How to Choose the Best CFL and LED Bulbs

PSE&G EnergE Link
How to Choose the Best CFL and LED Bulbs
Key Points
The latest generation of CFL and LED bulbs are a more energy-efficient and marketable alternative.
A recent study found that CFLs have a faster payback period than LED bulbs.
When purchasing bulbs, check the packaging for performance information and select ENERGY STAR rated products.
Today, there is a variety of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) on the market; and thanks to recent
improvements, many of the problems consumers once experienced with earlier CFL and LED products have been eliminated. As a
result, the CFLs and LEDs on the market today are more energy efficient and last longer than traditional incandescent light bulbs.
A recent independent study tested 30 different CFL and LED lamps designed for indoor and outdoor use. Because of their popularity,
60-watt equivalent CFLs and LEDs were studied. The most notable difference between the two is that CFLs can save money faster
because of their lower purchase price. In fact, it takes less than one year to recover the purchase price of a CFL; compared to four to
ten years for an LED (depending upon the purchase price).
More importantly, CFLs now contain 60% to 75% less mercury than CFLs produced in 2008—less than 1/100th of the amount found in a
mercury thermometer, according to the U.S. EPA; these lower levels do not affect performance, however. Even at these lower levels, it
is important to recycle CFLs and handle them properly if they are broken. To learn more about proper clean-up and disposal of broken
CFLs, refer to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The study of LEDs revealed that some did not live up to their expectations. While the LED lamps were as bright as incandescent bulbs,
half of those tested did not meet the brightness claims made by the manufacturer. The most positive characteristic of LEDs is that they
reach their full brightness instantly when turned on, even in frigid temperatures. Moreover, they provide a long-rated life that is
unaffected by frequent on and off use, and every LED tested matched or exceeded the manufacturer’s energy use claims. Typical
manufacturer claims regarding the life expectancy of LEDs range from 20,000 to 50,000 hours. The test group found that only four of
the LEDs stopped working, while the remainder continued to burn bright after 3,000 hours.
Lighting Terminology
It is helpful to understand lighting terminology when selecting CFL and LED replacement lamps.
Lumens—measure brightness or the total amount of visible light from the bulb/lamp, while watts only measure energy use.
Therefore, if looking to replace a 40-watt incandescent bulb, check the packaging to ensure that the new bulb has at least 450
lumens, 800 lumens for a 60-watt bulb, 1,100 lumens for a 75-watt bulb, and 1,600 lumens for a 100-watt bulb.
Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) in Kelvins (K)—measures the warmth or coolness of the light color. A standard
incandescent bulb produces a warm, yellow light with a temperature of about 2,700 K. Halogen bulbs emit a white light with a
temperature range of 3,000 K to 4,100 K. Natural light or daylight equivalent bulbs have a temperature range of 5,000 K to
6,500 K and emit a blue tone, which may not be suitable for use indoors. When choosing a light by color, it is better to refer to
Kelvins as opposed to manufacturer terms such as soft white or warm white.
Color Rendering Index (CRI)—measures the color rendering of a lamp, which is the ability of a light source to reproduce
colors compared to being illuminated by natural light. The range of the CRI is 0 to 100 with 100 being the equivalent of sunlight.
In the study, the majority of CFLs and LEDs measured in the low 80s with a few reaching the upper 80s and low 90s. A CRI of 80
is recommended for interior light; however, it should be noted that a five-point difference in CRI levels is insignificant and may
not be noticeable to the human eye.
Look for Accredited Products
Be sure to read the packages of the products you purchase. Lighting Facts labels are provided on all bulb packaging to show the lumen
output, energy use, estimated energy costs, life expectancy, and mercury content. The Lighting Facts labels require products to
be tested according to standards set by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA). ENERGY STAR qualified CFL and
LED lamps meet high standards for color, brightness, and energy use; they also place restrictions on the mercury content of CFLs.
PSE&G EnergE Link has been prepared solely for the purpose of providing helpful information to users of this service. The information has been compiled by
Questline, a contractor to PSE&G; however, no representation is made by either Questline or PSE&G as to the completeness or accuracy of the information
contained therein. In particular, some information may be incomplete, may contain errors or may be out of date. In addition, neither Questline nor PSE&G
endorses any product or service mentioned therein.