3 Affordable Alternatives to the Incandescent Light Bulb

incandescent light bulb ban

Anxious about the incandescent light bulb ban? Don’t be. We’ve got all the info you need to find affordable alternatives.

I find it a little bit ironic: we use the incandescent light bulb as a metaphor for good ideas, but one of the best ideas to emerge from government in recent years was getting rid of it! That’s right, the incandescent light bulb, that hot, fat, inefficient luminary, is about to become extinct.

In 2007, George W. Bush (surprising, I know) ratified a bipartisan law that called for a ban on manufacturing incandescent light bulbs due to the fact that they’re toxic and waste a ton of energy. The phaseout started in 2012 with 100-watt bulbs being eliminated, and then last year, 75-watt bulbs got the boot. This month, the final stage of the phase our went into effect, banning the manufacture of 60-watt and 40-watt bulbs. If you had no idea any of this was going on, it’s just further proof that this ban won’t hurt the economy or plunge us into the next Dark Age, but there are still critics and fear-mongers who claim it’s an outrageous thing to do.

To them I would say, what’s more outrageous: that the government would dare nudge people and industry toward a more efficient light bulb, or that some Congresspeople would fight tooth and nail to retain a technology that wastes millions of dollars every year? But I digress.

Despite the fact that the recent budget deal will hamper the Department of Energy’s ability to enforce the new law, it’s important for we the consumers to be proactive. Why wait until there’s not an incandescent light bulb left on the shelves to decide on a replacement? Read on as we discuss the eco-friendly, affordable alternatives that you should look for instead.

3 Affordable Alternatives to the Incandescent Light Bulb

1. Compact Fluorescent Bulb (CFL) – Uses 75 percent less energy than incandescent light bulbs.

CFL v incandescent light bulb ban

Pros: Cheap, easy to find in any grocery or retail store, fully compatible with traditional light fixtures, average expected life span is 10,000 hours (compared to 1,200 for an incandescent light bulb).
Cons: Contains mercury which is toxic if the bulb breaks and makes it hard to dispose of properly; sometimes takes a few minutes to reach full brightness, sometimes delivers a harsh, cold glow. Some also say that CFL lifespans have been greatly exaggerated. See this list of conditions that can cause CFLs to burn out more quickly.

Learn more: EnergyStar guide to choosing a CFL.

2. Halogen Bulbs – Uses 10-20 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs.

halogen incandescent light bulb ban

Pros:  Fairly easy to find, same look and feel as incandescent, no heat-up time like CFLs, dimmable.
Cons: Wastes a lot of energy as heat, light can be too intense for some applications, doesn’t last that much longer than an incandescent light bulb.

Learn more: ConsumerSearch halogen light bulb review.

3. Light Emitting Diode (LED) – Uses up to 75 percent less energy than incandescent light bulbs.

Philips SlimStyle

Pros: Wastes very little energy as heat, cool to the touch so it’s safer, average expected life span is 50,000 hours which blows both CFLs and halogens out of the water.
Cons: Initial cost is higher than other bulbs–but this is rapidly declining as manufacturers continue to develop cheaper LEDs that are compatible with traditional light fixtures.

Learn more: CNET’s review of the best LED light bulbs.

Related on Ecosalon

Behind the Label: Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

10 Ways to Show Off A Light Bulb

A Gleaming Globe of Light Emitting Diodes

Image: antonfomkin, rockindave1, GE, Philips SlimStyle LED