As the landscape of bulbs available at your local hardware store or from your supplier continues to shift and settle, it’s worth taking another look at how to compare the options and find the best fit for your needs. The three general choices remain incandescent bulbs, CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps), and LEDs (light emitting diodes). We’ve discussed lumens in the past – the measure of how much illumination is generated from a bulb – and how that standard can be used as a benchmark to compare disparate bulb types. Why is more prominent lumen labeling required, however?
The answer lies in the measure that most of us are used to choosing our bulbs by: wattage. Since LEDs and CFLs operate much more efficiently than incandescent bulbs and halogens, less wattage is necessary to generate the same amount of light, or lumens. A very general rule of thumb is to multiple CFL watts by four to match up with a traditional incandescent, and to multiply LED watts by six or seven. So, a 17 watt CFL and a 13 watt LED will generate about the same amount of light as a 75 watt incandescent.
As you might guess, this lower energy usage translates to lower energy bills. The double-upside of CFLs and LEDs? They last much longer than incandescents – ten times as long for CFLs, and up to fifty times as long for LEDs. These factors offset the higher upfront costs of the newer bulbs by producing long-term savings. With the advances in warmth and light color, especially in LEDs, the benefits of these new options are becoming more and more illuminated.