We live in a time when there are better ways of making absolutely every consumer choice—from toothpaste and food to sheets and face products—which can make basic buying decisions a little confusing. But it's not so easy for some of us to say "Damned if you do, damned if you don't" and then blindly buy whatever: These decisions matter, even if they take a little extra work, which is why I was excited to see a new piece about ... light bulbs. Really!
I currently have three burnt-out incandescents in my studio apartment and I have been putting off buying new ones because I couldn't decide what to get. Brian Howard, an editor at the Daily Green and the co-author of the brand new book Green Lighting, offered some tips in a Q&A, here. Here are the things you need to know:
1. CFLs, the bulbs that look like cork screws, are not the same as LEDs, which have been used in small devices like alarm clocks for some time, and are becoming increasingly common in bulb form for your home (like the one pictured).
2. A good quality LED light bulb should you cost at least $20—anything less and you are probably getting duped. CFLs, meanwhile, go for about $3 or $4 a pop.
3. CFLs aren't as bad and buzzy and unflattering as they used to be.
4. If you rent your place and pay your own utilities, the bulbs pay themselves off in about a year if you use your lights a lot. For homeowners, this is obviously advisable as well.
5. Look for bulbs with Energy Star labels on them. They will have two-year warranties, run silently (no awful buzzing), work for at last 6,000 hours, be low in mercury, and emit a quality stream of light.
6. CFLs are about 75 percent more efficient than regular, incandescent bulbs, and LEDs are 90 percent more efficient.
7. Starting in 2011, the FTC will require new labeling not unlike food labels. These will tell you about brightness, energy efficiency, and how long a bulb will last, making it much easier to compare.