All the buzz lately is about the looming phase-out of the incandescent lightbulb that was invented more than 100 years ago. It's a bulb so inefficient that most of its energy heats its surroundings rather than illuminating them. So in 2007, President George W. Bush enacted the Energy Independence and National Security Act that requires lightbulbs to be 25 percent more energy efficient by January 2012. That means goodbye to energy-draining lightbulbs and hello to more efficient and ultimately cost-effective options. The question now is, do you know which type of energy-efficient bulb is best for you? Do your part to know the pros and cons of each before you buy.
Halogen: Many manufacturers are producing eco-labeled halogen bulbs that meet or exceed the new energy efficiency standards. These bulbs are generally shaped like traditional incandescent bulbs but last about 25 percent longer. They can be used in a variety of fixtures including ones with dimmers. However, they do give off a lot of heat and can be a fire hazard in certain freestanding floor lamps that are easily tipped over.
Fluorescent: Fluorescent lighting is a common energy-efficient option but it has limitations. It's most effective in an office setting because the bulbs are designed to be left on for long periods of time, don't need to be replaced frequently and give off very little heat. The compact fluorescent light bulb, above right, for use at home, has similar benefits. However, the bulbs can burn out prematurely if you use them in a light that's turned on and off a lot and for short periods of time. You also need to make sure that the CFL you choose is labeled for specific uses such as with a timer or motion sensor or in a three-way, dimmable or recessed fixture.
All fluorescent bulbs, including CFLs, also contain a small amount of mercury and should never be tossed in the trash. Find a qualified recycler when you're done with it.
LED: Light Emitting Diode bulbs, right, are one of the most energy-efficient choices. They're 75 percent more efficient than incandescent bulbs and last 25 times longer. A new LED bulb in your newborn's nursery could still be shining brightly when your baby is heading to college. LED bulbs work with dimmers, recessed light fixtures, timers and motion sensors. They are the more expensive, but prices are dropping as demand grows. I recently bought a standard 40-watt equivalent LED bulb that uses just 10 watts of power for less than $10 on sale.