The Evolution of the Efficiency of the Light Bulb

On January 1, 2014, the classic 60-watt incandescent light bulb was banned in the United States forever.

Along with the U.S., governments across the world have developed and passed measures to phase out incandescent light bulbs in favor of more energy-efficient lighting alternatives. Led originally by Brazil and Venezuela in 2005, these phase-out regulations have effectively banned the manufacturing, importation and sale of incandescent light bulbs for lighting purposes. The regulations will only allow future incandescent bulbs to be sold if they meet specific energy efficiency criteria.

The classic light bulb was abolished in an effort to transition the U.S. to new and more efficient lighting technologies-known as light-emitting diodes (LEDs)-for the benefit of nationwide energy savings.

Following the incandescent bulb ban, compact fluorescent light bulbs and LEDs became the most popular alternatives. CFLs are the size of a standard bulb but have spindly, spiraling fluorescent tubes in place of filament. For their time, fluorescent light bulbs were a big step forward in terms of efficiency; however, nowadays LEDs surpass CFLs across all categories.

The chart below sheds some light on the evolution of the efficiency of the light bulb.

Incandescents vs. CFLs vs. LEDs

Adapted from: comp chart.html

While prices on LED bulbs can vary widely from state to state, most coming to market these days are approximately $10. While this may sound expensive, LEDs make up the difference through energy cost savings and longevity.

As you can see, LEDs can last over six times longer than CFLs-with a calculated life span of 23 years if the bulb is on three hours per day-and the annual operating cost of an LED is less than half of that of a CFL. Since the lighting in our homes accounts for about one-quarter of our electricity bills, LEDs are the best way to save yourself some money in the long run.

Major cities across the country are receiving LED lighting upgrades and experiencing the economic and environmental benefits. As prices continue to fall, the adoptions and applications of LEDs are seemingly limitless.

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