January 22, 2018

LIVING GREEN: Shedding some light on choosing the right bulb

Observer staff report
Efficiency Vermont’s “Ask the Home Team” recently shed some light on choosing the right bulb.
LEDs do tend to have a higher up-front cost, but there are many things that make them a more worthwhile investment and a better choice than some of the cheaper bulbs you’re seeing in stores.
ENERGY STAR® LEDs, which are performance tested and certified by a third party laboratory, last up to 25 times longer than incandescent light bulbs and three times longer than CFLs, so when you opt for LEDs, you’ll find you’re replacing your bulbs less often and spending less time in the store selecting and buying new bulbs.
They use 75 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs, meaning you’ll spend less energy and money on powering your LED household bulbs.
They also provide a great quality of light that is crisp and natural, which will make your home feel more comfortable. And lastly, more than 95 percent of an LED bulb is recyclable, so they have a comparatively low environmental impact when you dispose of them properly.
Right now, you can get a standard LED bulb for as little as $4.99 in Vermont. In some other states, the same LED bulb can cost up to $40. Efficiency Vermont has partnered with manufacturers of ENERGY STAR certified bulbs and participating retail locations to buy down the cost of LEDs before they hit store shelves, making them more affordable for all Vermonters.
Picking the right bulb can definitely be confusing—with rapid advancements in lighting technology, it is hard to keep up with all of the product options out there. When choosing a bulb that is right for you, there are a few key things to consider:
Brightness. Selecting bulbs by the number of watts was the best way to pick the right incandescent bulbs, but with new, efficient bulb options, it is all about lumens. Watts describe the power used, but lumens are a measure of a bulb’s brightness — the higher the number of lumens, the brighter the bulb. If you’re looking to replace a general 60-watt bulb, look for a CFL or LED with 800 lumens. For a 75-watt, go for 1,100 lumens. And for 100 watts, choose a bulb with 1,700 lumens. Keep in mind that the bulb needs to be right for the fixture you are using—what’s right for a floor lamp may not be the correct choice for your ceiling fan.
Color. This choice is entirely based on your preference. Depending on where you plan to put your new bulb, you may decide you’d like it to have a warm or cool glow. The “light appearance” of the bulb is measured in Kelvins (K). The higher the number of Kelvins, the cooler the light. For something that looks like your old incandescent, you should look for a bulb in the 2,700K to 3,000K range. For cooler light, go for a bulb in the 4,100K to 5,000K range.
Cost. In Vermont, you can get an efficient bulb that requires a small amount of electricity to power, for a relatively low price. ENERGY STAR CFLs start at 99 cents and ENERGY STAR LEDs start at $4.99. In addition to the point-of-purchase price you’re willing to pay for the bulb, you should also keep in mind the length of the bulb’s life and the cost of powering it over time. Generally speaking, LEDs cost the least to power over time and they last the longest, making them a worthwhile investment.
If you forget the exact number of Kelvins you want, or if you aren’t sure how to determine how long the bulb will last, check for an energy information label on the light bulb box—you’ll find most of these facts there. You can also visit www.efficiencyvermont.com or call our customer support center at 888-921-5990.
Dimmable LED bulbs do exist and should be clearly labeled in your local hardware store—don’t hesitate to ask for assistance the next time you’re scanning the store shelves. A regular LED bulb in a dimmable fixture won’t perform correctly and could burn out much faster.
CFLs do have trace amounts of mercury in them (less than 5 milligrams). Mercury is only released if the bulb is broken, so the risks are relatively low when the bulb is in use. When it comes time to dispose of the bulb, treat it in the same way you handle other household items containing mercury, such as batteries and thermometers. You can recycle CFLs at many local hardware stores and waste facilities for free. Visit www.merc.org for details on proper disposal and for a complete list of Vermont disposal sites.

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