What we should be looking at is that the existing light bulbs will be going through some changes. However, there are some great new alternatives available.
Last year, light bulb manufacturers were required to meet new efficiency standards in California to save consumers money and energy. It began with light bulbs manufactured on or after January 1, 2011, and sold in California, had to use 72 watts or less. The 72-watt replacement bulb provides the same amount of light (called “lumens”) for lower energy cost. It will be followed in January 2013 with the 75-watt version and in January 2014 with the 40-watt and 60-watt bulbs.
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) – passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush – created new energy efficiency standards for light bulbs. The law is designed to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, and make the U.S. less dependent on foreign sources of energy. The entire country adopted this standard on January 1, 2012. EISA allowed California to implement the national standard one year earlier in 2011.
Newer bulbs are more efficient and make the traditional 100-watt incandescent bulb obsolete. Around 90 percent of the electricity used by a traditional incandescent bulb is wasted.
A typical incandescent bulb contains a tungsten filament. Electricity passes through the filament, heating it to such high temperatures that it glows. The filament gets so hot that bits of tungsten are constantly falling off as it works. Eventually, the filament is so thin that it breaks, leading to a burned out bulb.
An alternative to an incandescent is the halogen. The halogen bulb is up to four times more efficient.
With halogen bulbs, the filament is encased in halogen gases. When the tungsten bits fall off during operation, the halogen gases help return them to the filament. This keeps the filament strong, leading to fewer burnouts and longer-lasting bulbs.
The other alternatives to the old incandescent light bulb include the florescent bulb or CFL, and the light-emitting diode or LED. These lights are 75 percent more efficient than the traditional incandescent.
A concern about the alternatives is the different colors they emit. Now, the back of each light bulb package will list the “light appearance,” or color, of the bulb, measured on a temperature scale known as Kelvin (K). Lower Kelvin numbers mean the light is more yellow, while higher numbers mean it’s whiter or bluer.
The traditional incandescent, which gives off a warm and almost yellowish light, has a temperature of 2,700 to 3,000K — similar to most halogens. Newer CFLs have a wider range, from warm (2,700K) to cold (6,500K). LED temperatures range from 3,300K to 5,000K.
Another thing to be aware of is the dimming capability of the different light bulbs. Halogens and LEDs can be dimmed, but many cheaper CFLs cannot. So plugging in one of those new CFL bulbs in a fixture that uses a dimmer will not work.
The future is LEDs. They are dimmable, mercury-free, the most efficient and the longest-lasting (up to 25 years).
Ask the Builders is written by Rod Pearson, one of three partners of Touchstone Builders, a local residential and commercial construction company serving the greater Santa Barbara area. They can be reached at 898-1920. Send questions to email@example.com