that have enacted similar policies include:

  • Peoples Republic of China

  • India

  • Philippines

  • Malaysia

  • Israel

  • Norway

  • Switzerland

  • Canada

  • All member countries of the European Union

  • Cuba

  • Australia

  • New Zealand

  • Argentina

Watts Versus Lumens

You often hear the brightness of light bulbs listed by "watts". A “watt” is not a measure of light at all; it’s a measure of electrical power consumption. When there was only one type of common household light (the incandescent bulb), comparing them by the amount of electricity used made sense; they were all equally inefficient. Now that there are several different lighting technologies in common use, a better measurement - the lumen - is needed.

A “lumen” is a measurement of visible light output rather than power consumption. A 1,000 lumen bulb emits the same amount of visible light no matter what type of light it is or how much power it uses.

What Are The New Standards?

The new standards define the maximum amount of energy (in watts) that a bulb can consume for a given range of light output (in lumens). It also states that each bulb must last a minimum of 1,000 hours before failing. This chart shows the maximum power allowed for each light output range. It also shows what the typical power usage was in the old standard.

Lumen Range
Max Power
Old Equivalent
1490-2600
72 watts
100 watts
1050-1489
53 watts
75 watts
750-1049
43 watts
60 watts
310-749
29 watts
40 watts

Types Of Lights

There are now four common types of household lighting. They each have their own benefits and drawbacks.

  1. Incandescent

  2. Halogen

  3. Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL)

  4. Light Emitting Diode (LED)

Typical incandescent light bulb.
Typical incandescent light bulb. | Source

Incandescent

Incandescent lights are glass bulbs that emit light by passing electricity through a wire (the “filament”) to heat it until it glows. Thomas Edison’s first commercially viable bulb in the late 1870’s used a carbon filament. Improvements by other people in the next few decades introduced the tungsten filament, which is still in use today.

The tungsten filament evaporates over time. These bulbs eventually die when the weakened filament burns through. This often happens with an audible "pop" when the bulb is first turned on.

This early type of light bulb is very inefficient. It can’t meet the new standards as defined by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. A 100-watt incandescent bulb is needed to produce the same amount of light that is capped at 72 watts by law. This is why this type of light is no longer being produced.

A 42 watt halogen bulb.
A 42 watt halogen bulb. | Source

Halogen

Regular incandescent bulbs are no longer available, but the higher-efficiency halogen incandescent bulbs are. They are similar to regular incandescent bulbs, but have halogen gas under pressure added to increase the efficiency.

Halogen bulbs come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and lumens. They’re more expensive to purchase, but operate 28% more efficiently than regular incandescent lighting. A halogen bulb that uses 48 watts of power produces as much light as an incandescent bulb that uses 60 watts of power.

Because halogen bulbs run at a very hot temperature, care must be taken when handling them. Any skin oil left on the bulb when installing them can cause a hot spot that can allow the halogen to leak out or the bulb to explode.

Typical compact Fluorescent Lamp.
Typical compact Fluorescent Lamp. | Source

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL)

CFL lighting operates the same way as standard fluorescent lights. There is a gas-filled tube and a ballast. The difference is that the tube is bent and twisted into a much smaller space.

The gas in the tube includes mercury vapor and the inside of the tube is coated with a fluorescent material. When the light is turned on, an arc is formed through the gas within the tube causing the mercury atoms to release ultraviolet light. The ultraviolet light hits the fluorescent coating of the tube. The UV light is absorbed and visible light is released.

CFL lights are considerably more expensive than incandescent, but because they use much less power and last much longer, they are less expensive to use over time. A 60-watt incandescent bulb can be replaced by a 13-watt CFL. Whereas an incandescent bulb may last as long as 1,000 hours, a CFL can be expected to last 10,000 hours.

Because CFL lamps use mercury vapor, they must be properly disposed of when they no longer work. Most (if not all) stores that sell CFL lamps will also take them back for recycling. It's important to do this to keep the mercury from being released into the environment.

They must also be properly handled if they break. Because the mercury is a vapor, open a window to allow it to escape. The amount of mercury is tiny, but you don't want to breathe it.

