Sept. 1 was a landmark day for energy-efficiency in the EU, as a new law requires retailers to stop ordering incandescent light bulbs. The bulbs are being phased out until 2012, with stores selling compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and halogen bulbs instead.
In the U.S., incandescent bulbs will be phased out by 2014 under the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007. Nothing will be mandated until 2012, although in many areas, energy companies are offering incentives such as mail-in rebates to switch to CFLs.
One of the issues involved in switching from incandescent bulbs to a more energy-efficient model is the upfront cost. CFLs can cost up to 10 times more than an incandescent bulb, and the even more energy-efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs) can cost up to $50 for a single bulb. However, the cost difference is typically negated both in energy bill savings and longevity of the bulb.
So far, cost of the bulbs does not seem to be a deterrent. According to Time Magazine, Google recently purchased 25,000 LED bulbs from Lemnis Lighting, and Lemnis has sold 3 million bulbs in Europe alone. The company began selling them online to U.S. customers in August 2009.
A recent Consumer Reports study found that buying the more expensive types of CFL bulbs may not be necessary. The study tested 24 different bulbs and found that, at even $1.50 per bulb, can “outshine pricier versions while using far less energy and lasting far longer than incandescent bulbs, saving about $56 over the life of each CFL.”
Regardless of which brand of CFL you choose, it’s important to remember that each bulb contains a trace amount of mercury. This means that, unlike incandescents, they need to be recycled when the bulb burns out.