Switching out standard incandescent light bulbs for an energy-saving alternative is an easy way to save money and help the environment. Both compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) will lower electricity bills, require fewer bulb replacements and reduce carbon emissions. With every energy efficient option though, it is always best to weigh the pros and cons to determine the best choice.
Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs)
- According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), CFLs use 75% less energy, produce 75% less heat and last up to ten times longer than the average incandescent bulb.
- They save users more than $40 in electricity costs over the span of the light bulb's lifetime (two to three years).
- Bulbs are available at most retailers, including supermarkets and drug stores.
- They are relatively inexpensive, averaging around $4.00 a bulb for commercial brands and even less for generic store brands.
- One bulb can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by hundreds of pounds.
- In a recent five-year study by the Program for the Evaluation and Analysis of Residential Lighting (PEARL), data showed that some CFLs dimmed over a short period of time.
- CFLs contain about 4 to 5 mg of toxic mercury, which can be harmful to humans and the environment if bulbs are not disposed of properly.
- Depending on the type of bulb, CFLs require a warm-up period between one minute to three minutes before they achieve full brightness.
Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
- LEDs last up to 50,000 hours, which is eight times longer than CFLs.
- They contain no hazardous materials.
- The bulbs create less heat during use, which can lead to lower cooling costs.
- Over the course of its lifespan, one LED will prevent approximately a half ton of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere.
- The DOE estimates that lighting accounts for 20% of electricity use in the average home. LEDs can decrease that to amount to 5%, which can result in huge savings in individual energy bills.
- LEDs are more expensive, with bulbs averaging from $10 to $30.
- At the present time, they are not widely sold, making it more difficult to find replacements.
While there are downsides to both alternatives, if used properly they are still a major improvement over incandescent bulbs.
Pittsburgh offers many convenient places to recycle CFL’s, including drop-off points at all Home Depot and IKEA locations. LEDs may cost more, but those who can afford them will find that the option is actually cheaper in the long run. Most LEDs will last up to 15 years, but when they’ve expired they can go with the regular garbage or be recycled. With responsible usage, either one is a small step toward lower energy costs and environmental protection.