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New labels illuminate light bulb choices


Roger Meissen
Senior Information Specialist
University of Missouri Cooperative Media Group
Phone: 573-884-8696

Photo available for this release:

New mandatory information labels for light bulbs can help consumers compare products.

Description: New information labels for lightbulbs

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010

Story source:

Marsha Alexander, 816-482-5850

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – All light bulbs are not created equal, but with a little understanding homeowners can choose the right ones to improve the quality of light in their homes while saving money.

“Today the average household spends about 11 percent of their utility bill on lighting,” said Marsha Alexander, a University of Missouri Extension housing and environmental design specialist for Jackson County. “Using new lighting options can allow homeowners to reduce lighting budgets by 25, 50 or even 75 percent.”

But picking the right bulb can be confusing.

With choices ranging from incandescents to high-efficiency compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs), consumers need to know more than just the wattage of the bulb they plan to replace.

A new mandatory labeling system that goes into effect in 2011 should simplify the process of choosing among different types of bulbs. These labels will clearly identify the brightness in terms of lumens, the color temperature on the Kelvin scale and energy usage in watts of each bulb.

The new labels will become even more important as the U.S. begins phasing out incandescent light bulbs in 2012.

Alexander recommends newer compact fluorescents to get the best light for your buck.

“Today, CFL bulbs’ color rendition can be very similar to what many have become accustomed to with their incandescent bulbs,” she said. “The lower the Kelvin, the warmer the light. To get a similar color to an incandescent, look for a bulb labeled between 2,700 and 3,000 K.”

Lumens – a measurement of brightness – is also important. A bulb with a higher lumen number will put out more light. To make sure the bulb isn’t an energy hog, consumers should look for a bulb with high lumens but low wattage. That often is indicated with an Energy Star label on packages.

“When the Energy Star label is present, a bulb will save 30 percent more energy (than an average CFL bulb) over the life of that bulb,” Alexander said. “CFLs produce 75 percent less heat than an incandescent bulb and will last six to 12 times longer.”

That longevity adds up to savings.

When Alexander compared two similarly priced bulbs for floor lamps, the CFL produced almost twice the light and saved $10 per year for just one bulb.

The U.S. Department of Energy agrees that CFLs pay off for the consumer. Its calculations show that while 25-watt CFLs cost about $3 more per bulb than incandescents, they last an average of 10 times longer than a 100-watt incandescent of similar brightness and save about $105 over a 4.5 year lifespan.

When you consider savings on utility bills, that could mean consumers who make the switch for their whole house will find themselves with more money in their pockets sooner, Alexander said.

“If you would put one compact fluorescent in each room of your house, just think about the savings,” she said.

A PDF file of sample labels is available at