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Energy-efficient alternatives to the 100-watt light bulb

December 5, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
At the beginning of this year, California became the first state to begin phasing out regular incandescent 100-watt light bulbs. The rest of the nation will follow suit this January, and the old 100-watt bulbs will no longer be imported or produced.

Even though the newer replacement bulbs cost more, over time, they could save you a bundle. The incandescent 100-watt light bulbs are cheap, but they're energy wasters.

Consumer Reports tested replacement options - CFLs and halogens, as well as a combination halogen-CFL bulb from GE. That bulb had trouble in the rapid-cycle test, where the light is turned on and off every two minutes.

"With the six we tested, the CFL part burned out after only about around 3,000 cycles - that's much faster than any other bulb," said Consumer Reports' Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman.

Consumer Reports also evaluated seven regular CFLs. They promise to last 10,000 to 12,000 hours. And they say they produce 1,600 lumens, the equivalent of a 100-watt incandescent.

Testers used special equipment to measure a bulb's brightness after it'd been burning 3,000 hours.

"With all the CFLs we tested, the brightness dropped down to between 1,280 lumens and about 1,400 lumens," said Lehrman.

But when reading, panelists didn't necessarily prefer the brighter light.

Among 100-watt equivalent CFLs, Consumer Reports says your best choices are the ECObulb Plus from Feit Electric for around $2.

And for even less, try the Utilitech Soft White from Lowe's and the EcoSmart Soft White from Home Depot.

"Halogen bulbs don't last anywhere near as long and they won't save you very much money, but they did keep their full brightness in our tests," said Lehrman.

Consumer Reports recommends the 100-watt equivalent Philips Halogena Energy Saver for $5.50.

A plus: halogens can be dimmed, unlike many CFLs, and they reach full brightness immediately.

Consumer Reports calculates that CFLs can save you $100 or more over the lifetime of the bulb. Halogens will only save you about $3.

Check out Consumer Reports' light bulb buying guide, including the pros and cons of the different types of bulbs.


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