CFLs? LEDs? What’s the deal?

Dear Ms. Green,

Seems like just last week that I replaced all my regular old lightbulbs with CFLs, and now come to find out that I need to replace the CFLs with LEDs to really save energy and money (and the planet). What gives? Do I really need to fork up the cash for even newer bulbs? And what should I do with all my old CFLs?

Penny-pinching in Pittsboro


Dear Penny-pinching,

The pace of modern life is staggering, isn’t it? For years and years we used one kind of lightbulb and then – bam! Two new kinds of lightbulbs hit the market, practically at the same time, and both not only cost more than the old kind but their manufacturers make all sorts of claims about energy and money savings – claims that are almost too good to be true.

But guess what? They are true! CFLs, (compact fluorescent lightbulbs really do save money and energy over traditional incandescent bulbs, and LEDs (light-emitting diodes) save even more money and energy over time: they last up to eight times as long as CFL bulbs, they deliver more than twice the light per unit of energy used, and although they cost more than CFLs, they only cost 2-3 times more.  Plus, they’re not as tricky to dispose of as CFLs are, as CFLs include mercury (and so must be disposed of properly), and so in all, give you a much better return on your investment than CFLs.

As to whether you should do a wholesale replacement of your CFLs, I vote for no. Wait until the CFLs burn out over time and then replace them. The price of LEDs is coming down, anyway, so hopefully by the time your CFLs burn out you’ll be able to get a great deal on LEDs. As to what to do with the CFLs when they need to be thrown away, your local big-box hardware store should have recycling bins for that purpose.

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