Even though CPL lamps contain mercury, their use may actually remove mercury from the air. Many power plans burn coal to produce electricity. This releases mercury into the atmosphere. Because CFL lamps are much more efficient than incandescent bulbs, less mercury is released because less electricity is needed.

One problem with CFL bulbs is the fact that they start off very dim when they're cold. I have recessed lights on the second floor of my house with an unheated (although well-insulated) attic above them. The CFLs in these recessed lights take 60 seconds or more to reach full brightness.

Typical LED light bulb.
Typical LED light bulb. | Source

Light Emitting Diodes

Light Emitting Diodes are semiconductor devices. Charge-carriers - electrons and “holes” - flow into the junction of the diode from electrodes of different energies. When an electron encounters a hole, it drops to a lower energy level and emits a photon.

A single LED isn’t bright enough to be a light source, so multiple LEDs are bundled together into a lamp or bulb. These are made to fit standard light fixtures. Early LED lights had a bluish hue that was unlike the typical incandescent lights that people were used to. Newer LED lights come in a variety of color temperatures to overcome this problem.

LED lights are much more expensive to purchase than incandescent bulbs. However, they use far less electricity and last much longer. A 60-watt incandescent bulb can be replaced by a 9-watt LED bulb and is rated to last 25,000 hours.

An advantage of LED over CFL is that LED lights immediately reach their full brightness even when cold. Also, unlike CFL, LED lights contain no mercury that requires special handling when broken or being disposed of.

The main drawback to LED lighting is the high up-front cost compared to other types.

Feature Comparison

 
Incandescent
Halogen
CFL
LED
Price (each)
$0.40
$1.50
$0.75
$7.97
Power Used (watts)
60
43
13
9.5
Lumens
860
750
810
800
Lifespan (hours)
1,000
1,000
10,000
25,000
This table compares some of the important differences between the different types of light bulbs.

Conclusion

No one likes to be forced to change something that they’re already satisfied with. The old, inefficient bulbs are now gone. There’s a variety of energy saving lighting options to choose from. Try different ones to see which one works best for you.

Comments

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    • ronbergeron profile imageAUTHOR

      Ron Bergeron 

      4 years ago from Massachusetts, US

      I'm switching over to LEDs as existing lights burn out. The long-term savings are nice, but I also like the fact that they reach their full brightness immediately whereas the CFLs take a little while when it's cold. We've had a few days recently where the temperature has stayed below 10 degrees F (-12 C), so the delay has been very noticeable.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Several years back I started using CFL to cut cost. But since the advent of LED lights, I'm changing the lights in my home again. Although they cost a little more, long term savings is what I want.

    • pramodgokhale profile image

      pramodgokhale 

      4 years ago from Pune( India)

      Sir,

      developing nation like India, people are waiting government sponsorship for any program, actually private corporates can do it by participation of people. Plastic recycling is a big industry in India and that generates wealth and employment. I think CFL recycling can replicate in same way, but who will bell the cat?

      thank you sir

      pramodgokhale

    • ronbergeron profile imageAUTHOR

      Ron Bergeron 

      4 years ago from Massachusetts, US

      It is interesting to see how different countries approach the same problem.

      There are large recycling programs for CFL bulbs, but I don't know how they are processed. I'm sure that someone makes money from it!

    • pramodgokhale profile image

      pramodgokhale 

      4 years ago from Pune( India)

      Sir,

      topic is very informative and inspiring. In India many provinces began promoting CFL and LED lighting on large scale though installation is not made mandatory like other countries. CFL and LED are expensive and if subsidized by government then usage will increase and will save energy.

      These new devises are energy efficient, compact, portable.India's energy deficit will be reduced by using such new lightnings.Is there any recycling from debris of CFL to generate income?

      pramod gokhale

    • ronbergeron profile imageAUTHOR

      Ron Bergeron 

      4 years ago from Massachusetts, US

      Good idea. I expanded that part a bit. Thanks.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 

      4 years ago from Upstate New York

      The only drawback to the CFL bulbs are the disposal of them when they no longer work. I could have wished you addressed that issue here. Without a doubt, they are much more efficient.

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