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A bright idea for Earth Day: Switch to energy-saving lightbulbs

A bright idea for Earth Day: Switch to energy-saving lightbulbs

Here’s a small thing you can do today to help save the earth—change a lightbulb. If every household in the nation replaced just one lightbulb with a bulb that meets Energy Star standards, enough energy would be saved to light 3 million homes for a year, saving about $600 million in annual energy costs and and preventing 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. CFLs use 75 percent less energy than an incandescent lightbulb and LEDs use even less than that. And as Consumer Reports found in its tests of energy-efficient lightbulbs, there are lots of cost-saving choices for every fixture in your house.

Of course, not every energy-saving lightbulb can be used in every fixture. In fact, incorrect use of an energy-saving bulb can affect its performance and shorten its life. Before buying a replacement bulb, check the package for proper use. Here are some tips on how to choose the right bulb for the fixtures in your home.

Lamps and ceiling fixtures. Make sure the bulb can be used in a fully enclosed fixture, if that’s what you have. If the lightbulb will be exposed, as in a table lamp, consider covered CFLs if you don’t like the spiral look, but those bulbs take longer to warm up.
Recessed or track lights. The interior color of the recessed can or track head affects brightness. Shiny metal and white interiors reflect light. Black absorbs some light, so you might want more lumens to compensate.
Outdoors. The colder the temperature the longer it will take for CFLs to brighten up. LEDs aren’t affected by the cold.
Vintage fixtures. Light fixtures are designed to handle a bulb that uses a certain wattage. Because a CFL uses far fewer watts than a standard incandescent bulb while providing the same amount of light, you can replace a 60-watt incandescent with a 13- to 15-watt CFL without worrying about overheating the fixture.
Dimmers. Not all lightbulbs will work with dimmers so check the package to make sure bulbs are dimmable.
Three-way. Only bulbs marked 3-way will work in these fixtures.

In our tests of lightbulbs to replace 60-watt incandescents, the most common type, two LED’s and three CFLs made out list of top lightbulb picks. The EcoSmart A19 60W bright white 400674 dimmable LED sold at Home Depot scored 99 points (out of 100) followed by the Philips AmbientLED 12.5W 12E26A60 60W 409904 with 98 points. Both scored excellent marks on every task in our tests.

The three best 60-watt replacement CFLs in our tests include the GE Energy Smart SAF-T-GARD 60W 78961,the EcoSmart 60Watt Soft White 423-599 ES5M8144 sold at Home Depot, which we named a CR Best Buy, and the Feit Electric ECObulb Plus 60W ESL13T/4/ECO. All were excellent on our brightness test, among others.

If you’re looking for another size or type of lightbulb check the results of our tests of replacements for 40-, 75- and 100-watt bulbs as well as lightbulbs for flood/reflector and porch/post lights.

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