Step-by-Step Guide to Buying the Right Light Bulb – AARP

April 16, 2022 by No Comments

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If you’ve ever gone to a big-box hardware store to get a light bulb, you may have glanced down the vast length of the lighting aisle and decided that it’s not such a bad thing to go to bed at dusk and wake up at dawn. 

But don’t be intimidated by the hundreds of choices you have among the rows and rows of light bulbs. Technology has changed bulbs for the better: They last far longer than they used to, they can produce different intensities of light, and some can even be turned on and off by a cellphone, motion or the sunrise. Finding the right one just takes getting used to a few criteria old bulbs didn’t offer. Buying the wrong one can mean yet another trip to the store — or, worse, a set of bulbs you can’t use.

Types of light bulbs

Not so very long ago, if you wanted a light bulb, you bought an incandescent bulb, the kind Thomas Edison created for commercial consumption. You can still buy old-school incandescent light bulbs, which have a filament whose brightness depends on the amount of power running through it. But now you have other choices:

  • Light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs were once the most expensive choice, but their prices have fallen significantly. You can get some off-brand LEDs with the equivalent brightness of a 60-watt incandescent for $1 or less; name-brand bulbs typically sell for more. LEDs can last about 25,000 hours, compared with about 750 hours for incandescent bulbs.
  • Compact fluorescent lights (CFL), those twisty fluorescent bulbs, are also more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs. They can last about 8,000 hours and cost about $2 to $3 apiece. Because they contain small amounts of mercury, CFLs will need to be recycled. Some stores, such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, will recycle CFLs for free.
  • Halogen lights are very bright bulbs that are typically used for lighting small areas, such as kitchen counters. They tend to last about 2,500 hours, and burn even hotter than incandescent bulbs, so wait for one to cool off before you touch it.

The amount you pay for a single bulb, however, is just part of the cost. You also need to take into account how often you’ll need to replace the bulbs and how much power you’ll use to run the light. According to the Consumer Federation of America, over 10 years the total cost — that’s the cost of the bulb and the power to run it — of using a 60-watt incandescent bulb would add up to about $70. (That cost also includes buying several replacement incandescent bulbs over the decade.) A CFL costs about $20 over the same span of time, and an LED costs an average of $13.70. The average house has more than 20 light bulbs, meaning that switching to LEDs from incandescents could save you about $1,100 over the 10 years, or a bit more …….



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