Most of you have probably heard that the business of lighting your house is changing in the U.S. Federal standards are coming into play that require greening up your bulbs, and as a result, the standard incandescent bulb most of us grew up with is going to fade out. So to speak. In the U.S., this starts with 100 watters in 2012, and ends with the 40w in 2014.
Psst. Hey, Mister! Want to buy a light bulb? How about a standard-sized toilet?
Already there are retailers who aren't carrying the old-style bulbs–my local Costco is one.
Probably you have seen or have installed some of the compact fluorescent bulbs. The are spiral loopy things that use mercury, screw into a standard incandescent socket, and offer the same wattage but use less power to deliver it.
Then there are the new LED bulbs. These use diodes, which have been around a long time, but have now been amped up to produce more light, and use even less power.
Halogens are in there, too.
Each has advantages and disadvantages:
Incandescents (I's) are cheap. They come on instantly. They produce various colors of light, you can get them in crisp or soft versions, and the basic model's yellow glow is what most of us my age have lived with since we were born. The current basic model lasts for about 1000 hours burn-time.
I think I must have had Tommy Edison's originals in my reading lamp, right after we stopped using candles.
The CF's cost more, but last from seven to ten times as long, and draw less power. They can also be gotten in different tones, from yellow to white. The disadvantages are that they don't come on instantly. There is sometimes a hesitation of a half second that is disconcerting. Switch goes up, and ... then the light comes on. Some of them do wink on immediately, but only at a quarter brighteness. Over the next fifteen or twenty seconds, they come up to full brightness. And they seem to be affected by temperature. Colder it is, the slower they are. And you aren't supposed to chuck them into the trash, because they have mercury in them, they need to be recycled properly.
Halogens are bright, but spendy, and they get really hot.
The LEDs are the newest kids on the block. They come on instantly, can be had in different tones, and don't need to be handled specially when they burn out. They last twenty-five to fifty times as long as standard I's. What does that mean? Well, if you stick one in your reading lamp and spend three hours a day or so using it, it might last anywhere from twenty-three to forty-five years, depending on the wattage.
I'll say that one again: twenty-three to forty-five years.
Fans of my work might remember the Kookaburra Beacon from the Matador books ...
Of course, the catch here is that they cost a fortune, and probably will take four or five years to earn out. They won't last that long in a fixture you use more often
Still, last time I was at Home Depot, I saw these, and I had to get one. Nearly twenty-five bucks a pop, so I won't be replacing all the bulbs in my house unless I win the lottery. (And wouldn't that make a nice police report? Anything missing, Mr. Perry? Why is it so dark in here?
If all the lamps in my house were LEDs, that would amount to grand theft light bulb ...)
So I bought just the one, an EcoSmart A-19.
The specs are: 850 lumens of "warm white" light, using 13-watts of energy, instant on, dimmable, Energy Star compliant.
It works so that I can't tell the difference between it and what was there before. I bought another one for my wife's lamp. And that's it for the light bulb budget this year.
The price will be coming down–there's a Chinese version already that runs fifteen bucks, and the Indians are working on one that will undoubtedly drop that even more. At some point, it could be viable to use them everywhere, and wouldn't that be a living-here-in-the-future moment? Your light bulb might outlive you ...