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As we find ourselves halfway through the epic phase-out of traditional incandescent light bulbs, most of us need assistance with finding replacement bulbs.  We’ve assembled three easy and helpful tips that will guide you through this change.

It all started in 2007 when former President George W. Bush signed an energy efficiency legislation that would gradually phase out the standard incandescent light bulb.  The 100 watt bulb was eliminated in 2012.  This year, these restrictions have been extended to the 75 watt bulb.  Even further, 2014 will eradicate the 60 and 40 watt incandescent bulbs.  Although the use of these bulbs is not illegal, manufacturing and importing these bulbs are grounds for prosecution.  Stores that still have them in stock will still be able to sell them, but only until their inventory diminishes.

Pedro Villagran, manager of Light Bulbs Unlimited in West Palm Beach, said it best, “A lot of people are still surprised as to what is going on.  There’s still some confusion.”  Well no need to worry, we are here to reduce the bewilderment and give you some useful information to use when selecting replacement bulbs.

1. Lumens vs. Wattage

While browsing through the hardware store, you find yourself faced with dozens of different light bulbs.  You start to look for your desired wattage, since that has been the usual process.  But wait, what’s this?  Lumens?  Yes, lumens are the new way to decode light bulb lingo.

Contrary to wattage, the new lumens standard measures how much light is emitted from the bulb, not how much power it consumes.  Let’s break it down.  Old incandescent light bulbs have a range of 10 to 15 lumens per watt.  So, a 100-watt bulb will have 1,000 to 1,500 lumens.  Similarly, a 72-watt halogen bulb has 1,490 lumens, which means it will emit the same amount of brightness as the 100-watt bulb.

If a conventional incandescent light bulb and a compact fluorescent light (CFL) have the same number of lumens, know that the incandescent will consume three to five times the amount of watts needed by the CFL (more watts = more energy = higher electricity bills = no money left over to buy that newfangled contraption you’ve been drooling over for the past month).

2. Consider Kelvin

While still in the hardware store, you start to remember that some of those new bulbs emit different color tones.  Watts up with that?  Color temperature is another important factor when shopping for new light bulbs.  Measured in Kelvin (K), the number usually ranges between 2,700K and 5,000K.  We recommend steering clear of 5,000K, unless you are trying to light an operating room.  To get that romantic candlelight glow, try to find a 2,300K bulb.  One in the range of 3,500K to 4,100K will emit a strong, bright white light.

Higher temperatures may give off a bluish tone, which tends to be a bit unflattering.  Try to remember the Kelvin scale, because non-descriptive terms like “soft white” and “warm white” do not mean the same thing to every manufacturer.

3. Light Bulb Placement

So you finally understand lumens, and you have selected your desired color temperature, but don’t forget to think about where you will be putting this light bulb.  Cathy Choi is President of Bulbrite, a lighting manufacturer that has been in the business for 40 years.  She recommends, “If you are using it in your table lamp for reading, I would not suggest a compact fluorescent.  The way it produces light is not what the consumer is used to.  I would suggest a 72-watt halogen replacement.  The halogen replacement looks like the bulb you are used to.  The way it is made is a little bit different.”  Although, when lighting the laundry room, she suggests that a CFL would do just fine.

So let’s review.  Lumens measure how much light is emitted, not how much energy is required; higher Kelvin temperatures typically mean bluer color tones are emitted from the bulb; and the best light to read by is given off by a 72-watt halogen replacement.  Got all that?  Excellent, let’s head to the checkout.

Sarah Battaglia
Energy Curtailment Specialists, Inc.

Sarah can be found on LinkedIn and Google+.

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