Shining Light on Energy Savings

With LEDs, the future of bulbs is longer-lasting and more efficient

By Derrill Holly

A variety of LED bulbs are available for your home. They cost less to use and last longer than incandescent or compact fluorescent bulbs. Adobe Stock Photo by LudoDesign

When it comes to lighting, the potential for energy efficiency is too great to ignore. Around your home, changing bulbs can change your electric bills, and the monthly savings can add up quickly.

“Lighting-efficiency upgrades have long been the poster child of energy efficiency,” says Alan Shedd, director of energy solutions for Touchstone Energy Cooperatives.

That’s because consumers regularly use dozens of bulbs in fixtures out of necessity and convenience.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, nearly 130 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity are consumed by residential lighting each year, representing about 9% of all home energy use.

As LED design options increase, prices are coming down. More consumers see LEDs as an alternative to carbon filament incandescent bulbs first popularized by Thomas Edison in the 1880s.

“The economics make sense,” Alan says. “When LED lamp products were $20, it was a tough sell. Now for a couple of bucks, you can get a lamp that saves energy and lasts 10 times longer.”

To get an idea of your potential energy savings, complete a home inventory. Don’t just count fixtures. Count bulbs, check wattage, and determine whether they are dimmable, three-way, or require special bases. Also note the type of bulb now in use: incandescent, halogen, compact fluorescent, or straight or circular fluorescent tubes.

There’s a good chance your total bulb count for the average single-family home will be between 50 and 75, including hallways, garages and storage areas.

Savings Add Up

In 2009, 58% of U.S. households had at least one energy-efficient bulb indoors. Less than 10 years later, 86% of all households used at least one CFL or LED bulb. Nearly 20% of all households had completely abandoned incandescent bulb use.

Since passage of the Energy Independence Act of 2007, electric cooperatives-including Wells Rural Electric Co.—have promoted energy efficiency in lighting by sharing information on potential savings.

The federal law mandating a 25% increase in lighting efficiency led many U.S. manufacturers to phase out incandescent bulbs of 100 watts or more.

Halogen varieties available for residential applications can produce excessive heat. That becomes more of a consideration during cooling season, when HVAC systems get their most use.

In recent years, manufacturers have focused more research on lighting efficacy, energy efficiency, and cycle longevity. That’s led to major increases in the projected hours of use and lower failure rates.

While LED lighting was initially expensive and limited to warm white or a few color temperatures and designs, market acceptance and continued research have forced prices down and led to an expanded variety of products.

Cool white, soft white, dimmable, decorative, three-way, and color are now among the options. LEDs take up an increasing share of shelf space in the lighting sections of hardware, discount, and home improvement stores.

Lumens, Not Watts

Cashing in on lighting efficiency gets easier if we rethink the way we buy and use lighting products.

Many consumers resist switching from ounces to grams, miles to kilometers, or Fahrenheit to Celsius when discussing measurements and temperatures. But when it comes to lighting, thinking lumens instead of watts makes sense. It could save you dollars and cents.

According to Alan, education—or reeducation—is the key. Once a consumer knows lumens are a measurement of the amount of light emitted by a bulb, they understand that the lower the lumens, the dimmer the light.

“Sure, lumens can be confusing,” Alan says. “We didn’t grow up with that. But showing that a 1,000-lumen lamp is equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent bulb is a short-term fix.”

Save Energy with LEDs

LED lights last up to 30 times longer than incandescents, reducing the need to replace bulbs in high or hard-to-reach places. Below are LED lighting suggestions for your home.

Living Room Lamps

couch with lamp illustrationTable or floor three-way lamps using LED bulbs provide 620, 1,600, or 2,150 lumens of soft white light and deliver up to 25,000 hours of light.


kitchen with recessed lights illustrationDimmable recessed LED conversion lights add a warm glow of up to 1,200 lumens for kitchen workspaces and add far less heat to your kitchen. Each bulb could last 10 years.

Bedrooms and Hallways

bedroom with LED lighting illustrationLong-life LEDs are ideal for ceiling fixtures. A 9-watt LED produces the same 800 lumens of light as a 60-watt incandescent, and uses about 80 percent less energy.


bathroom with glove bulbs illustrationOmnidirectional LED globe bulbs are designed to provide a warm glow ideal for bathrooms. A 6-watt bulb produces 450 lumens and lasts up to 15,000 hours.


lightbulb outside door illustrationA 6-watt, 500 lumen LED bulb can replace a 40-watt incandescent bulb. Designed to last up to 30,000 hours, it could be a one-time switch.