What type of light bulb will you buy next? An incandescent, CFL, or LED?

A compact fluorescent by Scottchan (freedigitalphotos.net)

I don’t buy light bulbs very often, but every now and again I wonder what type of light bulb is best?  CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) seem to be the favourite of the day, but don’t they create mercury waste?  The Ontario Power Authority recently sent out coupons encouraging purchases of CFL bulbs for energy-efficiency.  CFLs have been steadily improving—they’re now available in a wider range of sizes and colours; and for a variety of applications—but are they the best way to go?

CFLs are promoted because they last significantly longer than regular bulbs (incandescent) and produce the same amount of light (or more) with less electricity— CFLs last up to 10 times longer than incandescents and the number of Lumens per Watt that they provide—amount of light emitted per unit of energy—is high, in fact higher than for LEDs.

What about the cost? All energy-efficient bulbs are more expensive than incandescents, but they last longer and provide electricity savings.  If you pay for electricity directly, that will be a definite plus.   Beyond personal savings, their reduced energy use—up to 75 % less—provides the satisfaction of reduced carbon emissions.  If everyone switches only one bulb in their home to an energy- efficient bulb, our total emissions will be reduced significantly. 

Adding it up:  CFL’s are stunning performers and have a medium high cost.  The only drawback is that they contain mercury and must be handled and disposed of with care.  This one drawback causes me some concern. 

That’s why I’m considering LEDs as a preferable option—regular-shaped LED bulbs are becoming available, though they are mostly thought of  for Christmas lights and work lights.  LEDs are more expensive than CFLs, but they last much longer.   While CFLs last 10,000 hours, LEDs last 45,000 hours (incandescent bulbs last only 755 to 1000 hours). 

LEDs have a 45 Lumen per Watt (LPW) ratio, while CFLs have a higher 60 LPW ratio.  When you consider that regular incandescents are much less efficient—at 15 LPW—both CFLs and LEDs offer an improvement.  

In my exploration of bulbs I found a very useful bulb comparison chart on the Home Depot.com website.  The chart compares incandescent, CFL, LED, halogen, HID, and fluorescent bulbs, showing average life, watts, cost to operate, price level, LPW, and colour temperature. 

There is no doubt that we need to phase out incandescents—which will you buy next—a CFL, LED or another option?

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