Consumer Reports says energy-saving bulbs can be money savers in long run

Consumer Reports' tests show CFL and LED lightbulbs can save consumers as much as $125 a year.
August 22, 2013 3:10:34 PM PDT
The government is planning the big switch over to incandescent lightbulbs so many of the ones you see now will be going away. But you don't need to run out and buy the older bulbs. Consumer Reports tested the newer ones and found what's best.

Popular 60- and 40-watt bulbs will be no longer be manufactured come January. But resist the urge to run out and hoard. Consumer Reports' latest tests show energy-saving bulbs are better than ever.

Most people rely on about 50 lightbulbs to brighten their living space. And you may be asking, "Why buy energy-efficient bulbs if my old incandescents are going strong?"

"Incandescent bulbs are really only cheap if you never turn them on. They cost about $8 a year to power. And that's compared with only a $1.75 for an LED or CFL," said Consumer Reports' Celia Lehrman said.

Most CFLs cost under $3. LEDs are more expensive, $20 to $30 dollars a bulb.

"But even at that price, they still save you about $125 over their lifetime on electrical costs and on the cost of replacing bulbs," Lehrman said.

And LEDs have advantages. They can last for decades, more than twice as long as CFLs.

LEDs light instantly, unlike CFLs that can take 30 seconds or more to reach full brightness. And many LED bulbs are dimmable; most CFLs are not.

Mark Thielking with the Energy Improvement Corporation has switched to LED lights throughout his home.

"The light's great. The turn-on time is very quick, and the fact that I don't have to change bulbs very often is even better," Thielking said.

Consumer Reports has tested more than 750 CFLs and LED bulbs. The lab measures warm-up time, light distribution, and how long the bulbs last. And testers use a sphere to measure brightness and color temperature.

The best LEDs outperform the CFLs on all counts. For 60-watt equivalents, Consumer Reports named two $20 LED bulbs "best buys:" One from 3M and another from Utilitech, which is sold at Lowe's.

Both produce a white light that's dimmable.

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