The reality of the fact that traditional incandescent light bulbs are no longer available – the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 outlawed the production of 100-watt incandescent bulbs in 2012, followed by 75-watt bulbs in 2013 and now 40- and 60-watt bulbs as of Jan. 1 - really hit home for me when I was “reorganizing” a few things in my basement the other day.
That’s when it hit me that my grandchildren will not be baking their very own little treats with the heat generated by a 100-watt light bulb.
Several years ago I tossed out the few remaining unmade cake, cookie and frosting mixes, but I held onto the little bowls and pans, thinking the Easy Bake Oven was timeless. While I was busy dealing with two teenagers and a college student, Hasbro apparently saw this whole light bulb thing coming and introduced a new version of the Easy Bake Oven with a dedicated heating element in 2011. I wonder how “easy” that will be to clean up after someone tries to “bake” two cake mixes in a single pan?
Thomas Alva Edison patented the light bulb on January 27, 1880. Now, 133 years later, we have three “new” lights – halogen, compact fluorescent (CFL) and LED bulbs.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are four billion light bulb sockets in the country and more than 3 three billion of them still use the standard incandescent technology that hasn't changed much in 125 years. The problem being that a standard incandescent is only 10 percent efficient, with the other 90 percent of the electricity it uses lost as heat.
Here’s what Thomas Edison's great grandson David Edward Edison Sloane wrote for CNN.com under the headline Edison Would've Loved New Light Bulb Law:
“Thomas Edison was a patriot, he was a futurist, and he was green. Edison's concern after the turn of the last century was with pollution and nonrenewable resources, not with freezing technological change at the level of 1879.”
So why is there so much resistance to “changing” light bulbs? After all, since the average American home contains more than 40 standard light bulb fixtures, completely making the switch to energy-efficient alternatives is estimated to reduce annual electricity bills by $143.
However, a recent survey found that 6 out of every 10 Americans are still in the dark about light bulbs. With nearly 70 percent of light bulb sockets in the US still containing inefficient light bulbs, the EPA is challenging Americans to switch out their inefficient bulbs with 20 million ENERGY STAR certified LED light bulbs by Earth Day 2014.
By replacing 20 million traditional bulbs with ENERGY STAR LED bulbs, Americans would save more than $118 million each year in energy costs and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to that of more than 150,000 vehicles annually, according the EPA.
When it comes to efficient lighting, there are a number of different factors to take into consideration when choosing replacements for your incandescents.
ENERGY STAR certified CFL and LED bulbs are available in a variety of shapes and sizes for any application including table or floor lamps, pendant fixtures, ceiling fixtures, ceiling fans, wall sconces, recessed cans and accent lighting. The trick is finding the right level of brightness and color/appearance for your needs.
When it comes to brightness, you need to understand the difference between lumens and watts. For example, you’ll want a minimum of 800 lumens (ENERGY STAR Bulb Brightness) to replace a standard 60-watt bulb.
To achieve the right color/appearance, you need to understand how it’s measured on the Kelvin scale (K). Lower K is warmer and higher K is cooler. Standard bulbs are considered warm/soft white (yellowish) at 2700-3000K. Natural/daylight (bluer white light) is especially good for reading at 5000-6500K, while cooler white/neutral bright white lighting is best for kitchens and workspaces at 3500-4100K.
Of the three energy-efficient alternatives, halogens are the best at emulating traditional incandescents. That's because, technically, they are incandescents. However, halogens use up to 28 percent less energy than ordinary incandescents, with a 60-watt replacement consuming 43 watts.
CFL bulbs have been around for many years, so if it’s been a while since your last purchase, some new features (improved start up and dimming) will be a pleasant surprise. While a standard 60-watt replacement consumes only 15 watts, CFLs are not right for every application.
LEDs are “directional” light sources, which means they emit light in a specific direction, unlike incandescents and CFLs, which emit light - and heat - in all directions. For this reason, LED lighting is able to use light and energy more efficiently in many applications. New introductions look more like conventional light bulbs and emulate traditional hues.
As demand increases and manufacturing processes become more streamlined, look for LEDs, which reduce a standard 60-watt replacement to just 11 watts and last for nearly 14 years, to become even more affordable.
Now to translate those savings into lumens . . .