Saving money by making smart lighting choices

When it comes to lighting, there are plenty of options to choose from, but it is important to know that some lighting options are better than others. The lighting industry saw major changes when new lighting standards, standards established in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), took effect in 2012. Prior to updating standards, traditional incandescent bulbs were the bulb of choice for many. These bulbs used a lot of energy to produce light and roughly 90 percent of the energy used was given off as heat. This lost energy was money consumers were throwing away. Changes to standards encouraged companies to stop production of inefficient bulbs and to develop more efficient models that met the new criteria.

Lightbulbs sold in the United States today typically use between 25 percent and 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. By switching to these newer versions, consumers not only save energy but also money. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, lighting accounts for about 10 percent of home electricity use. With new EISA standards, U.S. households could save nearly $6 billion in a single year.

Newer, energy-saving bulbs leave cash in your pocket and provide consumers with a multitude of choices in color and light levels. Three of the most energy-efficient lighting types include:

  • Halogen incandescents have a capsule inside that holds gas around a filament to increase bulb efficiency. They are available in a wide range of shapes and colors, and can be used with dimmers. These bulbs meet the minimum energy efficiency standard, but there are now more efficient options to meet your lighting needs.

  • Compact fluorescent lamps, known as CFLs, are simply curly versions of the long tube fluorescent lights you may already have in a kitchen or garage. Because they use less electricity than traditional incandescents, typically CFLs can pay for themselves in less than nine months, and then start saving you money each month. An ENERGY STAR-qualified CFL uses about one-fourth the energy and lasts 10 times longer than a comparable traditional incandescent bulb that puts out the same amount of light. A CFL uses about one-third the energy of a halogen incandescent, making it a great energy-saver. Keep in mind that CFLs do contain a small amount of mercury and should always be recycled at the end of their lifespan. Many retailers recycle CFLs for free.

  • Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are a type of solid-state lighting -- semiconductors that convert electricity into light. Although once known mainly for indicator and traffic lights, LEDs in white light, general illumination applications are one of today's most energy-efficient and rapidly-developing technologies. ENERGY STAR-qualified LEDs use only 20 to 25 percent of the energy and last up to 25 times longer than the traditional incandescent bulbs they replace. LEDs use 25 to 30 percent of the energy and last eight to 25 times longer than halogen incandescents.

Halogen incaldescents, CFLs and LEDs are all excellent options to make your home more energy efficient, but lightbulbs are not one size fits all. In some situations, CFLs may be your best bet while LEDs may seem more appropriate in other instances. When selecting energy-efficient lightbulbs, carefully read the label to ensure you are getting the best option for your specific situation.

For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Energy website.