LEDs are one of the biggest energy improvements you can make to your home. If your reading this, I’m going to assume you already know your going to save money, so we are going to focus on which LED to buy. Make sure you understand what you are getting; color, energy usage, CRI and life are some of the key items to consider. Remember you are no longer buying a disposal light bulb, a good bulb will now be in your home for 20+ years and pay for itself many times over during that life span.
We are fortunate that there are many styles and brands of bulbs to pick from, but with the life of LEDs we want to pick the right bulb for the application the first time. Energy Auditors are a great source of information regarding choices for LEDs and how to get your best value. I consider the “special priced” bulbs from the big box stores only suitable for covered fixtures with no dimmers. These ‘special priced” bulbs typically use more watts per lumens, give lower quality light (CRI ~ 80) and have shorter lives. For exposed bulbs, dimmer applications or difficult installs, considered getting outside help. Quality bulbs have a huge impact on the energy use and appearance of your home. You’ve likely put a lot of effort to make your home beautiful, don’t ruin it with bad light!
Why are LEDs so great for homes in the South? It is all about the heat! A traditional 100 watt bulb makes about 5 watts of light and 95 watts of heat. Just think about the Easy Bake Oven! A high quality 100 watt equivalent LED bulb uses 15 watts of electricity, still making 5 watts of light, but only 10 watts of heat. When you start multiplying this out by all of the bulbs in your home, you can see that your A/C has a lot of work to do to get that heat out of the house.
Lighting Facts Labels
There are two Lighting Facts programs designed to create a common set of measurements, and to standardize how they are displayed, in order to make it as easy as possible to compare products. The labels are designed to be simple to understand and are similar to the Nutrition Facts labels currently found on many food items.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) program
This applies to all bulbs with a medium screw base, which is the base type used for the majority of household lighting. After January 1st, 2012, this label will be mandatory on all applicable products sold in the U.S. This label will replace the DOE label on all LED bulbs with a medium base.
The FTC labeling will be found in three places: On the front of the packaging, a lumen or ìbrightnessî listing and estimated yearly energy cost will be required. On the back of the packaging, information on brightness, estimated yearly cost, wattage, light appearance, life expectancy, and whether or not the bulb contains mercury will be required. On the bulb itself, the lumen output and a disclaimer on mercury-containing bulbs will be required as well.
The Department of Energy (DOE) program
This applies to all LED products, regardless of base type. It is a voluntary program, manufacturers are encouraged to participate but it is not required. It is primarily directed to retail buyers, utilities, and lighting professionals, but the label contains information that is useful to consumers as well.
The DOE labeling is found primarily on the back of bulb packaging. The label includes information on light output (in lumens), wattage, lumens per watt (also known as efficacy), color accuracy (also known as Color Rendering Index), and a light color listing. Notably missing from the DOE label is a life expectancy listing. Because there is not yet an established standard to measure life expectancy for LEDs, DOE has decided not to include it on their Lighting Facts label.
Light Output (Lumens) Measures light output. The Higher the number, the more light emitted.
Watts Measures energy required to light the product. The lower the wattage, the less energy used. This is what you are paying for to use the bulb.
Efficacy (Lumens per Watt) Measures the efficiency. The higher the number, the more efficient the product. Energy Star requires a higher Efficacy, look for the logo on the box.
Color Rendering Index (CRI) Measures Color Accuracy. A fluorescent bulb is typically 60-70, older or low-end LEDs are ~ 80, better LEDs are 90+ and most incandescent bulbs are 95-100.
Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) Measures light color in degrees Kelvin. We typically recommend 3000K indoors and 4000K outdoors for residential and 4000K indoors and 5000K outdoors for commercial.