Friday, July 25, 2014

Choosing the Right Bulb

Light bulbs – always there but never acknowledged. They provide the light for us to see, yet do we really see the effects our light bulbs have on our environment and us?  Below is a list and brief explanation of the most common types of light bulbs you will encounter and which one works best for which task:

            Incandescent bulbs are the prototype light bulb that pops in your mind when you hear “light bulb.” These bulbs are characterized by a usually semi-spherical shape and consist of a filament that illuminates when an electric current is passed through it. Incandescent bulbs have dominated the residential light bulb market for most of the light bulb’s history. However now, incandescent bulbs have fallen out of favor with their poor energy efficiency. Incandescent bulbs’ energy is 90% heat, 10% light. In other words, an incandescent bulb acts as a better mini-heater than illuminator.  That being said, efforts have been made to produce a more energy efficient incandescent (coating around filaments to reduce heat production), but even with “green” changes, the incandescent still is not considered the best choice if energy efficiency is your goal.

            Fluorescent bulbs are considered more energy efficient than their incandescent counterpart using about 1/3 as much energy to power and lasting up to 20x longer!! Fluorescents had a negative rap for a long time, despite their energy-conserving prowess. Their lack of pleasing light colors and intensities left the fluorescent to be used almost exclusively in offices and commercial buildings, but with the advancements in technology today, many fluorescents match and even surpass the incandescent with light intensities and now being able to produce the “warm” light glow that many seek in their houses. Another issue that held fluorescent bulbs back was their shape. The long, slender bulb had no place in the residential household and smaller scale fluorescents were increasingly hard to find. Thankfully now, there is a fluorescent that provides the excellent energy conservation whilst still retaining a usable size for households. The Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb (CFL) now allows for fluorescent bulb usage throughout the home. The CFL is designed to replace the traditional incandescent, and with the development of the CFL, fluorescents just might have a shot at doing so.

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDS)
            LEDS employ photons to produce light. Currently, these types of lights produce the best “bang for your buck” giving up to 50,000 (that’s right 50,000!!) hours of light time before being replaced. LEDs use mini reactions internally, causing electrons to combine and produce light. LEDs are extremely small, so several are often used in the production of LED lights. LEDs are just now starting to be used and will eventually become the new “standard” when it comes to light bulbs. LEDs take very little energy, about 20x less than an incandescent, and produce about 25x more light than the incandescent. The only drawback to LEDs is currently the price. LEDs are the most expensive form of light bulb on the market, simply because of a lack of real competition (compared to incandescent and fluorescent.) Analysts predict the price of the LED will drop as more companies start shifting their productions to make more LEDs. But even with their current price, LEDs still offer amazing savings in the long run if you are willing to shell out the extra few bucks at the beginning.

High-Intensity Discharge (HIDs)
            HIDs are similar to LEDs as far as performance goes. They are extremely energy efficient and last an overwhelmingly long time, however, HIDs employ powerful metal halides (bulb filaments are coated in them to allow for longer use). These halides burn excessively bright and hot, making indoor use for them impractical, but they make excellent floodlights or motion lighting for security areas.

            Overall, the light bulb has come a long way from the days of Edison. Today, the choices are quite varied and tailored to suit individual needs, but all are pushing for a more energy efficient method of illuminating the world. When it comes to what you can do to reduce your environmental footprint, make sure to always look for the Energy Star logo when purchasing light bulbs (or any appliance/electronic). These products have been specifically designed to not only save energy, but save you money! Using Energy Star products can save hundreds of dollars a year (even just switching light bulbs equates to about $50-$75 in savings a year). Now’s your time to act and make the switch to a more energy efficient life! One light bulb change at a time will bring you closer to the green lifestyle we all need. Do your part now, and begin changing those bulbs today!

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