It’s time to change 3,698,622,000 light bulbs

Ok, maybe you had a bad experience with a compact fluorescent once. But does that mean you’ll never be happy without Edison’s glowing incandescent bulb? With all due respect to Thomas Alva, it’s time to move on from a bulb that creates 90% heat and only 10% light.

Lighting creates 1,900 million tons of carbon pollution each year. That seems like a lot. But as of 2010, the U.S. alone had about 8.2 billion light sockets in homes, buildings, streetlights, stoplights, stadiums and more—and 3,698,622,000 were incandescent.

Can we please have efficient lighting that is bright and steady, fits our fixtures, and is aesthetically pleasing? Yes, we can.

  • Thank you, ENERGY STAR®, for labels that tell us what we need to know about today’s compact fluorescents (CFLs) and LEDs.
  • Thank you, Energy Trust of Oregon, for a shopping guide and interactive “lighting wheel” to help you choose the best bulb for your needs.

A smart shopper should know what “kelvin” gives a pleasing color of light, and what “lumens” will ensure that a bulb is bright enough. See more from the Federal Trade Commission

Does it really make a dent in energy savings and climate action to change out light bulbs? Yes, because efficient technology could turn lighting into 4% of the world’s energy use, compared to the 20% it is today.

Are you the only one switching out old bulbs? Not by a long shot. Canada, Europe, Australia and the U.S. have all set standards for more efficient lighting. The Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore are both lit with LEDs.

So: which is the best overall for the planet—CFLs or LEDs? In 2012-2013, the US Department of Energy measured the impacts of materials, manufacture, transport, energy use and disposal. At the time, CFLs and LEDs came out about the same. But the report also noted that LEDs will be by far the best bet by 2017, once innovators solve the problem of the need for a big, metal heat sink.

For die-hard Edison fans, there’s even a filament-style use of LEDs in the works.

No doubt, change can be hard. One survey in 2013 suggested that 30% of Americans are likely to hoard incandescent bulbs as they become obsolete. Just remember that when you choose efficiency, you’re not in it alone. Sign the Climate Pledge with Renew Oregon, and you’ll be part of building a clean energy future in Oregon, the state we love.

But all this lightbulb talk does beg the question: How many of these obsolete technologies do you recognize?

4 Replies to "It’s time to change 3,698,622,000 light bulbs"

  • Phillip Norman
    July 31, 2015 (6:10 am)

    Let us please emphasize bulb holder luminaire replacement with very simple LED downlights directly wired. Screw-socket lamps are more ancient and decrepit than the monster CRT screens that disappeared in a flash.

    A downlight, fully directional downward with maximum beam angle, gives twice the task illumination of LED bulbs oddly made as point source. Point source lighting is for decoration as with candles. A point source light is half as efficient as light directly projected from flat diodes at same lumens.

    • Jen Coleman
      August 4, 2015 (6:43 pm)

      Thanks for the tip, Phillip! Good advice for the more electrically-inclined homeowner for certain.

  • Barb
    July 31, 2015 (7:30 pm)

    I have not had great luck with longevity of the fluorescent bulbs.

    • Jen Coleman
      August 4, 2015 (6:47 pm)

      Barb, I have to admit I’ve had the same experience…and it’s no fun to try to remember the rules for proper disposal of those compact fluorescents. That’s why I’m hopeful that the new Energy Star labels will help folks sort out the good bulbs from the bad. Also, I know it’s a lot of money to spend on new technology that is supposed to pay off, but hasn’t proven its mettle. The good news is that Energy Trust of Oregon is making some LEDs more affordable with some discounts. See more here: