Unless you’ve been kept completely in the dark, you’ve probably noticed that buying lightbulbs is not the clear cut shopping trip it used to be. The first thing you might notice is that some lights aren’t even bulbs anymore. More about that in a minute.
You probably already know that there are new light bulbs on the market that are more energy efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs. In fact, the US government is phasing out production of the 100 watt incandescent bulb as of January 2012, although you can still buy inventory on the market.
Available options go way beyond those funky, curly bulbs, however, Newer CFL (compact flourescent lights) provide much better lighting, and are often encased in a round glass globe, so they have the same shape you are used to. Many of them no longer have the long warm-up period that the early bulbs had, requiring several minutes to power up to their full illumination.
Another option on the market is halogen lighting. Halogen bulbs offer a pleasing, crisp white light that can be used in fixtures with dimmers, unlike most CFL’s. They are more expensive than traditional bulbs, but they save energy, saving money in the long run, and have a longer life. However, they are not as energy efficient as CFL’s or LED’s.
The gold standard, though, isn’t a light bulb at all. LED’s (light emitting diodes) can be manufactured for existing fixtures, but aren’t anything like glass bulbs that we’re used to. In fact, there is no glass. The light source is a small “chip” that can be tweaked to produce light at a variety of “temperatures,” closely mimicking the warm light of an incandescent, or providing a much crisper, white light. LEDs use 1/8th of the power of an incandescent. There is very little heat produced, so the chips remain cool to the touch. My favorite application so far is LED track lighting, which looks very much like a band of scotch tape. This is wonderful light for under cabinet lighting. The lifespan of this product is truly amazing, measured in decades! You can see an affordable version of this amazing light “tape” from IKEA, but LED light strips are widely available from any lighting store.
Check out this reference that helps you understand the new terms to help you choose any of these new light bulbs: lumens for light output and kelvins for color “temperature”.
Because all of the bulbs have a much, much longer life span than previous bulbs, and the technology for all lighting is rapidly improving, stocking up on lightbulbs is something you do not want to do. And chances are, because each new lightbulb will cost 3 to 5 times what you’ve been used to spending, you won’t want to stock up. Stay tuned for more improvements from the lighting industry.