SMECO newsletter

volume 66 - issue 3 - March 2016

Choose the right light for you

Lighting Facts label

Buying an incandescent bulb used to be straight forward. If your light fixture was rated for a 60-watt (W) bulb, you bought a 60W or less incandescent bulb. The introduction of compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) made understanding which type of light to buy more of a challenge. As of January 1, 2012, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) required manufacturers to use a new Lighting Facts label on packaging for medium screw base light bulbs. The label looks similar to familiar food nutrition labels and helps consumers make the most efficient lighting choice for their needs.

Traditional incandescent bulbs are being phased out of the market place, leaving consumers to choose between halogen incandescent lights, CFLs, and LEDs.

Halogen incandescent lights work in a similar way to traditional incandescent lights, which means they produce light by heating a filament of tungsten metal until it's hot. In traditional bulbs, that filament would slowly vaporize, growing smaller until the light burned out. The halogen version is filled with a special gas that causes the vaporized tungsten to be redeposited on the filament. The halogen incandescent will burn longer and hotter than traditional incandescent bulbs, but they are not much more efficient because of the heat they produce.

CFLs use 75 percent less electricity than traditional bulbs and also put off much less heat, which makes them a more efficient choice.

LEDs emit light in a specific direction. According to ENERGY STAR®, direct lighting applications like LED lights provide many advantages compared to incandescent bulbs, such as reduced energy use, energy cost savings, and less frequent bulb replacements. LEDs tend to be slightly more expensive than CFLs but have a longer life span, making the LED a very efficient choice.

To purchase the right light for your needs, it's important to check the labels.

Light is measured in lumens, which is the amount of light produced per watt. The amount of watts it takes to produce the same amount of lumens helps you gauge the light's luminous efficiency. Looking at the chart below, it takes an LED only five watts to produce the same amount of lumens as a standard 40W incandescent bulb.

Making small changes to the lighting used in your home can save energy and save money. SMECO customer-members can also receive instant savings on LEDs and CFLs at participating retailers. For a full list, visit

Understanding the types of lights

Understanding the correlation between a light's brightness and its energy efficiency can be confusing. This chart breaks down the lumens, watts, and standard cost per year of the four typical types of lights.

Least efficient:

Less efficient:
New Halogen

More efficient:
Most efficient:
450 lumens 40 watts
$5.34 per year
29 watts
$3.87 per year
10 watts
$1.34 per year
5 watts
$.67 per year
800 lumens 60 watts
$8.02 per year
43 watts
$5.74 per year
13 watts
$1.74 per year
10 watts
$1.34 per year
1100 lumens 75 watts
$10.02 per year
53 watts
$7.08 per year
16 watts
$2.14 per year
15 watts
$2.00 per year
1600 lumens 100 watts
$13.36 per year
72 watts
$9.62 per year
20 watts
$2.67 per year
19 watts
$2.54 per year
(limited availability)
  Typical life = 1 year* Typical life = 1 to 2 years Typical life = 10 years Typical life = 15 to 25+ years
*rated life based on three hours of use per day
. Source: National Resources Defense Council