If you’ve been light bulb shopping in the past few years, you've likely noticed a difference in the selection of lighting
There are hardly any traditional light bulbs on the shelves any more and, instead, more and more energy saving light bulbs are on offer.
Since these new bulbs are often more expensive, you’re likely curious what the difference between the new energy-efficient light bulbs and older models is and whether they will they save you money.
Well, we’ve got the answers right here.
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Why energy saving light bulbs?
In a bid to meet their carbon reduction targets, the British government, and governments across the EU, are phasing out inefficient light bulbs. Britain is one of the countries leading the way and, having started by eliminating all lightbulbs above 100W, they have now completed the roll out.
Now, in most major supermarkets and hardware stores, your only choice is to buy energy efficient light bulbs, although you may still be able to find older models in some corner stores.
What are energy saving light bulbs?
There are three main types of energy saving light bulbs: compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), halogen bulbs, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
CFLs are the most common, and are the closest thing to a direct replacement for old light bulbs. Halogen bulbs are more expensive than CFLs and also don’t last as long, whereas LEDs are the most expensive of the lot, but are also the most efficient and last the longest.
Will energy saving bulbs help the energy efficiency of my home?
Yes. The most likely replacement for your existing bulbs though will be the CFL bulbs, which typically last for around 8,000 hours and use about a quarter as much energy as traditional light bulbs.
So you will use about 75% less energy per bulb. Energy saving LEDs have even greater energy efficiency, using an estimated 80% less energy. There are few other upgrades that you can make to your home that will improve its energy efficiency to this degree.
Will they save me money?
Yes. Compared to traditional 60W light bulbs, a standard energy saving bulb (the CFL variety) will save you about £7 a year. That may not sound like much, but count how many bulbs you have in your property. A typical home will have around 10 bulbs, if not more, which means an annual saving of £70, as well as the benefit of knowing you’re reducing your carbon emissions.
LED bulbs are even more efficient — so you’ll save more — but they’re also more expensive. However, with a life expectancy of between 20 and 30 years (or 25,000 hours of use) you’ll save a lot of money in the long run.
What’s more, most LED bulbs come with a warranty of between two and four years, so you don’t have to worry about buying a dud.
Choosing the right energy saving light bulb
Picking the right bulb is no different to picking out a traditional light bulb, just make sure the fitting or ‘cap’ matches what’s in your home. However, as energy saving bulbs emit a different colour than traditional bulbs, there are a few other things to be aware of.
If you want a similar warm colour to your old light bulbs, look for the phrase 'warm white' on the box. The colour temperature should also be shown on the pack in Kelvins (K); the lower the value, the warmer the colour. To provide some reference, old, 60W lightbulbs have a 2700K rating. Likewise, the brightness will depend partially on how strong your bulb is, or how many watts it uses. For a 60W bulb, look for between 13W and 18W for CFL bulbs, or 12W to 14W if you’re using LEDs.
I’ve heard energy saving bulbs cause health problems?
There are some things to be aware of when using CFL bulbs. The Health Protection Agency for example warns against using tube- or coil-shaped energy saving bulbs for more than one hour a day if you are in close proximity (within 30cm).
Therefore, if you regularly use a desk light, opt for traditional, globe-shaped energy saving bulbs.
What other things should I be aware of?
As has been well publicised, most energy saving bulbs take longer to reach full brightness than traditional bulbs. But that doesn’t mean they are less effective at lighting a room. In fact, most newer models of bulb light almost as quickly as traditional models, and LED light bulbs are very quick to light up.
If you are using a dimmer switch you should be aware that LED bulbs may not work with your dimmer switch, so check with an electrician. CFL bulbs should be fine.
Disposing of old light bulbs
CFL light bulbs contain a tiny bit of mercury, which means you have to dispose of them carefully. Large DIY stores and some supermarkets offer specialised recycling points.
Want more energy saving devices that cost less than £25? Read our Energy saving tips for under £25.