John Marshall Mantel for The New York Times - Light bulbs for sale in December.
How many types of light bulbs does it take to confuse consumers? Three, apparently.
This month, federal energy efficiency legislation, passed in 2007, went into effect. That means old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs are being phased out, in favor of energy-saving models. Beginning Jan. 1, for instance, lights as bright as older 100-watt incandescent bulbs can use no more than 72 watts of electricity, according to the Lumen Coalition, a coalition of organizations and businesses that aims to educate the public about energy-efficient lighting. Eventually, other types of bulbs must be made more efficient too.
The change has caused some confusion, and some people have even hoarded the old-fashioned bulbs. But consumer advocates say new bulbs are now available that look similar to the old ones, but use less energy. (Stores do not have to take the old ones off the shelves — they just won’t be restocking supplies.)
There are three types of energy-efficient bulbs that have emerged. They generally cost more than the older types of bulbs, but save on electricity costs over the long run, according to a new guide from the Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union:
Halogen incandescent These look like old-fashioned light bulbs, but use at least 25 percent less energy and last up to three times as long. They cost about $1.50 per bulb.
Compact fluorescent These use up to 75 percent less energy and last up to 10 times as long. They cost about $2 per bulb.
Light-emitting diode These can last up to 25 years and save 75 percent or more in energy costs. One big catch is that they are currently quite pricey. They cost about $25 per bulb.
To help sort out the new choices — some bulbs are better than others, depending on where and how you use them — several groups have published light bulb guides. The bulb maker Sylvania has a handy chart that shows what bulbs can replace the old ones around your house.
Another helpful guide is available from the Natural Resources Defense Council. And there are some smartphone apps that can help, too.
Have you tried to buy light bulbs lately? What was your experience?
Source: The New York Times