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Posted: 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011

New watts-to-lumens conversion chart

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I'm a light bulb freak. I have been since the 1990s when I started doing all I can to reduce energy consumption from using light bulbs. So that meant, of course, that I was an early pioneer with CFLs.

Back when I got my first CFLs, they were really rotten. I have a rental property that I got in 1998 and I put first-generation CFLs at that time. Recently, I put the property on the market.

As I was going through with a real estate agent, I pop on a switch and almost no light comes on. I told the agent in response to her question, "No, they're not broken…they just take two minutes to warm up!"

But the thing is, those CFLs lasted almost 14 years and not a single bulb burned out during that time! (I had to replace them all now because they were making a bad impression.)

A lot of people complain about the mercury content of the bulbs. Yes, the CFLs have a trace amount of mercury. But don't believe the horror stories you may have heard. The reality is they cost more to buy upfront, but they save you money for years.

Yet CFLs are just a transitional technology. The ones that will matter going forward are the steadily improving halogens and especially the LEDs.

The first LEDs were practically a zillion bucks. Two years ago, I paid $35 for one LED bulb. But just recently, I got a pack where each one worked out to be about $6 a bulb. So you can see the cost is rapidly decreasing. And the thing is, those LEDs will save you many times that in the cost of electricity over the years.

Unfortunately, you may get a little confused the next time you go light bulb shopping. That's because the feds have decreed that instead of referring to watts, the packaging of bulbs will now talk about lumens. So we have a handy cheat sheet for you to print out and take with you the next time you're going to the store. (See above.)

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