Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

Energy-Efficient Lighting: A guide to saving energy, money and the environment

Mar 28, 2012 09:29AM ● By Adam Borut

Energy-efficient lighting is a fast, easy and low-cost way to save energy, but most households have replaced few, if any, of their traditional incandescent bulbs—which convert less than 10 percent of the energy they use into visible light and the rest into heat. By simply replacing the majority of the most frequently used incandescents with higher efficiency bulbs, the average American household could save more than $120 annually on energy and cut CO2 emissions by more than 1,500 pounds.

Overview of energy-efficient bulbs for the home

Halogen Incandescent: Similar to traditional incandescents, these bulbs are 25 to 30 percent more efficient.

Compact Fluorescent (CFL): CFLs are at least 70 percent more efficient and last eight to 15 times longer than traditional incandescents. CFLs now come in virtually all the same bulb styles as incandescents, including three-way and dimmable applications.

Light-Emitting Diodes (LED): LEDs are at least 75 percent more efficient and last as much as 25 times longer than incandescents. LEDs are leading the way in energy efficiency and new technological developments. Their cost is relatively high, but falling rapidly.

The chart below illustrates the comparative costs of equivalent bulbs that are used three hours per day. (Note: LEDs are not included in the chart because 100-watt equivalent LEDs are not yet available.)

Tips for finding the right energyefficient bulbs

Fit: Not all CFLs and LEDs work in all fixtures. Check that the bulb you are considering is recommended for use in your fixture.

Color Temperature: For a soft white light that mimics the light of a traditional incandescent, look for bulbs with a color temperature of 2,700K (Kelvin).

Lumens: Lumens measure brightness: watts measure energy use. All bulb packaging will indicate the incandescent equivalent. Quality: Not all CFLs and LEDs are the same. It is worth investing in a premium bulb to get the light quality you expect and to ensure the bulb lasts as long as advertised.

Incentives: Check your energy company’s website for discount offers and rebates.

Recycling: CFLs contain a small amount of mercury (less than 5 milligrams) and should be disposed of properly. Visit to find a recycling location near you.

Adam Borut is co-founder and president of Eco Hatchery, an energy efficiency and sustainability software and services firm. For more information, visit The Light Bulb Finder mobile app enables users to audit their current incandescent fixtures and receive instant recommendations for energy-saving bulbs, including financial payback and environmental impact. To explore the app and get additional lighting resources, visit