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No one really thinks about light bulbs until they burn out and you are sitting in the dark. This is seriously unfortunate since light sources require a significant amount of energy to run and can end up costing a lot of money. For example, this article in Carolina Country focuses on the best long term investments for light bulbs.

One of the most common light bulbs is a 60 watt incandescent bulb that generates almost more heat than light and has an expected lifespan of less than a year assuming 3 hours of use per day. After President George W. Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act in 2007, companies began to develop much more efficient bulbs in order to meet new federal standards. This eventually led to the widespread adoption of the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) and light emitting diode (LED) bulbs.

A CFL bulb produces light when an electric current travels through mercury gas and argon, creates ultraviolet light, and excites a coating on the inside of the bulb. An LED bulb, on the other hand, emits light when an electric current is sent through a semiconductor. Either way, both of these methods are much less energy intensive than sending a current through a filament in an incandescent bulb.

Since these relatively newer technologies use less energy, one might expect that everyone will have replaced every fixture in their homes and businesses with either a CFL or LED bulb. In reality, such substitutions are not this simple. Similar to other energy efficient technologies, the new bulbs are more expensive up front and the savings are realized in the future. The following table about bulb costs by factoring in bulb price and electricity rates (assuming a $0.124/kWh charge) demonstrates this idea.

Light Bulb Costs
Bulb type 1 year 5 years 10 years
Incandescent $6.84 $35.19 $69.39
CFL $6.39 $13.99 $27.99
LED $10.76 $15.92 $22.37

borrowed from Alan C. Shedd and Carolina Country

As you can see, the LED and the CFL bulbs are significantly cheaper than the incandescent bulbs over a period as short as 5 years.

This, however, does not mean that you should instantly replace every incandescent bulb you can find. As long as the bulb is still working properly, there is no need to dispose of it. This would just be wasteful. Once the incandescent bulb runs out on its own, then you can choose your next appropriate bulb.


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