Want to cut your electric bill and reduce your carbon footprint fast?  Yeah, we do too.

Incandescent BulbPerhaps the fastest way to do that is to change your bulbs.  You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth saying again.

“Get some Compact Fluorescents!” we’ve all been told. By friends. By the guvmint. By our friends at PG&E.

Well…not so fast.  The old standard Incandescent bulb is cheap, the light glows warmly, and it’s easily and fully dimmable.  Thanks, Mr. Edison!

PLUS: Cheap, Nice Light Quality, Totally Dimmable, Non-Toxic
MINUS: Energy Inefficient, Get Hot

Compact Fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) are indeed nearly 4X as efficient at generating light for each watt of power (40 lumens/watt vs. 10-11 for an Incandescent bulb), but the light quality just doesn’t cut it (even for the CFLs billed as “Warm White”). CF BulbThe dimmable ones just don’t really work that well…or at all, and despite claims of lasting forever, many die sooner than the bulbs they’re replacing.  On the bright side, their popularity has driven prices down to just a couple of bucks a bulb, but…each bulb also has toxic Mercury in it, so they can’t be safely thrown in the trash when they die and a broken bulb is a health hazard.

PLUS: Energy Efficient, Stays Cool, Widely Available, Not too Expensive
MINUS: Made with Toxic Mercury, Short Lifespan, Difficult to Dispose Of

So what’s a girl to do?

The next wave of lighting on its way is LED lighting.  We’ve all had LED lights in our electronics for decades, but LED bulbs are now starting to be more widely available for straight replacement of Incandescents.  The good news?  LEDs have no toxic materials, are fully recyclable, are more energy efficient than CFLs, can last decades, and the newest bulbs are even dimmable.

“Ummm…so what’s the catch?” you ask.  Glad you asked.

LED BulbLED bulbs are pricey. A fully dimmable PAR20 bulb that you’d use in a recessed overhead light to replace a 50W Halogen Incandescent bulb can cost $70 – $100 today.  Ouch.

Bulbs like the Earthled LumiSelect have the same screw-in base as a regular PAR20 Incandescent bulb, are dimmable (that heatsink around the outside isn’t for the LEDs – those are cool – it’s for the embedded electronics that let the LEDs run on 120V power and dim).  They work with regular dimmers and use…get this…just 6 watts and are comparable to a 50W Incandescent or a 13W CFL bulb.  Boo-ya.

PLUS: Decent Warm White Color, Dimmable, Cool, Non-Toxic, Recyclable, Lasts for Years
MINUS: Ex.Pen.Sive

The prices will come down as volumes go up, so it’s an early-adopter market now, but it’s exciting that these have just come to market in the last year or so.  We’ve used these all over our project at 173 Downey.  Let me know if you’d like to see them in action.