HOW TO DECIDE BETWEEN CFLS AND LEDS
When replacing an incandescent bulb, you basically have two options to choose from – CFLs (compact fluorescent lamp) and LEDs (light-emitting diode). In the past, CFL bulbs were more widely used, because they were cheaper, but nowadays, the price of LED bulbs has come down substantially, and the quality of light has improved drastically through new technological innovations. Despite still being more expensive, LED bulbs have many advantages over CFL bulbs that make that price tag well worth it; they consume less energy and last much much longer than CFLs (up to 20 years!), so any extra money you pay up front is recouped on your energy bill, and when you don’t have to purchase new bulbs every year. On average, an LED light bulb is roughly 3 or 4 times more expensive than a CFL but think about it this way – if you install an LED lamp in your new baby’s bedroom today, you most likely won’t have to buy a new one until after they go off to college! LED lightbulbs also don’t have any mercury in them – unlike CFLs, which can create a hazardous waste site if you accidentally break one in your house. Finally, LED bulbs can be used with dimmers – unlike most CFL bulbs.
One of the lamps above uses an incandescent and the other uses a Philips LED. Can you tell the difference?
HOW TO FIND GOOD REPLACEMENTS FOR YOUR INCANDESCENTS
Taking a stroll down the lighting aisle of a store to find incandescent bulb replacements can be intimidating because there are so many shapes and sizes, and the vocabulary on the packaging can be confusing. But pinpointing a few specific points about what you’re looking for can make this task a lot easier. The first thing to ask yourself is what type of light bulb are you looking to replace – a standard A-shaped lamp bulb, a floodlight, a “candle” in a chandelier or something else like a landscape light or a night light? Most of the time, LED versions of all of these types of bulbs closely resemble their incandescent counterparts in size (though the shape might be slightly different), so it’s a good idea to bring the bulb (or “lamp,” if you want to use the term lighting professionals use) with you to the store so you can actually hold it up to your prospective replacement and make sure the bases are the same size.
Infographic by Jill Fehrenbacher
LIGHT BULB TYPES
Here are some of the most common examples of incandescent and halogen bulbs, and the LED replacements that are designed to mimic them: For a table lamp or other fixture that uses a 60-watt incandescent bulb, you can replace it with a Philips 12.5 W AmbientLED A19 to save approximately $130 in energy costs over the lifespan of the bulb. For a chandelier or other 25-watt candelabra-style bulb, try replacing it with a Philips 3.5W DecoLED Candle for an approximate savings of $59.13 in energy costs over the lifespan of the bulb. Another common energy-sucking bulb, the standard 50-watt PAR20 halogen bulb (commonly used in recessed ceiling lights) can be replaced with the Philips 7W AmbientLED PAR20 for an approximate savings of $118.25 in energy costs over the lifespan of the bulb.
For other types of incandescent and halogen bulb replacement options, check out this handy-dandy chart:
LIGHT BULB “COLOR TEMPERATURE”
The next thing to check for is the “light appearance,” or color temperature of the light bulb you’re replacing, which is measured on the Kelvin (K) temperature scale. The higher the Kelvin number is, the more blueish white the light will be and the lower it is, the more yellowish it will be. Most light bulbs will be labeled with the type of light appearance they emit (soft, white, bright, warm, daylight) – although those words are often vague and hard to understand, so you’re better off just looking specifically at the Kelvins. The traditional incandescent, which gives off a warm yellowish light, has a temperature of 2,700 to 3,000K — similar to most halogens. Newer CFLs have a wider range, from warm (3,000K) to cold (6,500K). LED bulb temperatures can range from 2,700K to 5,000K, and while previous generations of light-emitting diodes tended to have a very blueish light, there are now LED replacement bulbs on the market (such as Philips’ AmbientLED line) which mimic the color temperature and “feel” of incandescent bulbs exactly – producing warm white light. Since light emitting diodes inherently shine blue, the way the Philips AmbientLED bulbs do this is through their patented orangey-yellow lens casing surrounding the LEDs (see below diagram).
BRIGHTNESS – LUMENS, LUX & CANDELAS
Once you have considered light bulb type and color temperature, you’ll also want to consider light bulb brightness, which is measured in lumens for LEDs and incandescent bulbs (weirdly, halogen bulbs tend to be measured in “candelas“) A bulb’s lumen measurements are always displayed on its packaging, so you can easily find out how bright the bulb you’re buying is.
Many people still confuse wattage (a measure of electrical energy used) with lighting brightness – but in this day and age of low-energy LED and CFL lightbulbs, don’t be confused by wattage. A traditional 60W incandescent bulb shines at about 800 lumens – the exact same brightness as a Philips’ 12.5W LED bulb or a 14W CFL bulb.
One of the most asked questions regarding LED bulbs is whether or not they work with dimmers, and the answer is yes (most CFLs do not)! So if you have dimmers and want to continue using them, go ahead and choose an LED bulb.