When seeking information on energy saving in the home, and keeping it green, you might be interested in finding good quality, energy saving light bulbs. I think it stands to reason then that the best energy saving light bulbs would also be the best money saving light bulbs and would ideally be green in their usage.
There Are Two Main Contenders
There seems to be a popular consensus that the two main ones to consider are, LED’s (Light Emitting Diodes) and CFL’s (Compact Fluorescent Lights) when it comes to internal lighting. This article will shed some light, if you will pardon the pun, on the subject of environmentally, and economically friendly, bulbs.
Did you realise that you can lower your carbon footprint, your energy bill and still maintain your green living lifestyle by simply making this one change throughout your home?
Why Is This Important To Your Overall Energy Costs?
It has long been known that conventional incandescent bulbs are not very efficient in terms of cost and although they are relatively cheap to buy, you are not doing yourself any favours in the long run by using them. They require frequent replacement due to breaking easily and burning out quickly, and many times the filament has already been broken before you even bring it home from the shop. The latter even means that you are literally spending double the amount you did on the purchase of the broken bulb.
It’s Your Loss Whichever Way You Choose
You have a choice, throw the broken one out or take it all the way back to the shop to get a replacement. Either way you lose out financially.
Option 1 – The first choice means that you have literally just thrown away however many dollars or cents that you spent on the broken bulb and regardless of whether it was cheap or not, it is still money you won’t be getting back.
Option 2 – The second choice means you have to spend more petrol money driving back to the shop and then back home again, or if you took some form of public transport you have the fares to pay all over again there and back, to replace the broken bulb. I doubt very much the store you bought it from will offer you a refund on your traveling expenses and time that you spent making the trip twice on top of the replacement bulb or refund for the broken one.
Do You Ask Yourself Where Is All The Money Going?
When you think about the energy use of an average home, it has been said that approximately 25% of the energy used in a home is burned up in the costs of lighting. Try this little experiment: start to take note of how many lights get left on in the home, and for how long in a day and night. Do it over a week and you will start to get a picture of just where a fair chunk of your energy bill has just been spent.
Weigh Up How You Can Reduce Energy Consumption
Now consider how you can take steps to reduce the consumption of energy on lighting by simply turning them off when not in use. If you find it compelling enough and have the patience for it, try turning the lights off when you are not in a room or during the day when the daylight is enough to give light to your home, and maintain this vigilance for the entire billing period, then compare to the previous bill. That is just one dimension to the energy efficiency of Conventional light bulbs and the fact that it costs more money using them than that of one of the energy saving type bulbs.
Compare The Costs
Here is another; for example, a traditional 60 watt bulb, when compared to a 6 watt LED bulb, costs approximately $280 more over the life of just one of the LED bulbs. Did you get that? One 6 watt LED bulb has the capacity to save you $280 before it needs to be replaced in comparison with a 60 watt bulb. Now ask yourself, how many light fittings do you have in your home that you could replace the bulbs with LED ones and times that by $280. In my home alone, I have 13 light fittings indoor and outdoor, 13 times $280.00 adds up to a potential saving of $3640 for the life of each of those bulbs. That’s a holiday just there, or extra money for unexpected bills, or that course you wanted to do to better your financial situation.
What Are LED Bulbs And What Are The Benefits & Drawbacks To Using Them?
LED stands for Light Emitting Diodes. They were originally manufactured for small, single bulb uses such as in that of an instrument panel, or electronic equipment and we can’t forget the strings of Christmas lights that boast LED bulbs. To harness their use in indoor lighting, they have been put together in clusters instead of single bulbs to enhance their applications. One bulb can house up to 180 bulbs in a cluster. To increase the light emission, they are placed in diffuser lenses that spread the glow all around in a much wider coverage. Newer designs have added reflectors to help disperse the direction of lighting.
Benefits of LEDs
- Environmentally preferable to incandescent light globes
- Long lasting, more efficient and cost effective – Last up to 10 times longer than CFLs and much longer than incandescent bulbs. Initially expensive but less replacements costs due to long lasting. Only uses 2-17 watts per globe where CFLs use about 3 times more, and incandescent globes use up to 30 times what is required.
- Durable – LEDs do not have a filament, they are solid, therefore do not break as easily.
- Cool to touch – Less heat build up than incandescent bulbs which get 25 times more hotter. Less heat contributes to lower air conditioning costs due to a room heating up less.
- Suitable and recommended use for solar panel lighting and small portable generators for emergency back up power
- Mercury free – unlike CFLs
- 50,000 hours life span therefore frequency is zero over the life span of one bulb.
- Available wattage ranges from 4 – 28 watts compared with standard incandescent bulbs that range from 40 – 150 watts.
- Lowest energy costs of usage, uses lower wattage to CFLs and incandescent bulbs.
- Frequent switching on and off has no effect on life span
- Not affected by humidity
- Can buy coloured bulbs; green, red, blue, amber, white.
- Can buy buy bulbs that dim.
Disadvantages of LEDs
- Expensive to begin with, but offset by long-lasting value in comparison to incandescent bulbs
- Were not necessarily better options for table lamps originally, however manufacturers have recently adapted bulbs to better suit them using the diffuser lenses and deflectors previously mentioned.
- Finding a source of LED light bulbs that have been produced to a poorer quality. This becomes a very expensive venture to change bulbs for the entire household if the manufacturers products fail repeatedly and they do not offer guarantees on their products.
