Guide to Choosing Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs

The average Canadian household uses about four percent of its residential energy on lighting.  This percentage remains steady despite an increase in the number of fixtures in homes, according to the National Resources Canada (NRC). Given that the average Canadian household spent $2,136 on residential energy in 2016, it's time to consider how energy-efficient bulbs make the possibility of saving money a little brighter. 

a woman shopping for energy efficient light bulbs

According to the United States Department of Energy, energy-efficient light bulbs:

  • Typically use approximately 25 percent to 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs
  • Last three to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs.

The higher level of lighting efficiency makes a difference, therefore, retrofitting your home with these types of new bulbs could be a benefit.  In future years, it’s as good as money in the bank. You may save money while reducing your energy needs.

The best part is that you don't even have to replace every bulb in your home.  Swapping old incandescent bulbs in your top-five-used lighting fixtures is helpful.

Incandescent Bulbs

Traditional incandescent bulbs are terribly inefficient. For every watt drawn by an incandescent bulb, over 95 percent of the energy is wasted as heat.  Most of the energy you're paying for is wasted every time you flip the switch.  Aside from energy inefficiency, incandescent bulbs are fragile. The smallest bump can crack either the thin glass shell or the delicate filament inside.

 If incandescent bulbs are not as energy-efficient or durable, why are they so popular?  A few reasons include:

  • Manufacturing incandescent bulbs is inexpensive.
  • They're also much easier to make than newer bulbs that are more complicated and may have additional technology built-in.
  • Incandescent bulbs are familiar to consumers, as they have been on the market for decades.

Overall, incandescent lightbulbs maintain a lifetime of approximately 1,000 hours, which is why it seems that every month there’s another bulb to replace at home. Energy-efficient light bulbs, by comparison, can last up to 10 to 30 times longer. Not only are you helping the environment and potentially saving money, but you'll also spend less time swapping out bulbs once you retrofit your home.

Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs

Given their efficiency in terms of energy as described above, energy-efficient light bulbs are becoming more popular across Canada.  The biggest push for energy-efficient light bulbs happened in 2014 when new Energy Star® lighting standards were introduced, according to an article published in the Globe and Mail.  Today, we have all these great, high-efficiency light bulbs - most are several times more efficient than a standard bulb.

Halogen Incandescent Bulbs

Halogen incandescent bulbs were the first new type of energy-efficient light bulbs to hit shelves and to meet the Energy Star® the minimum standard of a 25 percent energy savings.

Like traditional bulbs, halogen bulbs send current through a metal filament that glows and emits light. Unlike traditional bulbs, halogen light bulbs are made with a special, hardened glass and a bulb-within-a-bulb design that prevents the halogen from leaking out.

The trick of a halogen bulb is that the halogen gas preserves the integrity of the tungsten filament, something regular bulbs don't do. That's why, although they're very similar, halogen light bulbs can last much longer than traditional bulbs.  They also burn brighter, since the halogen prevents dark tungsten soot from building up on the inside of the bulb.

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL)

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are energy-efficient light bulbs introduced to consumers as a result of the new Energy Star® lighting standards.

Inspired by larger fluorescent "tubes" that are common in kitchens and garages, many CFLs are "curly" or "spiral" in shape. This can help if you have exposed bulbs (like with many types of overhead lighting) or if you have a lampshade that attaches directly to the bulb. Using only 25 percent of the energy of a normal incandescent bulb, and a third of that of a halogen bulb, CFLs often pay for themselves in just a few months. While you may replace an incandescent bulb every few months, an energy-efficient CFL could last many years.

CFLs provide a more natural yellow light, which makes them perfect for night-time use if you're not a fan of harsh, white lighting.

Unfortunately, CFLs contain mercury and need to be recycled, instead of being thrown in the garbage when their light goes out.

Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs)

Light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, are the newest type of energy-efficient light bulbs to be developed, and they're also the longest lasting and most efficient.

Powered by chips that convert energy into light, LEDs emit full brightness as soon as you flip the switch.

LEDs are also some of the most efficient bulbs available, being four to five times more efficient than standard incandescent bulbs for certified Energy Star® models.  Since they last a staggering 15 to 25 times longer than traditional bulbs, and eight to 25 times longer than halogen bulbs, their cost is easily offset by their reduced energy consumption.

Controlled by computer chips, LEDs are being used more heavily in smart homes that control ambiance and mood with alternative colors beyond the typical yellow or white lighting.

The next time you replace your light bulbs, or you purchase a light fixture for your home, consider this information before you make your final decision.  There are plenty of new options available for lighting, and each comes with distinct advantages. 


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