If you've never given much thought to what type of lighting you have in your home, you're not alone. Since Thomas Edison filed for a patent on his incandescent bulb in 1879, this has been the lighting method of choice around the world. However, with all the recent talk about the importance of energy efficiency, many people have been left wondering if incandescent bulbs are truly the best option.
Used in everything from table lamps to electric flashlights, incandescent bulbs can be purchased in sizes ranging from 1.5 to 300 volts. They work well with either alternating current or direct current. An incandescent bulb also has a fairly low manufacturing cost, which is the primary reason why these bulbs have remained so popular.
Unfortunately, an incandescent bulb is not the most energy-efficient choice. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) are four to six times more efficient than a comparable incandescent bulb. In fact, studies have show that switching to CFL bulbs can lower your utility bill by approximately 12%. And, since CFL bulbs work in most fixtures, you won't even need to invest in new lamps.
Related to energy efficiency is the concern about the environmental impact of lighting choices. CFL usage is good for the environment because these bulbs help reduce the need for electricity produced by burning fossil fuels. Switching your current incandescent bulbs to CFLs is one easy way to help reduce the impact of global warming.
Another factor to consider when choosing to use an incandescent bulb is the heat generated by your lighting. Because they do throw off a fair amount of heat when in use, incandescent bulbs are used in applications ranging from the popular Easy-Bake® oven toy to the heating units in reptile tanks. In cold climates, the heat incandescent bulbs produce can slightly lower your energy costs by keeping your home warmer. In warm climates, however, the heat increases the need for a building's air conditioning system.
The final factor to consider when selecting lighting for your home is the proper disposal of used bulbs. An incandescent bulb that no longer works can simply be thrown away with the rest of your household trash. CFL bulbs contain mercury, so they should be disposed of in accordance with your area's hazardous waste regulations. If a CFL bulb is broken, it should be kept in a sealed glass jar to minimize the danger of mercury contamination in the surrounding area.