Energy-Efficient Lighting

Light bulbs

Energy-Efficient Lighting: Why and How


End of an era
Thomas Edison changed the world when he introduced us to the incandescent light bulb. Since then, technology has continued to improve at an ever-accelerating pace, while the light bulb has essentially remained the same. That's about to change. New U.S. government regulations require that the most common types of bulbs consume significantly less energy than the traditional incandescent bulbs we're accustomed to.

Phasing out old-fashioned light bulbs

You may have noticed that traditional 100-watt bulbs have become scarce. That's because, under the new regulations, they're no longer manufactured in or imported to the U.S. as of January 1, 2012. Traditional 75-watt bulbs will be phased out as of January 1, 2013, followed by traditional 60-watt and 40-watt bulbs on January 1, 2014. (Certain types of specialty bulbs, including 3-way bulbs, appliance bulbs, blacklights and colored decorative bulbs, are exempt from the new regulations.)


Did you know that 90% of the electricity used by a traditional light bulb is converted to heat, not light? Since lighting accounts for 10% to 20% of the typical household electrical budget, that's a lot of wasted energy and money. Obsolete incandescent bulbs will give way to a variety of new options that will save you money while still providing the quality illumination you expect. In fact, under the fully implemented standards, American households are expected to save nearly $6 billion in 2015 alone.

Why make the change now?

You can still buy some standard incandescent bulbs for the next couple of years. But there's really no reason to wait to reap the benefits of more efficient lighting. Upgrading 15 traditional bulbs in your home could save you as much as $50 in electricity the first year. And since they boast a longer lifespan, your savings will continue.

How to shop for energy-efficient bulbs

Think lumens, not watts

When replacing your existing incandescent bulbs with any of the new energy-efficient varieties, there are a few things to keep in mind. Think of light bulbs in terms of the amount of light they produce (measured in lumens, or "lu") rather than the power they consume (in watts, or "W"). Here are some baseline comparisons.

To replace a traditional incandescent bulb of... ... look for a halogen, CFL or LED that outputs about
100 watts  1600 lumens
75 watts  1100 lumens
60 watts  800 lumens
40 watts  450 lumens

These correlations are approximate and depend to some degree on factors not taken into account, such as the tint of the incandescent bulb(s) in question (for example, a "soft white" bulb will deliver fewer lumens than a "daylight" bulb).

Select your color temperature
With so many options available, you'll be able to achieve the mood you want in any room. The key is color temperature, a measurement (expressed in Kelvins) of the tint a bulb produces. For a warmer tint (rich in reds and yellows), look for a bulb with a Kelvin rating in the low range, between 2700K and 3000K. Higher Kelvin ratings indicate that the bulb produces more light in the blue range of the spectrum, yielding a progressively cooler tint. A bulb rated between 5500K and 6500K will emit light similar to that produced by a typical fluorescent tube. By selecting bulbs in between the extremes, you can create a range of different tones and moods.

Other things to know
As with any traditional light bulb, it's important to be sure the new bulbs are safe and appropriate. Don't forget the basics: Match the size, shape and socket thread of the bulbs you're replacing, and always ensure that the replacement bulbs don't exceed the wattage rating of your fixture.

Information on this page is derived from the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). More information is available at

  • LED light-emitting diode

    Light bulbThese are the same LEDs that are commonly used for displays and indicator lights in cars, appliances and electronic devices. LED technology has a number of advantages over other types of lighting.
    • 80% to 85% energy savings vs. traditional incandescent bulbs
    • Up to 100,000-hour lifespan (100 times more than standard incandescents)
    • Solid state (no moving parts) improves reliability
    • Small size allows multiple configurations and styles for different lighting needs
    • Produce no UV light and contain no glass, filament or mercury
    • 100% dimmable with no hum or buzz
    LEDs are currently the most expensive option, but increased availability and developments in the technology will bring down the price over time. LED's dramatic energy savings and long service life will pay for itself many times over. Unlike other kinds of bulbs, LED lamps do not typically "burn out." Rather, they gradually grow dimmer over time. So, lifespan ratings for LED bulbs are based on the hours of use expected before the bulb dims to 75% of its initial brightness.

  • CFL compact fluorescent lamp

    Light bulbCFL bulbs are essentially the fluorescent tubes you've seen in offices for years, curled up into a more compact shape for home use. Many people still associate CFLs with a cool bluish tint, but CFL bulbs are now available in a wide range of color options, including the yellow "soft white" that many prefer for interior lighting.
    • About 75% energy savings vs. traditional incandescent bulbs
    • Last 10,000 hours (ten times as long as incandescents)
    • Wide range of styles, colors and common socket threads
    • Relatively low cost, only slightly higher than traditional bulbs; cost is quickly absorbed by short- and long-term energy savings
    • ENERGY STAR® qualified
    • Dimmable versions are available, so be sure to check specs carefully
    • CFL bulbs do contain a small amount of mercury and must be responsibly recycled when retired.

  • Halogen energy-saving incandescent

    Light bulbLike traditional incandescent bulbs, halogen bulbs use a filament, excited by electricity, to produce light. Halogen bulbs use a smaller filament that is sealed in a glass capsule filled with halogen gas. This type of bulb produces a brighter, whiter light than comparable standard incandescent technology.
    • About 25% energy savings vs. traditional incandescent bulbs
    • Last two to three times as long as incandescents
    • Wide range of shapes and color temperatures available
    • Contain no mercury