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Understanding the new "nutrition facts" for lightbulbs

The new label on lightbulbs
Image courtesy of the DOE
The new label on lightbulbs

If you’ve ever been lost in the lightbulb aisle... things are getting a little easier. There’s a new label the federal government is requiring on lightbulb packages. It's modeled after the Nutrition Facts label on food.

But the label still needs some deciphering. Greenovation dot tv’s Matt Grocoff knows a thing or two about lightbulbs. I met up with Matt so he could show me how to read the new labels.

Matt says the problem with lightbulbs is that they've never been very well labeled.  So you get home and screw the thing in... and suddenly you have what he calls an "interrogation" lightbulb.  Way too bright or way too dull... just not right.

He says when you look at the new label, you can focus on the color temperature spectrum on the bottom.  You'll see a range between orange-yellow on the left and white-blue on the right.

"When you go around your house, think about the time of day you're using that space. In the daytime you want sunlight. In the nighttime you want something that mimics candlelight or a kerosene lantern or fire. So in your kitchen you may want something that has a cooler temperature light, so you're going to look for something in that whiter or bluer range on the right side of the scale on the label. In your bedroom, as you're going to sleep, right after you put your book down or change into your pajamas, you're going to be looking for something in the warmer spectrum, on the left side, which is more yellow.

He says for most rooms, you're going to want a bulb that is a "warm white" and 2700k, or 2700 kelvins.

Maybe you've tried compact fluorescent bulbs... and you've gotten mad because they flicker and take too long to warm up.

Matt says energy-efficient lightbulbs have come a long way - there are a lot of choices now, and the quality's getting much better.  He has recently swapped out some of the bulbs in his house for new LED 12-watt bulbs.  They're not cheap - around $40 - but Matt says he won't have to change them out until his two-year-old daughter goes to college.

"It's still pretty expensive, but over the life of the bulb it about matches the price of a compact flourescent bulb. As these start coming down in price, they're going to far exceed the energy savings on any bulb that's out there especially the old school incandescent bulbs."

If you want some in-person lightbulb advice, Matt recommends the people at the Clean Energy Coalition.

Check out more of Matt's tips for buying energy-efficient lightbulbs.


Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.