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Energy Efficiency | October 18, 2012

The Difference Between CFL and LED Lighting

Tighter budgets and a growing concern for the environment are motivating many to look for new ways to reduce their energy consumption. Did you know that switching to energy-efficient lighting is one of the fastest ways to cut your energy bill?

In fact, you could save at least $50 a year if you replaced only 15 incandescent bulbs with energy-saving compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) or light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, depending on what your rate structure may be. Choosing the most efficient bulb has gotten easier, too. Efficiency standards are being implemented in phases starting this year. As a result, common light bulbs sold in the U.S. must consume less energy, or watts, for the amount of light produced, known as lumens. Many bulbs already meet these standards, including energy-efficient incandescent, CFLs and LEDs.

Although most people are familiar with the incandescent variety, some may not be as familiar with CFLs and LEDs, which are becoming more popular these days.

What are LEDs?

LEDs are one of today’s most energy-efficient, rapidly evolving, and environmentally friendly technologies available to consumers today. According to the U.S.Department of Energy, LED lighting lasts up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent and 10 times longer than CFLs and use 20-25% of the energy of a CFL. A 13-watt LED will deliver the same brightness as a 75-watt incandescent bulb or a 25-watt CFL.

Incandescent bulbs and CFLs get hot, which means they heat up rooms — an unwelcome side effect during the dogs days of summer. LEDs, on the other hand, usually have a built in mechanism to prevent this heat build-up. LED systems, furthermore, aren’t as sensitive to on-off cycling, which makes them perfect for motion sensors, outdoor lights, and dimmers. Perhaps their biggest advantage is that they are mercury free and do not require special handling should they break or wear out. While LEDs cost more than incandescent and CFLs, they still save money. They last longer and consume less energy.

What are CFLs?

CFLs are small, curly versions of those long tube lights you may have in your kitchen or garage. According to the Department of Energy, CFLs can pay for themselves in less than nine months, with cost savings kicking in each month thereafter. Furthermore, ENERGY STAR®-qualified CFLs last 10 times longer and are 25 percent more efficient than incandescent bulbs.

For people thinking of making the switch, but are wary, consider this: CFLs can provide the same level of brightness as incandescent bulbs, but at a lower wattage. For example, an 18-25 watt CFL delivers the same brightness as a 75-watt incandescent. You also can purchase CFLs in a range of colors, from white to yellow. If you’re looking for a dimmable light, make sure this feature is noted on the packaging. Some motion sensors and many electric timers are not designed to work with CFLs. Check with the manufacturer for compatibility.

As with anything in life, CFLs have some drawbacks. They are sensitive to extreme temperatures. As a result, you should use your CFLs in open fixtures unless the bulb is specifically rated for a closed fixture application. They also contain small amounts of mercury, meaning they must be recycled and handled carefully should they break.

In our next blog, we’ll talk about recycling and things you should consider when disposing CFL bulbs. Stay tuned…

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