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It's lights out for the incandescent lightbulb

The best energy-saving halogen, CFL, and LED replacements

Published: January 03, 2014 12:30 PM

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The New Year may look a lot like the old, but not in the lightbulb aisle. As of January 1st the most popular bulb, the 60-watt incandescent, is on its way out, pretty much ending the incandescent era. Here’s a look at your energy-saving options.

The phase-out was prompted by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and started with 100-watt incandescent bulbs, followed by 75-watt bulbs, and now 60- and 40-watt incandescent bulbs can no longer be made in the U.S. or imported. You might see them on store shelves and online for a few months as remaining inventory can be sold until it runs out. You can stock up on incandescents but they use a lot of energy to provide the same amount of light as the alternatives. Better to choose one of the following bulb types and save energy and money over the life of the bulb.

Halogen bulbs. These incandescent bulbs use about 25 to 30 percent less energy than standard incandescents, so they meet the new energy-efficiency standards and aren’t being phased out. And halogen bulbs instantly produce light, accurately reveal the colors of objects, are fully dimmable, and can be used almost anywhere. The A-type bulbs, the kind you put in lamps, cast light in all directions. But some halogen bulbs do not last much longer than standard incandescents yet cost more.

CFLs. Some cast a weird light color or take too long to fully brighten, but in our lightbulb tests we did find a few that were impressive. The Great Value 14W 60W Soft White CFL replaces a 60-watt incandescent yet uses about 75 percent less energy and brightens fairly quickly and casts a bright, warm yellow light, similar to that of an incandescent. A CR Best Buy, this spiral CFL is $1.25 at Walmart and you can save about $60 in energy costs over the bulb’s claimed life of nine years (10,000 hours). But it isn’t dimmable—most CFLs aren’t—and since frequently turning CFLs on and off shortens their life, it shouldn’t be used in certain sockets. All CFLs contain a small amount of mercury but several brands offer bulbs with a plastic coating that contain the mercury and any shards if the bulb breaks.

LEDs. These use slightly less energy than CFLs and manufacturers claim they last 20,000 to 50,000 hours, about 18 to 46 years when used three hours a day. LEDs instantly brighten and their lifespan isn’t affected by frequently turning them on and off. Some we tested dim as low as incandescent bulbs. Among 60-watt replacements the best we tested was the Samsung A19 60-Watt Warm White. It casts a bright, warm yellow light in all directions, making it ideal for lamps. But it’s $30 and while you can save around $125 in energy costs over it’s life, that’s still expensive. LED prices are dropping fast. Here’s a look at our preliminary tests of lightbulbs that cost $10 to $13.

For more choices, take a look at our Ratings of dozens of LEDs and CFLs for lamps, ceiling fixtures, recessed and track lights, and outdoor fixtures, and keep an eye on LED prices. With manufacturers eager to win you over, prices will continue to drop dramatically this year.

—Kimberly Janeway

   

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