Today’s article takes a slightly different approach than usual. One of the questions we often get here on the blog and in our Wednesday Lighting Q&A on Facebook is about energy-saving bulbs. Specifically, people want to know what defines an energy-saving light bulb and what makes an LED better than a CFL, a CFL better than a Halogen, or any variant on that question.
With that in mind, we’ve recorded a short, introductory video that we hope will answer most of your questions. Of course, we’ll gladly answer any remaining questions you may have in the comments section below, on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter or Google Plus accounts. You can also check out our related Squidoo article, also titled “Energy-Saving Light Bulbs.”
So grab some popcorn and sit back! (Assuming that’s OK with your boss)
Welcome to 1000Bulbs.com, the Internet’s number one retailer of light bulbs and lighting products. In today’s video, we’ll be discussing a very popular but often misunderstood topic: Energy-saving light bulbs.
“Energy-saving” is a term thrown around pretty often these days, especially referring to light bulbs. But just what is an energy-saving light bulb? Though there is no strict definition of an energy-saving bulb, one thing is certain: It must be more efficient than an incandescent bulb. That said, energy-saving bulbs fall into one of three product types: Halogen light bulbs, compact fluorescents (more commonly known as “CFLs”), and light-emitting diodes, better known simply as “LEDs.” Let’s look at each bulb type one-by-one to understand their benefits.
First, for reference, we have incandescent light bulbs. Though they’re old technology, they’re still very common. On the plus side, incandescent light bulbs are inexpensive and completely dimmable. However, these attributes are overshadowed by how inefficient they are as well as their short lifespan.
Next, we have the first of our energy savers, the Halogen light bulb. You’ll notice that these look very similar to incandescent bulbs. Also like incandescent bulbs, Halogen bulbs are inexpensive and dimmable. However, Halogens only last about 1,000 hours, and they’re only 15 to 20 percent more efficient than incandescent bulbs.
Now we have the compact fluorescent, which is probably what you think of when you hear about energy-saving bulbs. CFLs have many positive attributes, including being relatively inexpensive, at least in comparison to LEDs, as well as lasting eight times longer than an incandescent or Halogen and using about 80% less energy than an incandescent bulb. Unfortunately, most compact fluorescents are non-dimmable. They also contain a small amount of toxic mercury, so they have to be recycled, and some people find their characteristic spiral shape off-putting.
Finally, we can discuss LED light bulbs. Not only are these the most efficient light bulbs available to homeowners, they last 50,000 hours or more, and most models are fully dimmable. Of course, anything has drawbacks, including LED. These bulbs are an emerging technology, so manufacturers are still working out some of their “kinks.” Also, as a new technology, LEDs are still relatively expensive, though their prices are dropping rapidly as technology improves.
So let’s look at these four bulbs side-by-side: An incandescent bulb produces 13.3 lumens–the standard measurement of light output–for each watt of energy used. A Halogen light bulb is only slightly more efficient, producing 16 lumens per watt. Compact fluorescents, however, make a huge leap in efficiency, producing 61.5 lumens per watt. But by far the most efficient is LED, which produces nearly 90 lumens per watt!
Many people in lighting and design circles are already familiar with the Plumen CFL. If you’re not, Plumen’s tagline sums it up pretty well: “The world’s first designer energy saving light bulb.”
To many, the typical spiral shape of a compact fluorescent is an eyesore, so they hide it under a lampshade or within an enclosed light fixture. That’s unfortunate, because there’s no reason a CFL has to be so ugly. In fact, the bulb’s glass tube can take virtually any form. There are plenty of fixtures, from pendants to desk lamps, which challenge the status quo. Why shouldn’t a bulb do the same?
The creators of the Plumen—designer Samuel Wilkinson and British design company Hulger—took that challenge. Their revolutionary bulb takes its inspiration from bird feathers (the “plume” in Plumen). Instead of twisting the glass tubes of the bulb into a utilitarian and industrial shape, the designers gave them an airy, organic form. The unique design has already landed Plumen in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and earned it the Brit Insurance Design of the Year Award.
Popular applications for the Plumen include pendant lights, floor lamps, and anywhere you might use an antique light bulb. Indeed, many stylish, yet energy conscious customers find the Plumen satisfies their desire for much less efficient incandescent antique bulbs. The Plumen uses only 11 watts to produce the equivalent light output of a 60 watt incandescent light bulb. This means the bulb saves 80% on your energy bills. In addition, the 8,000 hour bulb will outlast 8 to 10 incandescent bulbs. Lower bills, fewer carbon emissions, long life, and beautiful design: What more could you ask for in a light bulb?
It’s that time of year again: Christmas in July. Not only does this magical season give you the opportunity to buy discounted inventory, it also allows you the best chance to secure 2012′s “latest and greatest” high-tech Christmas lights and decorations. You don’t want to be the only home on the block without them, do you? These products move fast, so if you pick up only one or two light strings, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get a larger quantity of matching lights when you need them later in the year.
