What does it take to change the light bulb? Better light bulbs. On January 1, 2014, the US will ban the sale of old style incandescent light bulbs, leaving the more efficient compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs to replace them. Both CFL's and LED's use less energy to achieve the same effect: lighting your home. By using less energy, you'll spend less on electricity, and the planet will breath a sigh of relief because less electricity has to be generated.
Last week, Consumer Reports distributed a press release saying their testing shows LED light bulbs are often brighter than claimed, and their light color matches the manufacturers claims.
There are two numbers reported on light bulb boxes that one must study carefully: Lumens and Kelvin.
The first, Lumens, measures how bright the bulb is. What makes a CFL or LED light more efficient is they produce the same number of Lumens as an equivalent incandescent bulb, while consuming fewer watts. In other words, you get more Lumens per Watt of electricity consumption. That's like having a car with higher fuel efficiency, measured in miles per gallon. In both cases you're achieving the same effect while consuming less resources.
The second, Kelvin, measures the nature of the light, whether it is more blue or more orange. Not all light is pure white, for example natural sunlight is tinted towards the orange/red end of the spectrum. We tend to prefer, therefore, light that's tinted the same way as natural sunlight.
What Consumers Reports found is that LED bulbs from several manufacturers produce more Lumens than are claimed on the package. These bulbs, then, are an even better bargain for electricity consumption savings.
As we noted earlier when reviewing 3M's LED Advanced Light, while LED lights cost more than incandescent lights, the savings from lower electricity consumption pays off within a couple years. The good news is that the cost for LED light bulbs has dropped considerably this year, which shortens the time needed for the bulbs to pay for themselves.
The payoff for buying LED light bulbs comes from two attributes:
- They last longer, meaning the cost will be spread out over more hours of usage
- As already said, the electricity consumption is lower
The 3M bulb has an expected life-time of 25 years. How many incandescent bulbs would you buy in that many years? This isn't just buying a light bulb, it's buying something with real long-term value. 3M claimed that over its lifetime it will save over $140 on electricity costs.