Incandescent lightbulbs – the ones we all grew up with – are as obsolete as gas-guzzling cars.
The future is here. In the first weeks of 2014, the most popular lightbulb sizes — 40 and 60 watt bulbs we use in table lamps — are history. This follows the 100-watt incandescent bulb phase out that began in 2012, followed by 75 watt bulbs last year. While existing stock can still be sold, no new ones will be manufactured or imported.
I never thought I’d say this, but I won’t miss them.
This week I spent less than $100 on soft white (3000K) LED (light emitting diode) bulbs to convert every lamp in the house, including the Chinoiserie emperor in our bedroom [top]. LEDs have excellent color quality and provide brighter light than incandescent bulbs. While the cost is about $10 each, I should not need to replace a bulb for eight to ten years.
The LED bulbs are said to reduce energy usage by up to 80 percent. An added benefit is that they remain cool enough to touch even after they are on for several hours whereas Edison (incandescent) bulbs use about 90 percent of their energy producing heat rather than light according to the Center of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies. The result is less wear to delicate silk and paper lamp shades and reduced stress on lamp wiring and switches.
My attention to light bulbs began five years ago when I wrote my first post on Making Sense of Lightbulb Color. At the time I was testing compact fluorescent bulbs which were woefully dim, turned paint colors muddy, and had a green cast (part of their color spectrum) that I find hideous. I compared the various temperatures from soft white to daylight but hated the way they made the house look and returned most of them to the store. In that initial post I concluded that “Undoubtedly, over the next five years new lighting technology will fill the gap left as incandescent bulbs exit and compact fluorescent color is tweaked.” While this prediction came true it is LED (light emitting diode) bulb technology that has put fluorescents in the rear-view mirror and now offers the best solution.
Lowe’s has become my go-to source for bulbs. I found excellent LED flood lamps for my ceiling fixtures by Utilitech, their house brand, detailed in a second post: Making Sense of LED Light Bulbs. I quickly found the 40-watt and 60-watt replacement bulbs I needed for most of my lamps.
However, I tried a 25-watt replacement bulb (same size) in the small thrift-shop ginger jar lamp that sits on the ledge of the TV room bookcase. That lamp goes on at dusk and is turned off when we go to bed so it sees heavy use. The 25-watt replacement LED surprised me by providing better light than the 40-watt incandescent bulb it replaced.
I don’t know if the LED bulbs will last 25,000 hours, as advertised, so it’s difficult to gauge how long it will take for them to pay for themselves though savings on our energy bill. Like many other new things we encounter during this technological and economic transition, that’s unclear. So for now, I’m content being able to find bulbs that provide the clear bright light I like, have good aesthetic quality and at least help optimize energy use in my home.