Buying matching lights is essential since mixing lights from two or more manufacturers inevitably leads to color and performance discrepancies, especially among LED Christmas lights. If you aren’t careful, come October or November you could be stuck with a collection of off-colored, flickering light strings with irregular spacing and a phone book’s worth of manufacturer names. In the 2011 Christmas season, 25% more of our customers chose LED over traditional incandescent Christmas lights, when compared to the 2010 season. That’s the most rapid adoption of any technology we’ve seen, and it’s especially amazing considering traditional incandescent lights outnumbered our LEDs last year two to one. We project even bigger LED adoption this year, so if you don’t want to find yourself in the scenario described above, buy early and in bulk.
The increasing adoption of LED Christmas lights means we’re putting special emphasis on LED quality this year. Our buyers have traveled to trade shows and lighting fairs around the country to hand-pick the best Christmas lights available. Not all LEDs are created equal, so we only bring in the LED lights that do best in demonstrations and that manufacturers test for longevity. In some cases, we’ve even had lights manufactured to our custom specifications!
If you’re still skeptical about LED technology, consider this: A recent poll on our Facebook page shows that while some customers are still waiting to switch, early adopters of LED lights are overwhelmingly satisfied with them. Since LED technology becomes more efficient and less expensive every year, you can bet our 2012 selection will meet your expectations. If you’re still wondering just what LEDs can do for you, watch our Christmas YouTube videos to see some of the infinite possibilities of LED Christmas lights.
If you transition to LED lights this year, you’ll have a partner every step of the way in 1000Bulbs.com. Industry-leading professionals have trained our sales staff to assist customers with large orders, ensuring the products you buy are compatible with each other and guiding customers in the setup of more intricate systems. If you have a question down the road, our customer service team can answer questions and aid in troubleshooting. Rest assured we will do everything possible to ensure you have the best lighting display possible this Christmas!
You know the feeling. You just came home from the hardware store with a blister pack of brand new, energy-saving CFLs. You screw them in and hit the switch. “Oh, this is gonna be good,” you say to yourself. You’re going to save tons of money and your bulbs are gonna look great! Then you notice they’re dim, really dim. Defeated, you retreat to another room to find your receipt. But then, when you return a minute or so later, they’re as bright as you expected them to be! What sorcery is this?
Everyone has had this experience with their first batch of CFLs, though maybe it wasn’t as melodramatic. To understand why compact fluorescents start off dim, you have to know a bit about how fluorescent lighting works. Unlike an incandescent bulb, which creates light by heating a filament until it is white-hot, fluorescent lights use cathodes to heat a special gas or mix of gases to create UV light. The UV light is then filtered through phosphors to create white or colored light. To do this however, the cathodes have to warm up.
Every new CFL on the market uses different proprietary technology to shorten the bulb’s warm-up time, with varied results, so we chose to test four of our best-selling 60 watt CFLs. Though this is far from a scientific study, here’s how we conducted the experiment: We screwed each bulb into a lamp, and set a light meter about one foot to the side the lamp. We propped up the light meter so it was roughly on the same horizontal plane as the CFL’s midpoint. We then turned on each bulb and used the light meter to record the maximum light output of the bulb. Finally, we replaced the bulbs with identical bulbs of the same make and model (using the already warm bulb would have skewed our results). We then switched the bulbs on and recorded the time it took to meet the previously recorded maximum output.
Bulb One: Energy Miser
The first bulb we tested is a 13 watt, 2700K CFL from Energy Miser. Just over $1.00 each, this bulb is not only the most inexpensive of the bulbs we tested, but it’s also our best seller. The manufacturer doesn’t make any claims about the bulb’s warm up time, though our customers have given it an average 5-star rating. In our tests, the bulb reached its maximum output in 2 minutes, 2 seconds. That’s not exactly quick, but according to most manufacturers, it’s about on par for a typical CFL.
Bulb Two: TCP TruStart
The second bulb we tested, a TCP TruStart, is a fairly new addition to our product line. In their spec sheet, TCP claims this bulb is the “Best on/off CFL ever made!” Unlike the previous bulb we tested, TCP does make a claim about this bulb’s warm-up time; specifically, TCP says the CFL has a less than 30 second warm-up time. Our tests showed this claim to be mostly true, with the bulb reaching its full brightness at 38.7 seconds.
Bulb Three: Sylvania DULUX EL
The third bulb we tested is from the “big three” of lighting manufacturers, Sylvania. Sylvania also doesn’t make any specific claims about warm-up times for this 13 watt CFL from their DULUX EL family, nor do our customers (who give it an average 4-star rating). So how did this name brand product fare? Pretty well, it turns out. The bulb reached its full brightness at 1 minute, 7 seconds. That not as good as the TCP TruStart, but it’s nearly twice as fast as the Energy Miser.
