The variety of different light bulbs sold in stores today can be challenging for a consumer when a replacement bulb is needed.  Do you go for the traditional incandescent bulbs or something more efficient like a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) or light-emitting diode (LED)?

We at Virginia Energy Sense (VES), the Commonwealth’s energy education program, are tasked with raising awareness among our citizens about easy ways to save energy to help Virginia meet its goal of reducing electric energy consumption 10 percent below 2006 levels by 2022. We can help you make an informed decision when it comes to choosing the right light bulb for your home and needs.

In the past, we replaced our traditional 60-watt incandescent bulbs with more incandescent bulbs.  But those bulbs were wasteful with 90 percent of the energy given off as heat.  And they did not last very long.  Depending on usage, the traditional incandescent bulb would last between 1,000 and 1,200 hours.

Now there many lighting choices for your home that provide the same amount of light for less money and they last much longer.  In the average home, about five percent of the energy budget is used for lighting.  Switching to energy-efficient bulbs is one of the easiest and quickest ways to cut your energy bills.  Replacing five of your home’s most frequently used incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs could save you $75 a year in energy costs.

In a side-by-side comparison, traditional incandescent bulbs are cheaper per bulb than other types. One incandescent bulb costs around $1, as opposed to roughly $2 for a CFL and $4 for an LED.  But before you go for the cheaper bulb, consider this: a CFL bulb uses about one-fourth the energy and lasts 10,000 hours.  A typical CFL pays for itself in energy savings in less than nine months.  The LED bulb uses less than one-fourth of the energy of incandescent bulbs and lasts up to 25,000 hours!

The U.S Department of Energy has calculated that the annual energy cost of a 60-watt traditional incandescent bulb is $4.80.  A 15-watt CFL produces the same amount of light and has an annual energy cost of $1.20.  A 12-watt LED has an annual energy cost of $1.00.

With so many lighting choices, be sure to read the labels on the packages of bulbs.  Look for information on the brightness, the light color, energy use, estimated energy costs and expected life.  Compare the lumens to be sure you are getting the amount of light, or level of brightness, you want.  The more lumens the brighter the bulb.   For reference, around 800 lumens are the amount of light produced by a traditional 60-watt incandescent bulb.

And you can save even more money on your energy bill by using controls such as timers and photocells that turn lights off when not in use.  Dimmers save electricity when used to lower light levels.  Make sure you select lighting controls that are compatible with the energy-efficient bulbs that you want to use.

You can visit to learn more about the importance of swapping out old incandescent bulbs for more efficient ones, as the energy and cost savings over time will benefit both your wallet and the environment.

Andy Farmer is the manager of Virginia Energy Sense, the Commonwealth’s statewide energy education program under the guidance of the State Corporation Commission.

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Get your students energized about responsible energy use! In partnership with the Virginia Department of Education, we’ve created fun, multi-day, Lesson plans to help you teach your students how to understand and conserve energy! They’re classroom-ready and free to use!