As federal efficiency standards phase out traditional incandescent lightbulbs, how do you know what is the best choice to use now? The compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) were the first cost-effective, energy-saving alternative to traditional bulbs.

“We gave away CFLs at our annual meetings, energy audits and other member events for several years.  We see them as a quick, low-cost way our members can start saving on their electric bills,” explains Alan Raymer, Energy Advisor at Access Energy Cooperative.

By 2014, household lightbulbs using between 40-W to 100-W will need to consume at least 28% less energy than traditional incandescents. Because incandescents use 90% of their energy producing heat, upgrading saves Americans an estimated $6 billion to $10 billion in lighting costs every year.

More lighting changes will roll out in coming years. The federal Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires that lightbulbs become 70% more efficient than classic bulbs by 2020 (LEDs already exceed this goal).

Lighting accounts for roughly 13% of an average household’s electric bill. Hardware store shelves are filled with lightbulb options. What works best for co-op members? While a majority of consumers have been using the CFLs, which have a smaller shelf price, the price of LEDs for home use has substantially dropped. So we may begin to see more LEDs as it becomes more economically feasible to buy them.

A helpful addition to lighting products is the Lighting Facts Label. Much like nutrition labels found on the back of food packages, this version shows a bulb’s brightness, appearance, life span, and estimated yearly cost. The Lighting Facts Label was created by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to help consumers understand the product and buy the most efficient lightbulb.

Consumers’ energy-efficient lighting options include:

  • Halogen incandescents: Use 25 percent less energy, last three times longer than regular incandescent bulbs
  • CFLs: Use 75 percent less energy, last up to 10 times longer
  • LEDs: Use between 75 percent and 80 percent less energy, last up to 25 times longer

Federal lightbulb standards have the potential to save consumers billions of dollars each year. For an average American house with about 40 light fixtures, changing just 15 bulbs can save about $50 a year per household, according to DOE.

A word of warning when purchasing new types of bulbs: You generally get what you pay for. Some manufacturers exaggerate claims of energy savings and lifespans, and cheaper models have a tendency to not last as long as higher-quality bulbs. If you look for the ENERGY STAR label, that means the bulb exceeds minimum efficiency standards as tested by the federal government.

The best way to benefit from this fast-changing technology is to purchase a more energy efficient lightbulb the next time one goes out. To learn about lighting options, visit  energysavers.gov/lighting. For shopping tips visit ftc.gov/lightbulbs.

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