Lumens, CFLs and LEDs: A light bulb guide for new regulations

(ARA) – You’ve probably been hearing the talk of federal light bulb regulations for years, but in January 2012, the talk will become reality, and these regulations will begin to take effect. While California residents began the transition in January 2011, the federally mandated phase-out of less efficient incandescent light bulbs begins with the 100-watt light bulb on Jan. 1, 2012, so now is the time for the rest of the country to make the switch to more efficient bulbs.

Before you begin considering your options, here’s a quick review of how the new regulations will work:

* Incandescent, or traditional, 100-watt light bulbs for general purpose, household shape lamps will no longer be available in stores beginning January 2012. Retailers will be able to sell-through any existing inventory, but the traditional 100-watt incandescent bulbs will not be replaced on the shelf.

* Incandescent 75-watt light bulbs will be unavailable in 2013.

* Incandescent 40-watt and 60-watt light bulbs will be phased out in 2014.

As these rules phase in gradually, it’s a great time to educate yourself on the different types of energy-efficient light bulbs available. Lowe’s is joining the effort to advise consumers on the types of options available. In addition to offering a comprehensive light bulb buying guide on its website, Lowe’s offers the following tips as you bring your lighting into the future.

Learning about lumens

As we transition away from incandescent bulbs, the lingo used to describe the brightness of the light bulbs is changing. We’ve become accustomed to identifying the brightness of a light bulb by the amount of power – watts – that it uses. However, more efficient light bulbs emit the same amount of light – measured in lumens – while using less electricity.

For example, the following light bulbs all produce roughly the same amount of light (450 lumens): 40-watt incandescent, 29-watt halogen, 11-watt compact fluorescent (CFL) and 9-watt LED. It’s still important to pay attention to wattage to make sure you don’t exceed the recommended level for your lamp, but it’s increasingly unlikely that you’ll exceed that level as you purchase more efficient bulbs.

Types of bulbs available

As you move on from incandescent bulbs, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the different types of more energy-efficient bulbs available. These bulbs will consume less energy and last longer, saving you money on monthly utility bills.

Compact fluorescent: CFL bulbs are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, but use up to 75 percent less energy and last up to 10 times as long, making it easy for you to quickly recoup the money you spend on them. You can save up to $70 per year by placing CFLs in your five most commonly used lamps, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. You’ve likely seen them in spiral or tube-like shapes, but CFLs also come in the A-line form common in most incandescent bulbs.

Halogen: These bulbs use the same technology as incandescent bulbs but last up to three times longer and are about 50 percent more efficient. Halogens are known for producing the highest quality light but aren’t as efficient as CFLs. When changing halogens, you’ll want to make sure you use a rag because oil from your skin can reduce the bulb’s longevity.

LED: Lowe’s began offering the industry’s first Energy Star-qualified LED bulb this year – the GE Energy Smart 9-watt LED light bulb. LED bulbs take the efficiency and durability of CFLs even further, as this bulb is rated to last more than 22 years and uses slightly less energy than a CFL bulb that also produces 450 lumens.

For more information on what the light bulb legislation means for you, visit the Lowe’s YouTube channel for a light bulb tutorial.