With all of the lighting choices available to us, it's easy to get confused over which option to choose. We all want a light bulb that illuminates our home, produces light that's a pleasing color and, hopefully, is affordable. Fortunately, with all of the buzz surrounding green building, lighting manufacturers are focused on creating products that are as efficient as possible. This efficiency translates into less energy being used, resulting in lower utility bills for homeowners.
One of the most popular choices for budget-conscious homeowner is the halogen bulb. While incandescent bulbs can be used on dimmer switches, an important feature for many homeowners, halogen bulbs are smaller and brighter. And fluorescent light bulbs don't synch up to dimmers at all. Halogen bulbs are also up to four times more efficient than incandescent bulbs, meaning that you can enjoy the same amount of light at a fraction of the price.
To understand how this is possible, we must first look at how a light bulb works. A typical incandescent bulb contains a tungsten filament. Electricity passes through the filament, heating it to such high temperatures that it glows, providing the light we see when we flip our light switches. Because the filament gets so hot, however, bits of tungsten are constantly falling off as it works. Eventually, the filament is so thin that it breaks, leading to a burned out bulb.
With halogen bulbs, the filament is encased in halogen gases. When the tungsten bits fall off during operation, the halogen gases help return them to the filament. This keeps the filament strong, leading to fewer burnouts and longer-lasting bulbs.
Because of their compact size, bright light output and overall efficiency, halogen bulbs are popular in many applications where good lighting is vital. They're used widely by hospitals to provide powerful lights in operating rooms and inside equipment. They're being used increasingly in the auto industry as well because they allow drivers to see better while driving at night and they don't need to be replaced as often.
In the home, switching to halogen bulbs may not only produce better lighting results, but may help homeowners save money while doing their part to protect the environment. To learn more about why halogen bulbs are an earth-friendly choice, read on to the next section.
Halogen Bulbs and the Environment
These days, it's hard to get through a day without hearing about green building, sustainability or the environment. With the ever-escalating cost of utility bills, home lighting is one of the issues at the forefront of the green building movement. After all, it can't be too hard to improve upon the incandescent light bulb, which was invented more than 100 years ago!
While the earliest green trends in the lighting industry leaned toward compact fluorescent bulbs, many people found them impractical to use in the home. They produce light that some consider to be more dim and less desirable than that of incandescent bulbs, and they aren't compatible with most dimmable light fixtures. Because they contain mercury, disposal and safety are also major concerns.
Because of these limitations, homeowners are turning instead to halogen bulbs. Not only can halogen lights be used in more practical applications, such as on dimmer switches, but they're free of mercury and are comparably efficient to compact fluorescents. Halogens can be expected to last between 2,000 and 4,000 hours, compared to 750 to 1,500 hours of use with the traditional incandescent bulb [source: Energy Star].This longer lifespan means less waste going to landfills, fewer bulbs being produced and less energy used in production.
In addition to having a longer lifespan, halogen bulbs also are considered more efficient than incandescent bulbs. Lighting power or output is measured in lumens, while the electrical power used to run these lights is measured in watts. To compare lighting efficiency, we look at the lumens produced per watt used. While incandescent bulbs produce 12 to 18 lumens per watt, halogen bulbs can produce 16 to 29 lumens per watt. This is due to the fact that the halogen gas in the bulb brings it to a higher temperature, allowing the filament to burn brighter than that of a traditional bulb [source: Energy Star].
By reducing waste and producing more efficient bulbs, we're able to not only reduce our impact on the environment but also reduce our lighting costs. To see how much money you can save with halogen bulbs, read on to the next section.
Saving Money with Halogen Bulbs
According to the California Energy Commission, lighting accounts for 25 percent of our utility costs in the home [source: California Energy Commission]. By decreasing these costs, we can make a significant impact on our utility bills. Let's take a look at how trading our old incandescent bulbs for halogen bulbs can help us save money.
We'll start with a standard 100-watt incandescent bulb. If the lamp is used for 12 hours a day, 365 days per year, it will be lit for 4,380 hours each year. In the United States, homeowners pay an average of $.1099 for each kilowatt hour of electricity used [source: Energy Information Association]. In our example, the cost to run this lamp can be computed as 100 watts/1000 kilowatts x 4,380 hours x $.1099 = $48.14 per year.
Compare this to the cost for a halogen bulb. As we discussed earlier, halogen bulbs produce more lumens (lighting power) per watt, and thus, a 75-watt halogen bulb would be equally as bright as our 100-watt incandescent. Therefore, the annual cost of a halogen bulb under the same scenario would equate to 75 watts/1000 kilowatts x 4,380 hours x $.1099 = $36.10 [source: Rocky Mountain Institute].
Simply looking at operating costs, halogen lights can save us $12.04 per bulb each year when compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. Of course, we must also take into account upfront cost and replacement rates. In 2009, the average cost of an incandescent bulb was $1.00, and it had a life expectancy of 1,000 hours. Halogen bulbs, on the other hand, cost around $5.00 [source: Rocky Mountain Institute] and are expected to last 3,000 hours on average. Using our example above, we would need to spend $5 on five incandescent bulbs, or $10 on two halogens to get us through out 4,380 hours of lighting needs.
Using these numbers, our total cost for buying bulbs and paying utility bills for lighting would amount to $53.14 per year for each incandescent bulb in the home, or $46.10 using halogen bulbs, which equals a savings of $7.04 per year. Assuming a home had 10 light bulbs, we could save $70.40 each year by switching to halogen bulbs. At the same time, we'd use about 25 percent less electricity and throw about 30 fewer bulbs into landfills.
To learn more about saving money by making your home more green, head to the next section. It'll be like a light bulb went off over your head.
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- California Energy Commission. Lighting Efficiency. July 1, 2008. March 31, 2009. http://www.energy.ca.gov/efficiency/lighting/
- Energy Information Administration. Average Retail Price of Electricity to End Users by State. March 24, 2009. March 31, 2009. http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table5_6_a.html
- Energy Star. Lighting Technologies: A Guide to Energy Efficient Illumination. August 28, 2007. March 31, 2009. http://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/promotions/change_light/downloads/Fact%20Sheet_Lighting%20Technologies.pdf
- Rocky Mountain Institute. Lighting. 2009. March 30, 2009. http://www.northern.org/artman/publish/lighting.pdf