Thomas Edison would never have imagined how complicated shopping for light bulbs has become. We have to peruse a store’s entire aisle before selecting the correct shape, style, wattage and now the type of bulb needed.

The traditional incandescent bulbs we’ve used are vanishing as they no longer can be produced in the U.S. and many other countries. The change is in favor of more energy-efficient lighting. According to the EPA, 90% of the energy going into an incandescent bulb is lost as heat. And the new bulbs do last significantly longer, so climbing up that ladder to change the bulbs is less frequent. In fact, the difference between the life of an incandescent bulb and one of the newer ones can be as much as 10-25 to one.

So here are a few points to help you select your next bulb, or lamp as they also are referred to. We now have three main choices: Halogen, CFL, and LED. Keep in mind that the newer bulbs do come with a higher price tag, a different type of light, and some of their own health and environmental concerns.

Halogen lamps are a type of incandescent bulb that is considerably more efficient than the traditional ones but not as much so as the CFLs and LEDs. The high operating temperature also may be a safety hazard in some fixtures.

CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) are the swirly ones. They last about eight to fifteen times longer than an incandescent bulb and their emitting color is improving. They are better for indoor use because they take time to warm up and may not be as bright. Most of these bulbs cannot be used in dimmers. The biggest concern about them is that they do contain a small amount of mercury which, if broken, is particularly dangerous to children and pregnant women as well as the environment.

Light emitting diode (LED) bulbs are the most versatile and have an extremely long life.They also turn on and off instantly. They do not contain mercury or glass to break. Nor do they radiate heat or emit UV rays to fade upholstery. One of their drawbacks is their price, but they are getting cheaper. And they are a considerable saving in the long run because they last so long and require so much less energy.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle