During the course of this week, I have been making an effort to turn the lights off when I am not in a room per the rules for this week’s green challenge. So far, this has been going very well and has only taken some effort to remind myself to do accomplish this week’s green task. Even though it is very important for me to reduce consumption by turning lights off, I think it is also important to take a look at some of the various kinds of light bulbs and which ones are environmentally friendly.
Incandescent lights are probably the light bulbs you are most familiar with and grew up with. These are the normal light bulbs you can get at the store for .99 cents or less and they generally last a few months. These bulbs use between 15 and 150 Watts and over 90% of the power consumed by these bulbs is emitted as heat rather than light. These are the dinosaurs of the light bulb world, are not green and the only benefit I can see for using them is that the upfront cost is relatively low compared to other bulbs.
Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs are another kind of light bulb that is a much better option than the incandescent bulbs. This is currently what we have in our house and since we started using them, I do not think we have had to replace a single CFL bulb. The benefits are that they last much longer than incandescent bulbs, they have a greater lumens/Watt efficiency (that is, it takes less energy to create the same wattage) than incandescent bulbs, it is environmentally friendly and it is more cost efficient than incandescent bulbs. The main downfall of CFL bulbs is that they contain a small amount of mercury in the bulb and that they are a bit more expensive up front.
Finally, we have LED lights. LED lights are the most energy efficient light bulbs on the mass market. Apparently, LED bulbs can last between 25,000 and 50,000 hours whereas the traditional incandescent bulbs last between 1,000 and 2,000 hours. Even then, the light does not “burn out” in the same way that we have grown to learn. Instead of just burning out, these bulbs fade away slowly. The 25-50k rate measures only until when the bulb is 70% as powerful as when originally put in place. That means there could potentially be additional usable hours beyond the 25-50k hours. At this rate, although not the green thing to do, a light bulb could run for over 5 years straight. Also, these bulbs do not produce much heat which is an indicator of energy going toward light rather than heat. The main drawback is cost. These bulbs are more expensive than either CFL or incandescent, but might actually be cheaper in the long run. I have also read that these bulbs do not light quite the same as the other bulbs and possibly provide less ambient light.
I summary, LED light bulbs are the best for the environment if you can afford them. CFL Light bulbs are a great alternative and reasonably priced. Stay away from the incandescent light bulbs. Let me know any tips or info you have in the comment area below.