Enlightenment: The PMI Guide to Energy Efficient Light Bulbs

evolution of lighting, with candle, tungsten, fluorescent and LED bulb


The last of the common incandescent light bulbs are going dark, by virtue of the government’s mandate that companies cease making them as of January 1. Household staples 40- and 60-watt bulbs are no longer being manufactured in accordance with the Energy Independence and Security Act. You may recall that 100- and 75-watt incandescent bulbs were shelved in the past couple of years.

But apartment communities have a couple of options for keeping the lights burning bright. Energy efficient Halogen, Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL), and Light-Emitting Diodes (LED) light bulbs are expected to carry the load once inventories of incandescent bulbs are exhausted from store shelves.

Better technology of CFLs, LEDs and Halogens has not only improved energy efficiencies but some have replicated the desirable warmth that the long-lived incandescent bulbs have been known for since their invention in the early 1900s. The warm light offered a cozy, relaxed feeling that made a house a home.

But new energy efficiency standards doomed the light bulbs, which converted only five percent of the energy they use to produce visible light while nearly 90 percent of the energy released is heat.

Today’s higher energy efficiency standards opened the door for other types of bulbs which are gaining popularity. Here’s a quick look at the different types of bulbs that will make incandescent lights a dark memory:

LEDs Lead in Savings and Growing Popularity

Today, one out of every three light bulbs purchased is a CFL or LED bulb, according to one Big Box retailer. Advancement in technology and uses in other applications other than living room lamps has enabled LEDs to more than double in popularity over the past year. They are being used in televisions, computer and car headlights. They are also good for commercial and industrial use, and work well in under-cabinet lighting in kitchens and recessed lighting. Multifamily has used them for parking lots, path and hallways, basketball courts, offices, swimming pools and other areas.

EnergyStar says that certified light bulbs last 10-25 times longer and save about $6 per year in electricity costs, and up to $135 over its lifetime. Over the long term, that can add up to substantial savings, when installed properly.

The Energy.Gov website says that by 2027 widespread use of LEDs could save about 348 terawatts (TWh) of electricity. The site estimates that the savings is equivalent to the “annual electrical output of 44 large electric power plants (1000 megawatts each), and a total savings of more than $30 billion at today’s electricity prices.”

CFL Light Bulbs Getting Better

Those squiggly-looking CFLs are popular replacements and have changed dramatically with recent technological improvements. The bulbs offer better light output and turn on faster when the switch is flipped. The mercury content of the bulbs has been reduced to about that of a household thermometer, so they are not considered as dangerous. The bulbs are easily recyclable.

While CFLs need a little more energy when they are first turned on, they use about 75 percent less than incandescent bulbs once the electricity starts to flow. They will take a little longer to become fully lit but offer a wide range of color these days.

Halogens Glowing Well with 25% more Efficiency

Halogen lights, which are incandescent but use a small amount of halogen (such as iodine or bromine) are also proving to be a viable option, one that energy expert Dan Gaddis of RealPage believes will glow well into the future.

“The replacement for the old incandescent isn’t always going to be CFLs or LEDs,” says Gaddis, who is Director of Sustainability and Energy Management. “It’s going to be a new incandescent, halogen in some cases. They are about 25 percent more efficient than the old incandescent lights. Their downside is that they produce a cooler or bluer light that is not optimal for all situations. They are going to be somewhat comparable to CFLs, although I think the general population will accept them where bright, crisp light or accuracy of color is required.”

Gaddis says that those interested in that warm old incandescent friend may wish to try some of the newer CFLs to mimic the glow of light they may use in their homes.

Like the T-12 fluorescent light bulbs which went by the wayside a few years ago, incandescent lights are moving over to a new generation of energy efficient lights. It’s a sign of the times.

The good news is that there are plenty of energy-efficient options for keeping the lights on.


(Image source: Shutterstock)



Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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