Consumer Reports tests halogen, CFL light bulbs

December 2, 2011 3:25:30 PM PST
Like it or not, the 100-watt incandescent light bulb is going away. That means the next time you need to buy light bulbs, your choices will be different.

Regular incandescent 100-watt light bulbs are the first to be phased out under new government regulations. No more will be imported or produced after January 1. Consumer Reports just finished testing energy-efficient alternatives.

People are buying up the last regular incandescent 100-watt light bulbs.

Consumer Reports tested your replacement options, including 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 Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman with Consumer Reports.

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 light bulb.

Testers use this equipment to measure a bulb's brightness after it's 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," Kuperszmid Lehrman said.

If you look closely, you can see that the brand new bulb on the left is a little brighter than the one that's been burning three thousand hours.

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, 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," Kuperszmid Lehrman said.

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.

There is lead in CFL light bulbs so if they break you do have to take several steps to clean it up, including using tape to pick up the pieces, and you can't use a vacuum cleaner; because of that, some people do not want them, so for them halogen bulbs are probably the best bet since they clean up like regular bulbs.

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