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Originally published Friday, February 7, 2014 at 8:00 PM

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Goodbye, incandescent bulbs; hello efficient light | HomeWork

At the start of this year, Thomas Edison’s beloved incandescent light bulb began to go dark. But light-bulb makers have been preparing for this day, and the alternatives are aplenty.

Special to NWhomes

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Q: What do I need to know now that incandescent light bulbs are going away?

A: At the start of this year, Thomas Edison’s beloved incandescent light bulb began to go dark. Used in 80 percent of American homes, the 40- to 60-watt varieties are no longer being sold in the U.S.

But light-bulb makers have been preparing for this day, and the alternatives are aplenty.

When it comes to incandescent-bulb alternatives, there is good news and bad news. The good: LED (light-emitting diode), CFL (compact fluorescent light) and halogen bulbs are each designed to save you money over time. The bad: the upfront cost can be up to 10 times more.

Don’t be discouraged by the price tag. With a light life of 9—23 years and impressive energy efficiency, this bulb will pay for itself in the long run.


The LED light is the peacock of lighting alternatives. The most energy efficient bulb on the market, the LED uses 85 percent less energy than an incandescent, and still manages to emit the same warm glow as its predecessor. That energy savings translates to roughly $80 a year off your utility bill.

If the LED has a downfall, it’s the price. Some can cost $20 or more for each bulb, but the sticker shock can be quelled when you consider that the average life of an LED bulb is 23 years. Keep your eyes open for sales, and consider these bulbs to be an investment for the next few decades.


The CFL bulb’s energy efficiency cannot be disputed — it uses 75 percent less energy than an incandescent light bulb.

In the past, consumers were sometimes put off by the harsh blue-green light it emitted, which was a stark contrast to the traditionally warm light we expect to fill our homes. Over the years, however, manufacturers have improved the quality and now offer dimmable, warmer color spectrums.

If upfront cost is a concern, CFLs are a decent option. A 60-watt — equivalent CFL bulb sells for $3 —$4 each and will consume 43 watts. If lit for an average of three hours a day, it will last approximately 10 years.


Halogen bulbs, while technically a form of incandescent lighting, are more efficient than their brethren and have been allowed to stay on the market. While they are no match for LEDs and CFLs in terms of efficiency and expected lifetime, halogens can be a valid option for those wary of upfront costs. A 60-watt — equivalent halogen bulb will consume 43 watts and last an average of 1,000—1,250 hours (about 415 days); it retails for $1.50 —$2 each.

So as we bid farewell to one of the most important inventions of all time, we welcome with open arms the new alternatives that will make our world greener and our wallets happier. Share the light!

Leah McNabb is a sales manager at Crescent Lighting Supply in Kirkland and is a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties. HomeWork is the association’s weekly column about home care, repair and improvements. If you have questions about home improvement, send them to


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