Energy Adviser: New generation of light bulbs save cash, energy



Are energy-efficient light bulbs worth the initial investment?

With many major retailers either phasing out or no longer stocking or selling incandescent light bulbs this year, consumers are taking a longer look at the alternatives.

Despite a vote in Congress allowing incandescent bulbs to stay on shelves at least through September, most manufacturers and retailers appear to be sticking with the original plan to transition these traditional bulbs off shelves, beginning with 100-watt bulbs, this year. In January 2013, the phase-out of 75-watt bulbs begins and in January 2014, those 40- and 60-watt incandescent bulbs will start to go.

The good news, says Roger Heasley, Grover’s Electric & Plumbing Supply store manager in Vancouver, is that the technology for more energy-efficient alternative bulbs such as CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs, halogen lamps and LED (light emitting diode) bulbs is getting better. And prices are coming down.

“We’ve seen good progress in the past year on more-efficient lighting technology,” Heasley said. “For instance, manufacturers seem to have solved the heat problem with LEDs that was affecting their reliability.”

When shopping for energy-efficient bulbs, Heasley and other experts advise comparing lumens rather than watts to determine brightness. Lumens are the unit of measure for light output. Incandescent bulbs are typically measured in watts, the amount of energy they consume. For example, a 60-watt incandescent bulb produces about 800 lumens. New technologies can provide the same brightness for significantly fewer watts — helping customers eliminate wasted energy in their homes.

Color temperatures

Energy counselors at Clark Public Utilities explain that compact fluorescent bulbs come in different color temperatures, which produce different color-tone light. Lower color temperature bulbs give off a reddish-orange light while higher color temperature bulbs give off a more bluish-white light.

As an example, if you are replacing a standard 60-watt incandescent light bulb in a table lamp in your living room, you will want to replace it with a 13-watt to 15-watt CFL with a color temperature of around 2,700 degrees for a warm, golden light. If you use this table lamp for reading, you might want to buy a 23-watt to 26-watt CFL (equivalent to a 100-watt incandescent) with a color temperature of 4,000 for a brighter, whiter light.

Using utility residential power rates, a 23-watt CFL operating six hours a day costs 34 cents a month in electricity. A 100-watt incandescent bulb operating for the same time costs $1.47 a month.

At, customers can use an interactive calculator to determine total ownership costs of incandescent lighting versus more energy-efficient lighting over 10 years. The return on investment is becoming more attractive for all types of energy-efficient lighting, experts say.

New LED labeling

This year, new federally mandated labeling for LED lights went into effect. The new labels allow consumers to gauge a bulb’s brightness, longevity and efficiency by comparing such things as wattage and lumens. It’s like a nutrition label for light bulbs and can help you maintain the same amount of light in your home while using less energy.

An LED bulb that replaces a typical 60-watt incandescent might only use 12 to 13 watts, which makes it much more energy-efficient, but if you want to replace the brightness of a 60-watt incandescent, it will need to produce at least 800 to 850 lumens.

New products related to energy-efficient lighting are hitting shelves all the time. When you begin replacing burned out incandescent bulbs, look for LED or CFL bulbs with the Energy Star symbol for assurance that you’re getting a quality product. A good way to monitor how long a bulb lasts is to use a permanent marker and write the installation date on the ballast part of the bulb.

If you have questions about the benefits of compact fluorescents, LEDs or other energy-efficient lighting technology, call utility energy counselors at 360-992-3355 or email us at

Clark Public Utilities customers can recycle compact fluorescent light bulbs at our three office locations and receive a new CFL for each of the first six bulbs that they bring in.

Energy Adviser is produced by Clark Public Utilities and relies on the expertise of utility energy counselors and staff, who provide conservation and energy use information. To contact us, call 360-992-3355, email or visit