How to pick the right lightbulb How to pick the right lightbulb

How to pick the right lightbulb

Unraveling the mysteries of modern lighting for your home


Jeff DeSart and Amy Sadler know a lot about energy efficiency. In this Q&A, the Duke Energy regional products and services managers offer tips on choosing the right lightbulbs for your home.

We heard a lot about the phase-out of incandescent lightbulbs legislation years ago. What’s the latest?

Amy: Though commonly referred to as a “phase-out,” that federal legislation, called the Energy Independence and Security Act, only sets a minimum efficiency rating for lights. The act is now in full effect, but customers still have many lighting options to choose from.  

Interestingly, some traditional incandescent bulbs are still on retailers’ shelves. Some others are exempt from the act, like “rough service” (bulbs that can take rough treatment) and three-way bulbs. They’re still manufactured and widely available.

With so many lightbulbs to choose from, what’s the best way to select the right one?

Amy: All bulbs have a Lighting Facts label on the packaging, which helps immensely when comparing options. Look for the bulb shape you need, like candle, globe, A-line or reflector. Then find the lumen output, or the amount of light a bulb produces, that you need. The option that provides the right amount of light using the least amount of energy – measured in watts – is the most efficient option for you.

The Lighting Facts label will also tell you how much the bulb will cost you in a year. The bulb’s yearly operating cost is as important to consider as its price.

We all know compact fluorescent bulbs, known as CFLs, are more energy- efficient than incandescent bulbs. But, aesthetically, these bulbs have left a lot to be desired. Have manufacturers perfected the color and shape in recent years?

Amy: Yes! CFLs have improved greatly in the past few years. They come in a variety of color temperatures, from warm to cool, and have much quicker startup times. There are also covered options if you don’t like to see the twist or spiral shape.

Though manufacturers have reduced the amount of mercury in the bulbs, it’s still critical to recycle all CFLs. All The Home Depot and Lowe’s Home Improvement stores offer free recycling to their customers. You’ll see a freestanding kiosk at the front of the store for collection.

Save on bulbs

Find out more about energy-efficient lighting and the company’s lightbulb offers at the link below. Please note the Duke Energy Savings Store is unavailable to customers in Florida and those served by Duke Energy Progress in the Carolinas. Bulb offers and discounts vary by state.


How much money can the average customer save by switching to energy-efficient lighting, such as CFLs and LED (light-emitting diode) lighting?

Jeff: The savings depend on lots of factors, like how many bulbs you use and what bulb types you replace them with. Let’s look at the standard for efficiency, the 13-watt CFL spiral bulb. While providing similar lumens to a 60-watt incandescent bulb, the CFL saves 47 watts per hour over the 60-watt incandescent. That’s significant. 

OK, bear with me for the math. People use bulbs about three hours a day, on average. So multiply three hours by 365 days. That’s 1,095 hours per year. Now multiply that by the 47 watts per hour of the bulb and you get 51,465 watts per year, or 51 kilowatts per year.

At a rate of 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, you can save about $5 per year per bulb. A home typically has between 35 and 60 light sockets. On the low end, that translates into about $175 per year in savings. Also, keep in mind that a 13-watt CFL lasts about 10,000 hours while the incandescent lasts about 1,000 hours.

So, you save the equivalent cost of buying 35 incandescent bulbs plus the $47 of energy cost savings over the life of one bulb.

Will LEDs overtake CFLs as the standard for energy efficiency?

Jeff: Most definitely, we’re already seeing LEDs take over the market. In fact, my models predict that we won’t have any CFLs on the Duke Energy Savings Store (Duke’s online lightbulb store for customers in some service areas) by 2017. Up until mid-2014, LED sales only made up 6 percent of total sales. But we saw that prices were coming down drastically and predicted that would change in 2015. Last year, LEDs made up 78 percent of our sales. This tells you just how dramatically LEDs are taking over the energy-efficient bulb market. And with recent improvements, LEDs feel more like natural light than fluorescent lighting.


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