May 9, 2011 in Features

Phase-out of incandescents means plenty of decisions

Terri Bennett McClatchy Newspapers

All the buzz lately is about the looming phase-out of the incandescent light bulb that was invented more than 100 years ago.

It’s a bulb so inefficient that most of its energy heats its surroundings rather than illuminating them. So in 2007, President George W. Bush enacted The Energy Independence and National Security Act, requiring light bulbs to be 25 percent more energy efficient by January 2012.

That means goodbye to energy-draining light bulbs and hello to more efficient and ultimately cost-effective options.

The question now is, do you know which type of energy-efficient bulb is best for you? Do your part to learn the pros and cons of each before you buy.

Let’s start with new halogen options. Many manufacturers are producing eco-labeled halogen bulbs that meet or exceed the new energy-efficiency standards.

These bulbs are generally shaped like traditional incandescent bulbs but last about 25 percent longer. They can be used in a variety of fixtures including ones with dimmers.

However, they do give off a lot of heat and can be a fire hazard in certain freestanding floor lamps that are easily tipped over.

Fluorescent lighting is a common energy-efficient option, but it has limitations. It’s most effective in an office setting because the bulbs are designed to be left on for long periods of time, don’t need to be replaced frequently and give off very little heat.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), for use at home, have similar benefits. However, the bulbs can burn out prematurely if you use them in a light that’s turned on and off a lot and for short periods of time.

You also need to make sure that the CFL you choose is labeled for specific uses such as with a timer or motion sensor or in a three-way, dimmable or recessed fixture.

All fluorescent bulbs, including CFLs, also contain a small amount of mercury and should never be tossed in the trash. Visit to find a qualified recycler near you.

Light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs are one of the most energy-efficient choices. They’re 75 percent more efficient than incandescent bulbs and last 25 times longer. One new LED bulb in the baby nursery could still be shining brightly when your newborn is grown and heading to college.

LED bulbs can be used with dimmers, recessed light fixtures, timers and motion sensors. They are the more expensive choice right now, but prices are beginning to drop as demand grows.

I recently bought a standard 40-watt equivalent LED bulb that uses just 10 watts of power for less than $10 on sale.

The phase-out of the traditional incandescent bulbs shouldn’t be a political statement, nor should it be about “big brother” telling you what kind of bulb to use.

The phase-out is simply about adopting newer and more energy-efficient technology to help us light our homes and business. Now that there are so many choices, it’s easy to do your part.

Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, syndicated columnist, and host of, where you can find everyday green living ideas that are better for you and the planet. Send questions to

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