A guide to selecting among new types of light bulbs

  • Article by: STACY CHANDLER , News & Observer
  • Updated: March 17, 2013 - 2:48 PM

How to choose the best bulbs to replace incandescents.

Buying a light bulb used to be easy. And it used to be something you did several times a year.

But now, “a lot of people are starting to look at light bulbs as an investment,” says Jaclyn Pardini, a spokeswoman for Lowe’s Home Improvement stores.

The incandescent bulbs in wide use ever since Thomas Edison received a patent for his version in 1880 are being phased out. A federal law passed in 2007 ends incandescent manufacturing and importing in the United States by the end of 2014, though stores will be allowed to keep them on shelves until they’re sold out.

In their place are more energy-efficient replacements that come in a dizzying array of hues and shapes.

You’ll want to choose carefully. Those CFLs might be with you for the next nine years or so. And if you spring for an LED bulb, you’re really in it for the long haul.

“From the time a child enters kindergarten to the time that they graduate from college, that bulb will still work,” says Pardini of LEDs.

So as those last incandescents flicker out in your lamps and light fixtures, how do you decide what will replace them? Read on:


Cost: (one bulb) Less than $1; (to run for one year): $7.32

Life: 1,000 hours

Pros: It’s the warm, soft light you grew up with.

Cons: A hot-blooded energy hog. Federal law is phasing them out after 2014.


Cost: (one bulb) $2-$3; (to run for one year): $5.18

Life: 1,000-3,000 hours

Pros: The closest still-legal thing to the soft glow of an incandescent light. They’re now “the designer’s choice in bulbs,” says Pardini, of Lowe’s.

Cons: You’re not gaining much in life span or efficiency over incandescents.

CFL (compact fluorescent lamp)

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