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A Bright Idea: Change Your Bulbs When You Change Your Batteries

Energy-efficient bulbs can save as much as 80 percent annually. Courtesy: kzinn/
Energy-efficient bulbs can save as much as 80 percent annually. Courtesy: kzinn/
October 30, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Clocks fall back into standard time this weekend, and fire departments recommend changing the batteries in home smoke detectors. But it might be time to consider changing your light bulbs as well.

Energy-saving compact fluorescent and LED bulbs are becoming increasingly available and affordable. When shopping for bulbs, said Tom Doherty, environmental specialist for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, balance initial cost with long-term savings.

"The more efficient bulb, the more expensive it's going to be, but your annual operating costs will be significantly lower," he said. "If you wanted to retrofit an entire home with LED bulbs, it's about $33, but your upfront investment is, like, $400."

If changing all the bulbs in your house seems too costly or labor intensive, Doherty said, look to change the bulbs that are most used or hardest to access. According to, by changing the five most frequently used bulbs in your house, you can save $75 each year.

While compact fluorescent and LED bulbs use up to 80 percent less energy, even traditional incandescent bulbs now use at least 30 percent less energy to meet efficiency standards. While, as consumers in the past, we measured the brightness of bulbs by their wattage, Doherty said, we now should look for the amount of "lumens" or light the bulb emits.

"I think why people are so attracted to what the lumens are, it's a built environment thing, because of the amount of time that we spend indoors," he said, "and if you work in a basement, you kind of want a light output that is pretty consistent with the light from outside."

Bulb manufacturers increasingly are paying more attention to the color of light a bulb emits. For that reason, bulbs now are sold with a "lighting facts" label that looks similar to a nutrition label. There you can find information on brightness, energy costs, life expectancy and color, Doherty said.

More information is online at

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN