Are You Among the 60% of Americans Who Don’t Know Incandescents History?

We originally did this post a few weeks back, but just found out that 60% of Americans are unaware that 40 and 60 watt bulbs will, like 75 and 100 or great incandescent bulbs become part of history once the New Year comes.


Also: we want to fix an “Oops” in our original post where we stated the ban was for 75 and 100 watt bulbs. (Like many of you we still have some in our closet since the funding to implement the 2012 ban on those bulbs was delayed and many were available long after January 1, 2012. Not this time: the funding is there and it will be enforced in a timely manner. This post summarizes the pros and cons of different bulbs most people will choose from.

Along with summarizing the pros and cons of the alternatives most people will use for residential use (indoors and outside), we want to point out 3 things that many people don’t know. What we see on the news or read in papers is not always accurate.

Well meaning: yes. But accurate: no.  And there’s some other things you’ll have to get used to.

  • If you use fixtures with dimmers: be very careful since most LED and CFL bulbs will “Burn Out” when a dimmer is used. This isn’t true for ALL dimmers, but it is for most. The fixture will work, but test the cheapest LED or CFL you can find before using your dimmers.
  • We hear LEDs are the answer in most newscasts. It’s just not true. LEDs are expensive, so while they may be great for certain areas (like ceiling lights) but for table or floor lamps? Probably not the best choice for clumsy folks, or those with active kids and/or pets.
  • Many LEDs are not designed well. LEDs don’t glow like other bulbs. They need special design so that they cast illumination in a meaningful way.
  • Halogen bulbs do provide the light most like incandescent bulbs but should be used very carefully. One of the reasons the light looks the most like that from incandescent bulbs is that a significant portion of energy used to power the bulb also creates head. And the heat is not only much hotter than incandescent bulbs, it’s hot enough to burn hands, fish, plants, lampshades and curtains if you aren’t careful about where you place them. (Especially if you are one of the many people who often forget to turn lights off.)  The heat of halogen means they can melt pond equipment and means that halogens really should not be used in areas (like sheds, barns, garages, or workshops) where flammable materials (hay to gasoline) are stored.
How LEDs are very different from other light bulbs.LEDs Work Very Differently than Other Bulbs

Difference Between Illumination of Good vs. Fair/Poor LED Light Bulb

If you are going to shell out money for LEDs thinking you will save money in electricity costs, you’re right. But if you think ALL LEDs are equal, you’re not. There are a lot of lousy LEDs out there. (We know because we were going to sell them but our rep told us to wait until the “new and improved LEDs” arrived.)

Good LEDs shed good illumination, lousy ones light very limited area

Basic Alternatives: Halogens, CFLs and LEDs

Few people were aware in 2012 when 75 and 100 versions became hard to find that the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 has set these bans into effect. It had nothing to do with the present administration. It’s not political: it’s because incandescent bulbs are antiquated technology. this in place.

By 2020, the goal is for China (who manufacturers 90 percent of the worlds light bulbs) to cease manufacturing of all incandescent bulbs.  Most people will choose from one of the following three technologies:

  • Halogen
  • Compact Florescent Light Bulbs (CFLs)
  • Light Emitting Diodes (LED)

Will more types be available down the road? Probably but not soon. High pressure sodium light bulbs used for street lights for example, just aren’t cost-effective for home use.

Table: Summary of Pros and Cons

Each of the three primary lights available for residential use indoors and outside are discussed in far more details below. Here’s a summary table based on our educated opinion, research and personal experience.  The summary is followed by more detailed discussions of the various light types. (For a detailed discussion of the three different bulb types, read our original post “Lights out for Incandescent Bulbs.”)

Type of Bulb Pros Cons
Halogen Light Bulbs
  • Easily provide the “brightest” light
  • Most similar to color of incandescents – familiarity
  • Longer life than all incandescents and many CFLs (though CFLs and Halogens vary greatly by type and manufacturer in terms of life span)
  • More efficient than incandescents
  • Used properly, are often the best choice for exterior flood lights powered by electricity
  • Cost less than quality LEDs
  • More good quality, safer halogens are available today but you do have to pay the money to get the better ones
  • Use far more power than CFLs or LEDs
  • Halogen lights create significant heat, more heat than incandescents, LEDs or CFLs
  • Power (electricity, batteries or solar) is used to create heat not light
  • Must be replaced far more often than LEDs when used for exterior lighting
  • Great care must be used when placing Halogens lights so that the heat does not create a fire hazard or damage plants, animals or garden decorations or equipment (particularly for ponds and water gardens)
  • Halogens should not be used in sheds, garages, barns or other areas where flammable materials are stored
Compact Florescents (CFLs)
  • Easiest to buy and most affordable
  • Most use far less electricity than most Halogens and certainly far less than any incandescents
  • Low up front cost
  • Manufacturers have spent much time adapting florescent technology in anticipation of the ban on incandescents
  • CFLs are proven technology and have been used as alternatives to incandescents in other countries for many years
  • Lots of options, lots of wattages and easy to find for many different types of sockets
  • CFLs should not get hot to the touch and most generate little if any measurable heat
  • Do not generally work well with fixtures with dimmers. Many, but not all, dimmers will fry the CFL when the dimmer is used
  • They can be used in dimmer fixtures – just don’t use the dimmer function
  • Cheaper CFLs often flicker and can buzz, which can cause sever headaches
  • Most CFLs do not turn on at full power immediately when the switch is flipped, though this is improving
  • CFLs do not work well in extreme cold or warm environments
  • In general, CFLs have shorter life spans than Halogens (though improvements continue
  • CFL technology is pretty much maxed out — it likely will not any better, though creative minds will continually develop different shaped CFLs for more purposes
Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
  • LEDs use far less energy than any alternative on the market and cost far less to operate than any alternative
  • LEDs have extremely long life spans
  • Many newer LEDs being sold right now have “estimated life spans” of 30,000 to 80,000 hours because the ones being tested have lasted for years without burning out
  • Quality LEDs provide far better light quality than in the past
  • LED technology is where much of the investments for new types, color and styles of bulbs go
  • Manufacturers are addressing concerns regarding color and more and more “warmer” LED lights are becoming available
  • LEDs will continually improve
  • LEDs are more difficult to break than other types of bulbs
  • LEDs, like CFLs, often don’t work with dimmers. Some dimmers are fine but many will fry the LED bulb
  • LEDs cost far more to purchase than any other type of light bulb
  • LEDs are more “durable” but if you drop a light bulb, it will break and that is risky for some applications (such as lamps that could tip or be hit by objects)
  • LEDs work like laser beams — without proper technology, the illumination is limited
  • Many LED light bulbs do not have the proper reflection and refraction technology to cast light effectively
  • With the popularity of quality LEDs soaring, there are many inferior knock-offs being sold with poor illumination capabilities
  • Lumen measurements are not always accurate because of the way LEDs work. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose
  • Given the cost, you need to research the lights or buy from someone you trust
  • You get what you pay for and there is a significant quantity of lousy LEDs on the market today
  • Buyer Beware!

While all three have come a long way, all three are very different technologies. They work differently, have different lifespans, use different amounts of electricity (or solar power), and have far different price tags.

Copyright 2013,,  All rights reserved. This post may not be used in part or in whole without the express written consent of one of the above.

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