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Watts Are So Yesterday

Although the shapes of new lighting products may resemble the familiar incandescent bulb, how they work and what they cost to buy and operate are very different. Today’s lighting choices have expanded and gotten serious makeovers (from package labeling to the products inside) as part of a new focus on making all lights more energy efficient and cost-effective.

Why bother? Because the old incandescent bulbs wasted so much electricity—up to 90 percent as heat instead of light. As lighting for homes and businesses becomes more energy efficient, power plants can run at lower levels, and consumers can reduce what they pay for electricity on lighting by spending less per lumen.

Here’s what you need to know as you walk down the lighting aisle:

• Lumens are the new watts. The higher the lumens, the brighter the light—to replace a 100-watt incandescent bulb, choose a bulb that offers about 1,600 lumens. There are handy charts at that can help you compare the old measure of watts to lumens.

• Read all of the label. Always check the package, making sure that it carries the U.S. Department of Energy’s ENERGY STAR logo. New “Lighting Facts” labels on boxes will also help you understand what the product does—amount of lumens, estimated annual operating cost, and light color.

Then follow these four easy steps to make your choice:

1. Decide how bright you want an area or an entire room, then choose the amount of lumens needed to get that effect

2. Find which bulbs have the lowest estimated energy cost per year to operate

3. Choose a product with the light “color” that you like the best

4. Compare prices, and pick the product that suits your budget

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