This Energy Smart ® 9-watt LED bulb distributes light like a 40-watt incandescent but will save you 77 percent on energy costs. The bulb, available later this year or early 2011, is expected to last for 17 years based on its 25,000-hour rated life and four hours of use per day.
Standard home light bulbs are moving to the 21st century with new standards and technology designed to help you save money, shrink your carbon footprint and reduce the need for energy nationwide.
By 2014, 100-watt, 75-watt, 60-watt and 40-watt light bulbs must produce the same amount of light, measured in lumens, while using 30 percent less energy. It's part of the energy Independence and Security Act passed by Congress in 2007 to reduce national energy use.
The design of the basic incandescent bulb (called a lamp in the industry) has changed little since Thomas Edison's invention of the bulb in 1879. Incandescent bulbs are made of glass, filled with an inert gas—usually argon—and contain a filament suspended between two poles. When electrons along the filament heat up, light is created.
These inefficient bulbs convert only 10 percent of the electricity used into visible light with the remaining 90 percent released as heat, according to the Department of Energy's Energy Star program. A standard 100-watt incandescent light bulb produces 17.5 lumens per watt and lasts 750 hours.
New light bulb technology, available now and in development, leaps past the 20th century and into the new millennium with bulbs that will save you money because they're more energy efficient and last longer.
New requirements don't actually ban incandescent light bulbs, but rather require them to meet the new efficiency standards, says Joe Howley, manager of industry relations and environmental marketing for GE. "The old technology that dates back some hundred years can not meet the new efficiency levels," Howley says. "Therefore, more advanced technology must be brought to the market."
The Timeline The new standards require light bulbs to produce the same amount of light using 30 percent less energy. By 2012, 100-watt incandescent light bulbs must meet the standard. By 2013, 75-watt bulbs must meet the requirement. By 2014, 60-watt and 40-watt bulbs must meet that standard. By 2020, the Department of Energy is expected to set even higher efficiency limits, GE predicts. By 2012 three types of light bulb – halogens, CFLs and LEDs -- will be more widely available for home and commercial use, Howley says. Some are available now. "We're seeing a lot of changes in these products and they're happening every month or so," says Terry McGowan, director of engineering and technology for the American Lighting Association. McGowan says, "What I'm seeing recently is very different from what I saw six months ago. Manufacturers are jumping over themselves getting these new products out there."
Halogens Offer a Better Incandescent In the next few years, the new standards will see halogen lights replace standard incandescent bulbs. Halogens are a slightly more efficient incandescent light bulb — converting 11-12 percent of the electricity used into visible light, McGowan says. Compared to the 17.5 lumens of a standard incandescent, a halogen bulb produces 18 to 20 lumens per watt "Halogens are a better way to make an incandescent lamp," McGowan says. "It's a tweaking of the incandescent technology that squeezes out a little more light for every watt."
Standard incandescent bulbs are encased in glass, but halogen bulbs generate too much heat — enough to break the glass. Instead, halogen bulbs are encased in quartz. Halogen lights get their name from the trace of halogen gas that is added to the inert gas inside. The filaments in halogen lights last longer than those in standard incandescent lights.
These bulbs are up to 30 percent more efficient, as the standard requires, while producing the same light as an old-style incandescent, Howley says. For example, a 100-watt incandescent bulb could be replaced with a 72-watt halogen bulb.
Why choose a halogen? For the color quality, McGowan says. "There are plenty of people who don't like the (still) bluish cast of CFLs," he says. "(Current) LED color quality is not as good as incandescent, not even as good as CFLs in my view."