Get Enlightened about Lighting


Energy-efficient lighting choices lower utility bills and lessen the burden on nonrenewable energy sources. Trends indicate that incandescents are being phased out so being prepared with knowledge about alternatives that save energy, save money in the long run, and have exceptional light quality is a "bright" idea.

Light-emitting diodes (LED) and compact fluorescent lights (CFL) have revolutionized energy-efficient lighting. CFLs are simply miniature versions of full-sized fluorescents. They screw into standard lamp sockets and give off light that looks similar to the common incandescent bulbs—not like the fluorescent lighting we associate with factories and schools.

CFLs are an excellent source of cost- and energy-efficient lighting; however, they are not always the best choice for all lighting applications. They exhibit shorter lifespans because of heat and too-frequent on/off cycling. They are best used in locations where they will be left on for steady periods without being turned on and off, but should not be used with photocell or dimmer controls, and can be affected cold or damp environments. Another concern about CFLs is they contain an average of 5 mg of mercury. This is only about one-fifth of that found in the average watch battery, and less than 1/100th of the mercury found in an amalgam dental filling, and poses no threat while in the bulb; nevertheless, if you break one, you need to dispose of carefully. If you are looking for a safe and proper way to dispose of your CFL bulbs, click here for information and local drop-off locations.  

LED lighting is a rapidly evolving technology that uses semiconductors to convert electricity into visible light. LEDs differ from other light sources in that they emit light in a specific direction, instead of in all directions, making them not only efficient, but also well suited for downlighting applications. When first developed, LEDs were limited to single-bulb use in applications such as instrument panels, electronics, pen lights and, more recently, strings of indoor and outdoor Christmas lights.
LEDs consist of diode chips made of semiconducting material, encased within an epoxy, plastic, resin, or ceramic housing and attached to the electrical circuit. Early diodes were available in a limited range of colors, but continued development has led to the LED range extending across the visible light spectrum into both ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths.
With these continued improvements in brightness, bulb life, color quality, and the range of shapes and sizes, LEDs are now a practical, energy-efficient, and cost-efficient lighting source. Home improvement store Lowe's studied electricity costs of an LED vs. an incandescent bulb and found that LEDs use less power (watts): $30 over the bulb's 22-year lifespan versus $165 for an incandescent bulb (or bulbs) over that same period. 

These energy-efficient bulbs cost more than incandescent bulbs but they also last much longer: LEDs provide an estimated 50,000 hours per bulb, compared to incandescent bulbs’ average of 1,200 hours. When selecting an LED light bulb, there are many things to consider, such as desired brightness, warm or cool light, standard or dimmable lights. You will also want to learn something about lumens, as lumens are replacing watts as the measure of brightness. LED lights have a variety of advantages over other light sources, including:

  • High levels of brightness and intensity
  • High-efficiency
  • Low-voltage and current requirements
  • Low radiated heat
  • High reliability (resistant to shock and vibration)
  • No UV Rays
  • Long source life
  • Mercury free
  • Can be easily controlled and programmed
In the search for energy-efficient lighting, LEDs have proven to be the most efficient bulbs available. Energy Star-rated LEDs use at least 75 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and last 25 times longer, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. LEDs even outdo CFL bulbs in efficiency, primarily because they have twice the lifespan of CFLs. LEDs are more efficient than both incandescents and CFLs because they emit light in a targeted direction and do not require or emit great amounts of heat, which can reduce cooling loads. 

The biggest issue for consumers when purchasing LEDs is the upfront cost. Depending upon the size and brand of the bulb, LEDs can cost two to six times the price of CFLs. When replacing bulbs for multiple lighting fixtures, the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on bulbs deters many potential customers. However, you need to also consider the reduced maintenance costs that can result from using longer life LEDs, especially if the location of lamps aren't easily accessible. Also, the type of fixture enclosure should be considered prior to choosing an LED replacement, as LED’s require proper heat dispersion to maintain life.The good news is LED production is not only improving but increasing, which will mean greater affordability for consumers in the near future. 

Special thanks to Eartheasy for providing much of the information included in this article. Their website is a great resource for all your lighting questions.

Check out the resources below for more information, and consider joining us on March 20 for our workshop that will shine the light on new ways to save energy. 

Thursday, March 20, 6:30-8 pm, Napa
Shine the Light on New Ways to Save Energy

LED lights have the “wow” factor. But they’re expensive. Compact fluorescents have mercury in them. Incandescent bulbs are disappearing. And what about halogens? Questions abound about payback, light quality, and product reliability. Attend this free workshop and get enlightened! Click here for more information and to register now.

Learn about LEDs

LEDs, or light–emitting diodes, are semiconductor devices that produce visible light when an electrical current is passed through them. LEDs are a type of solid state lighting (SSL), as are organic light–emitting diodes (OLEDs) and light–emitting polymers (LEPs).

LED Lighting Facts® 

LED Lighting Facts® is a program of the U.S. Department of Energy that showcases LED products for general illumination from manufacturers who commit to testing products and reporting performance results according to industry standards.

LED Rebates

LED technology is beginning to surpass the quality and efficiency of existing lighting technologies—but not all LED lighting is created equal. That is why PG&E and other California utility companies are working to create programs that offer rebates for pre-qualified LED lamps and fixtures that meet stringent performance specifications such as those validated by third-party ENERGY STAR testing.

Choosing an LED

Many different models and styles of LED bulbs are emerging in today's marketplace. When choosing a bulb, you need to consider a number of issues including warm or cool, standard base or pin base, standard or dimmable. 

Lighting Made Easy

Even with all the new lighting choices, saving money on your electricity bill is still simple: Look for the Energy Star for energy savings. No matter the technology or the performance claims, only bulbs with the Energy Star label meet strict guidelines for efficiency and performance that set them apart. The infographic at this link makes energy-efficiency lighting easy to understand.

LED Light Bulb Comparison Charts

We are starting to replace incandescent bulbs with LEDs, but the “sticker shock” of the new LEDs remains a deterrent to their widespread acceptance by consumers. The comparison charts at this link illustrate the value of the latest LED bulbs when compared with CFLs and incandescents for overall efficiency as well as cost-effectiveness.

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