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Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent, and LED Light Bulbs

So you are sitting at home and you have a light bulb burn out. It is then you realize you have run out  replacement bulbs, so you have to make a trip to the hardware store. You browse the light bulbs and become overwhelmed at the options you are given. What should you choose?

In 1879, Thomas Jefferson is credited with inventing a light bulb in, that lasted significantly longer than other inventers, at the time. This incandescent bulb was the standard, for household use, until laws were implemented for efficiency standards. These bulbs heat a coil that glows to produce light; however, it takes a lot of energy to create a little light. An incandescent bulb can only convert 5-10% of the energy into light. The rest is converted to heat.

Except for specialty bulbs, the federal government began a phase out of these bulb types, starting in 2014. High-efficiency incandescent bulbs have been developed, that do meet the federal standards, for efficiency. These are about twice as efficient as the standard bulb; converting 10-20% of the energy into light.

Your next option is a compact fluorescent bulb, or CFL bulb. These bulbs are filled with a gas and a small amount of mercury. When electricity comes in contact with the mercury, the mercury creates an ultraviolet light that reacts with the coating on the inside of the bulb. These are the types of bulbs used in office buildings, hospitals, and schools. A CFL bulb can be up to 75% more efficient than a traditional bulb and can last up to 10 times longer. On the other hand, they can take a few moments to reach their full brightness. Because they also contain mercury, they should not be disposed in the regular garbage, and you have to take precautions if you break one (the Environmental Protection Agency describes a 10-step cleanup process).

Your third option is a Light Emitting Diode or LED bulb. LEDs have been used for the display in clock radios and other small electronic displays. An LED bulb is 85% more efficient than the traditional incandescent bulb. LED bulbs can be found in many different colors; from the yellow-tinted light similar to the traditional incandescent light to daylight to actual color-changing bulbs. LED bulbs stay cool to the touch, even after being on for an extended time. They typically tend to have a highest purchase price, but the lowest usage cost.

Because we still think of light bulbs in terms of incandescent lighting, let us take a 60-watt bulb and use it for 6 hours a day. Your traditional bulb, while only costing $0.41, will also only last 0.46 years. At $0.13 per kilowatt, the total cost, over 20 years is $360. A CFL bulb does cost $0.99, per bulb, but will last for 4.6 years, using only 14 watts to produce the same amount of light, costing $164. Lastly, the LED bulb is the most expensive, to purchase, at $9.97, but lasts 11.4 years (for one bulb), at only 9.4 watts for the same amount of light. The final cost, over 20 years is only $90, a savings of $75.00, per bulb.

Based on savings alone, it may be time to start upgrading your lighting options. However, you can also take this opportunity to eliminate some of the waste going into our landfills.

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