What Are CFL Bulbs And What Are The Benefits & Drawbacks To Using Them?
CFL stands for Compact Fluorescent Lights. They are a mini version of the full-sized fluorescent lights that we are all used to seeing in garages, hallways, kitchens, factories, etc. The light they emit is similar to incandescent bulbs and have become a popular energy saving alternative as a result, which is unlike their larger standard counterparts. Personally they are not my favourite choice for reasons I will outline shortly, but they are still a more preferable option to incandescent globes for the purposes of being economically and energy efficient because they use less energy, and therefore are greener from that respect, and cost less money to run.
Benefits of CFLs
- Environmentally preferable to incandescent light bulbs
- Energy and cost efficient
- Cheaper to buy than LEDs presently
- Similar light emitting ability to incandescent without the need for many smaller bulbs clustered, making them more economical to manufacture than LEDs. Pricing is not that much more than the standard incandescent bulbs.
- Significant reduction in watts needed to produce quality lighting.
- Reduces air and water pollution, likewise with LEDs, each CFL reduces the carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere per the life span of each bulb by half a ton as opposed to the incandescent variety.
- Higher quality warmer light than the older style larger fluorescent bulbs that had a cooler glow.
- More versatility of use and more rounded, non-directional glow of light. Can be used in many fitting types or locations.
- Can buy bulbs that dim.
- 10,000 hours usage for the life of 1 bulb compared with 1200 hours for an incandescent bulb
- Available wattage ranges from 8 to 55 watts compared with standard incandescent bulbs that range from 40 – 150 watts.
- Lesser heat output than incandescent bulbs
Disadvantages of CFLs
- Contains hazardous materials. For me the biggest disadvantage and the reason it is my lesser preferred choice is that CFL bulbs contain Mercury, even small amounts of mercury, a toxic metal, can become a serious health risk if the bulb is broken. See the end note at the bottom of this paragraph for an explanation of mercury, health, safety and disposal concerns. So for me, that counteracts some of the claims for being a greener option due to environmental impact if broken. I do have CFLs in my home currently as I am replacing my bulbs when burnt out rather than add them early and unnecessarily to waste disposal centers.
- Almost as fragile as incandescent bulbs, being glass thus increasing number of times a bulb might need replacing in terms of the cost of the bulb alone.
- Outdoor use requires protective considerations such as placing them undercover or in the shade.
- Much more sensitive to turning on and off frequently, it shortens the life span.
- Not designed to be a spotlight because they are more of an area lighting
- Heat can also shorten the life span of a CFL bulb. As well as areas with low ventilation.
- Not as economical as LED bulbs. To obtain 50,000 hours usage, it would take 5 bulbs, instead of the 1 LED for the same result
- Sensitive to high and low temperatures and moisture too.
Mercury Is Hazardous To Health And The Environment
Mercury is a toxic metal linked to contaminated water, fish and other food supplies. It is found in amalgam fillings in our mouths. Only a small amount of mercury is contained in a bulb and is safe around humans while inside its encasing. However, if a bulb breaks, a vapor of mercury is released into the immediate surrounding air. Mercury is considered by WHO, the World Health Organisation, as one of the top ten chemicals of major public health concern.
By merely inhaling it, Mercury can cause all kinds of adverse health affects such as:
- Central Nervous System effects
- Peripheral Nervous System effects
- Digestive system effects
- Immune system effects
- Cardiovascular (heart and circulatory) system effects
- Effects in utero and on the development of young children, especially brain development
- Effects on the thyroid system
- Lung and Kidney problems
- Neurological disorders
- Behaviour disorders
- Emotional instability
- Memory loss
- Neuromuscular changes
- Effects on skin
- Effects on eyes
- Is a suspected carcinogen (cancer causing)
- High exposures have lead to Death
What should I do if I break a CFL bulb?
If a breakage occurs, don’t breathe it in, open a window and vacate the room for at least 15 minutes. Then use a wet cloth to pick up all of the pieces and put them, and the cloth, into a plastic bag. Then tie them up in a second plastic bag. The best option is to find out if your local waste disposal center accepts them and will hopefully dispose of them properly. Otherwise it should be placed in your normal garbage bin. If you are lucky enough to have a community household hazardous waste collection this would be ideal as they would send them to the correct place for recycling, treating and retrieval of the mercury.
- Wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
My Personal Preference And Why
Based on what I have written here it is probably easy to determine what my personal preference or recommendation for the best energy saving light bulbs available. LED bulbs are my utmost first choice because overall they are much more energy efficient, cost effective, longer lasting therefore take up less space in waste centers and thus greener on the environment, and simply do not contain the harmful chemical mercury. I believe in avoiding even the potential of a breakage, just in case, so why not choose the safest option in my opinion?
I do still have CFLs in my home while I slowly replace my bulbs as required because they are still better by a long shot than incandescent bulbs. They may not be my first choice, but they are my second. I do believe that if proper care is taken with CFL bulbs, they are the next best thing to LEDs because they certainly are more cost effective, energy efficient and greener than incandescent bulbs and will save you money and the environment for these reasons. At least until a better alternative is developed.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this review of the best energy saving light bulbs and it has helped you in your decision to become greener in your usage of lighting in your home. Please feel free to comment if you have had any experiences, positive or negative with LEDs or CFLs. I would love to hear your thoughts.
Mercury image courtesy of Material Scientist (bionerd)