GUIDING LIGHT: HOW TO DECIPHER LIGHT BULB LABELS

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As of January 1, the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 prohibited the manufacture and import of traditional incandescent light bulbs, which have been rendered obsolete by energy efficient and durable alternatives. In addition, the legislation requires new bulbs to consume 30 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and to produce at least 20 lumens of light per watt of power consumed. Thomas Edison’s invention that has served as a standard method of home illumination for 134 years does not measure up to this new standard, and as a result, will soon disappear. It’s the end of the light bulb as we know it.

The compact fluorescent light (CFL) and light emitting diode (LED) bulbs that are now available meet or exceed EISA standards. But, when selecting one of these new bulbs, consumers may encounter a set of new considerations as well.

EISA requires the placement of informative labels on all light bulbs. There are several standard pieces of information on these Lighting Facts labels that help consumers choose the proper light bulb for their needs.

BRIGHTNESS

The brightness of a light bulb is measured in lumens. A standard number of lumens generated by a CFL or LED can usually be equated to the wattage of a comparable incandescent bulb.

450 lumens = 40-watt incandescent or 4-watt LED or 11-watt CFL
800 lumens = 60-watt incandescent or 8-watt LED or 15-watt CFL
1,100 lumens = 75-watt incandescent or 13-watt LED or 25-watt CFL
1,600 lumens = 100-watt incandescent or 20-watt LED or 30-watt CFL
2,600 lumens = 150-watt incandescent or 28-watt LED or 55-watt CFL

So, if one wishes to replace a 60-watt incandescent bulb with a CFL or LED bulb, one would choose a 15-watt CFL or an 8-watt LED. They all emit 800 lumens.

ESTIMATED YEARLY ENERGY COST

The estimated yearly energy cost for a light bulb is based on a standard of three hours of illumination each day at a utility rate of $0.11 per kilowatt hour, or kWh. Efficient bulbs will have a lower estimated yearly energy cost, but these amounts will vary based on an individual consumer’s rate of use and the rate of utility cost.

LIFE

The life of a bulb is based on a standard of three hours of illumination each day but will vary from consumer to consumer. Traditional incandescent bulbs have a life span of about 1,200 hours whereas CFLs and LEDs have life spans of 10,000 hours and 50,000 hours respectively.

LIGHT APPEARANCE

CFLs and LEDs also include a color temperature range and a Kelvin (K) rating that indicates the hue of the light generated by the illuminated bulb. Some bulbs generate warmer, yellow toned hues that are most comparable to traditional incandescent bulbs while other bulbs generate cooler, blue toned hues that most mimic natural light. Generally, a higher K number implies a cooler light temperature.

2700 K = warm, yellow toned light
3000 K to 4100 K = neutral, white light
5000 K to 6000 K = cool, blue toned light

ENERGY USED

The energy that a light bulb consumes is expressed in watts. Energy efficient bulbs have a lower wattage. Some labels also list a bulb’s efficacy in lumens per watt (LPW). The most efficient bulbs will generate more LPW, thus providing more illumination but consuming less energy. For example, a 15-watt CFL or an 8-watt LED produces the same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb, but they use less power to do so.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

CFLs and other lamps containing mercury (LCMs) will feature a Contains Mercury label. LCMs must be recycled properly to prevent mercury from entering the environment and posing threats to our natural resources and to public health. Visit the EPA Guide to CFLs for more information on LCM recycling, or contact the Fort Bragg Hazardous Waste Reclamation Office at 396.2141.

Some bulbs even have a Color Rendering Index (CRI) that indicates the accuracies of colors as seen when the bulbs are illuminated. For the interior of a home, consumers should choose bulbs with a CRI of at least 80 for truer color appearance.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION …

Consumer Reports Light Bulb Buying Guide

 

THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT …

Light Bulb Finder

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