light bulbs hangingHow many blog writers does it take to screw in a light bulb? Only one, but it’ll take awhile at the hardware store to figure out what kind to get.

Deciding on a light bulb nowadays isn’t as simple as just choosing a light fixture; a lot more goes into it than a sense of style. This is thanks to the energy efficient laws that went into effect a few years ago. With the new laws came new bulbs, and all the different choices available at the store have left some people in the dark on what to choose. So watts the deal with all these light bulbs?

Background

Part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 was to increase lighting efficiency. So when it went into effect, the standard incandescent light bulb (the one that everyone has been used to for the past 100+ years) started to be phased out. While those traditional incandescent bulbs were being phased out, more energy efficient options were phased in.

So Watt?

The three main options replacing the incandescent are halogen, compact fluorescent (CFL), and light-emitting diode (LED). Three options seems simple enough, right? Well, not exactly.

The way we used to choose a replacement for standard incandescent bulbs was by wattage, the amount of energy a light bulb uses. A 60-watt bulb burnt out? Replace it with another 60-watt bulb. But since the new bulbs are more energy efficient, wattage doesn’t really apply. So what’s the best way to choose which light bulbs to fill your house with? That depends…

Choose Your Own Light-venture

Like a lot of things in life, it really comes down to personal preference. Do you prefer yellow (warm), blue (cool) or white (natural) tints to your rooms? How much green do you want to spend? Do you want to be old and gray the next time you replace a bulb? The three biggest factors when choosing what kind of bulb are color, cost and lifespan of a bulb.

Color

You may have noticed that different lights give off different color tones. The Kelvin color temperature scale measures the light color a light source gives off. According to Energy Star, most energy efficient light bulbs fall between 2700-6500 Kelvins (K). If you liked what the standard incandescent offered, look for a bulb between 2700-3000K. If you prefer a more natural daylight feel, look for a bulb between 5000-6500K. If you like a cool or brighter white, look for bulbs in the 3500-4100K range. If you’re particularly picky and are bothered by any one color of light, try mixing different light bulbs within a room to balance it out.

ColorTemperature

Image: EnergyStar.gov

Cost and Lifespan

If you’re set out to replace all of the bulbs in your home at once, it can get pricey quickly. Halogens are the cheapest, LEDs are the most expensive, and CFLs fall in between. But that just considers the initial purchase price of the bulbs. CFLs and LEDs are more expensive at first, but they last longer and they’re cheaper on the electric bill. So over time, it’s more cost effective to go with a CFL or LED. But if you’re replacing a bulb in a seldom-used guest room, go with the cheaper halogen.

There’s a lot to consider when replacing light bulbs, but in the end it comes down to what’s right for you and the room. Hopefully the next time you’re forced to explore the dark side of a room, you’ll be more prepared to take on the light bulb aisle. If you have any additional light bulb tips, feel free to shed some light in the comment section below.

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