Bulb Four: TCP InstaBright
The final bulb we tested is a little different from the other four we tested. This covered CFL from TCP has a glass cap over the fluorescent spiral tube so that it looks more like a typical A-shape incandescent bulb. In their InstaBright G2 brochure, TCP claims the bulb has the “Fastest run-up time and significantly improved light build up time,” and it is supposed to reach full brightness in 45 seconds. Surprisingly, this bulb beat even its own estimates, reaching full brightness in only 35.1 seconds!
Which of these bulbs should you buy? It depends how much you’re willing to pay and how much you value fast warm-up times. There is a spread of more than $4.00 between the cheapest and most expensive of these bulbs. Is a few seconds quicker to reach full brightness worth the premium? Let us know what you think in the comments, or connect with us on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.
If you’ve read this blog before, you know one of the shortcomings of LED lighting is that LEDs, by nature, project light forward. Manufacturers have posed all kinds of creative solutions to this problem, from frosted caps to space station looking spires of LEDs within the bulb envelope. However, one of our favorite brands here at 1000Bulbs.com claims to have solved this problem, at least for reflector bulbs, with a surprisingly simple solution.
The LED reflector light bulb market is saturated with Halogen PAR clones. PAR lamps, which are a directional light source anyway, are an obvious format for LED. The PAR format allows LEDs to show off their energy saving potential without addressing the directional problem of LEDs. As a result, LED bulbs such as the MSi iPAR38 have been a big hit, especially with businesses, but not so much with homeowners who prefer the shape of traditional incandescent BR- and R-type bulbs.
TCP took this challenge to heart when they created their new line of BR LED bulbs. The “guts” of the incandescent-inspired bulbs are the same as an LED PAR lamp, but the face is capped with a round, frosted lens to refract the light coming from the LEDs. This refraction creates a softer beam spread more similar to that of incandescent bulbs. Plus, when used in recessed cans, the bulbs look just like the incandescents they replace.
The light quality of the bulbs is equally impressive. The BR LED line has a CRI (Color Rendering Index) of 85, higher than the usual 80-82 of most LED bulbs. The dimming quality is great, too. TCP has manufactured the bulbs to be dimmable down to 0.5%, and our tests show them to be compatible with both analog and electronic dimmers, which until now, we had never seen on an LED bulb.
TCP’s new line of LED reflector light bulbs includes BR40, BR30, and R20 LED bulbs, available in 2400K and 2700K versions. The BR40 and BR30 can replace 65 watt and 85 watt incandescent bulbs, respectively. The R20 replaces a 50 watt incandescent. All the bulbs are rated for 25,000 hours and carry a 5-year manufacturer warranty. The mercury-free LED bulbs save approximately 80% of the energy used by similar Halogen bulbs.
If you’re like me, you ignore the Nutrition Facts label on your food. I know I should be reading it, but a serving of Pringles is only 16 chips? Please! I eat that in 20 seconds. Of course, I might change my habits if there was some sort of monetary compensation for eating better.
There is no such promise with the Nutrition Facts label. However, there is immediate compensation in energy savings when you follow the LED Lighting Facts label published by the US Department of Energy or the Lighting Facts Label published by the Federal Trade Commission. These innovative labels appear on the packaging of all light bulbs manufactured since January of this year.
The Difference Between the DOE and the FTC Label
The biggest difference between the DOE LED Lighting Facts Label and the FTC Lighting Facts Label is right there in the title. The DOE label is only for LED lighting. The FTC label, on the other hand, applies to any bulb with a medium screw base manufactured after January 2012; this includes incandescent bulbs, Halogen bulbs, CFL bulbs, and LED bulbs that do not already have a DOE label.
Another difference is that the FTC label is mandatory, while the DOE label is voluntary. Also, the DOE label is independently verified, while the FTC label contains data solely from the manufacturer. The DOE’s independent testing, combined with more detailed information, can make it more helpful to retailers, lighting designers, and contractors who need specific lighting data for their clients. The FTC label, on the other hand, contains only the information useful to the typical homeowner.
The following table shows a side-by-side comparison of the data presented in the DOE and FTC labels:
Some of the specifications left out on one or the other label may surprise you. The FTC label, for example, does not include figures for efficacy (the ratio of light output to energy use) or color accuracy. To most homeowners, however, those specs aren’t too important. The missing specs in the DOE label are more notable. The DOE label doesn’t include lifetime, estimated energy cost, or mercury content. Each of these, however, is left out with good reason. Lifetime is left out because, as of now, there is no standard for testing the lifetime of an LED bulb. Estimated energy cost is not included because of the label’s focus on commercial applications, in which lighting designers will need to perform more specific calculations. Finally, the DOE label does not include a statement of mercury content because LEDs do not contain mercury.