More Light for Less Money

By Brittney Gordon

As you may have already heard, our light bulbs are changing. They’ll be just as bright but use less energy, cost less, and better protect the environment. Starting in 2012, all screw-based light bulbs sold in the U.S. must meet new federal standards for energy efficiency established by the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007. Under this law, screw-based light bulbs must use fewer watts for a similar light (a.k.a. “lumen”) output. The law’s energy efficiency standards for light bulbs will be phased in over the next three years (see chart below).

Using light bulbs that provide the same light output but take less energy to run will mean that consumers save money on their utility bills. These savings can make a real difference since lighting accounts for about 12 percent of the average household’s energy bill. Using less energy also helps protect the environment by reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

Another positive change we will see in 2012 is a shift in how we purchase light bulbs. Instead of looking for wattage to determine which bulb to buy, we can now look at the light bulb’s lumens. Lumens tell us how much light a bulb will provide versus Watts, which tell us how much energy the bulb uses.

The Federal Trade Commission has designed a new label that you will see on light bulb packages starting next year. These labels will tell you everything from the brightness of the bulb (lumens), estimated operating costs, how long the bulb should last and what color the light will be. Here’s a sample.

This law will not ban any one lighting technology but will provide buyers will a range of better bulb choices in a variety of colors, bulb types, and light levels, including improved incandescent bulbs, CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs), and LEDs (Light Emitting Diode Light Bulbs).CFLs represent the best value for consumers today. They use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.  A CFL that has earned the ENERGY STAR can save more than $40 in electricity costs over its lifetime.

About the author: Brittney Gordon is a member of the ENERGY STAR communication team. She came to EPA one year ago after a career as a broadcast journalist.

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