Choosing the best energy efficient bulb

There are plenty of energy efficient light bulbs (halogen, CFL, LED) out there, so it can be difficult to decide. We help you see more clearly.

How to choose the right bulb?
Types of bulbs
Energy Star certification
Are smart bulbs worth the cost?
What about outdoor lighting?
Recycle your old bulbs

In Canada, incandescent bulbs have been banned for several years. Sylvain Constant, engineer at Hydro-Quebec, however adds the following nuance: “It is forbidden to produce it, but it is possible that some traders or consumers still have it. Their use is not recommended, however ”. Incandescent bulbs are more damaging to the environment than “new” bulbs, because they need more electricity to light, in particular because they generate more unnecessary heat.

To replace them, you are spoiled for choice. There are a host of more energy efficient options, such as incandescent halogen bulbs, CFLs or LED bulbs.

How to choose the right bulb?

To select the right bulb, you need to consider several criteria. Here are the most important.

The luminous flux

To determine the luminous flux of a bulb, rely on the lumen measurement (lm), which indicates the amount of light a source emits. The light intensity varies a lot from one bulb to another.

To know which one to choose, identify your needs for the place you want to light and the number of bulbs you can fit there. For example, if you have few lamps in the room that you expect to be very bright, it is better to choose bulbs with a large amount of lm.

According to different companies specializing in lighting, here is the average brightness targeted according to the different rooms of the house:

  • Living room: 1500 to 3000 lm;
  • Chamber: 2000 to 4000 lm;
  • Dining room: 3000 to 6000 lm;
  • Bathroom: 4000 to 8000 lm;
  • Kitchen: 5,000 to 10,000 lm.

The color of light

The color of the lighting depends on the temperature it reaches in kelvin (K). A smaller number (eg, 2200K) gives yellow or warm lighting. The higher the reading (eg, 6500K), the whiter or cooler the light. If you’re looking to replicate natural light, aim for a 2700 to 3000K bulb.

The color rendering index

The Color Rendering Index (CRI) is the percentage measure of how efficiently a bulb renders colors realistically, that is, in the same way as the reference light, that of the day (IRC of 100). Bulbs with a CRI of 70 and less affect color perception.

Energy consumption

With energy efficient light bulbs, you can reduce your energy consumption, which is good for the environment (even though hydropower is a renewable energy, its production generates some greenhouse gases) and for your wallet ( savings on your electricity bill). The amount of energy used is indicated in watts (W) and varies according to the number of lm. To be more precise, the less W a bulb requires to produce a given light output, the more energy efficient it is.


The more durable the bulbs, the better the environment will fare in the long run. Sylvain Constant explains: “The lifespan of energy-efficient light bulbs is much longer than before, which means that we have to produce less (and recycle less) because we need to change them less often. “

The ecological impact

To gauge the ecological impact of a light bulb, you must consider, among other things, its electricity consumption, its lifespan and the presence or absence of polluting substances, such as mercury.

Types of bulbs


The incandescent halogen bulb

The incandescent halogen bulb is sought after for its light approaching that of day (its CRI is around 100). It offers constant brightness and its smaller size allows it to adopt a variety of shapes for various uses. Its lifespan is 2,000 to 3,000 hours, which is two to three times longer than a conventional bulb. This can be reduced, however, if you frequently use the dimmer to change the light intensity rather than lighting at full strength.

Its biggest drawback: the incandescent halogen bulb gets very hot. If the globe that surrounds the filament generally protects you from the ultraviolet rays it emits, its surface can nevertheless reach a high temperature. This implies that you should not touch it with your hands when it has been running for a long time, so as not to burn yourself, and that the risk of fires is greater.

compact fluorescent

The compact fluorescent bulb

Known for its corkscrew shape, but available in other formats, the compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) is an adaptation of the industrial fluorescent tube for residential use. It gives off 75% less heat than incandescent and emits diffused light that prevents glare. It has a lifespan of 10,000 to 20,000 hours, but the lifespan may be reduced if you turn it on and off repeatedly.

In terms of its drawbacks, its brightness has an artificial appearance, due to an often lower CRI (70 or less) than that of other types of bulbs. However, some higher quality AFCs may have better color rendering. Otherwise, it typically takes some time to reach full intensity, and since its power supply is not entirely stable, there are few models that work with a dimmer.

As it contains several substances harmful to the environment, such as mercury, argon and fluorescent powders, it is not the most environmentally friendly option. Also, if it does break, you must take precautions: ventilate the room and put on gloves to pick up the pieces.


LED bulb

The LED bulb transforms electricity into light using a luminescent diode (hence its acronym). More and more affordable, but nevertheless much higher to purchase than other types of bulbs, it now occupies a considerable place in the residential lighting market. Available in a variety of intensities, shapes and colors, it gives off little heat.

According to Daniel Goulet, vice-president of operations at Bazz, a company specializing in the design and manufacture of lighting fixtures located in Montreal, “LED bulbs are all quite similar. What sets them apart is their lifespan, which varies from 1,500 to 50,000 hours, and even up to 100,000 hours, depending on their quality. The other difference is at the IRC level. For a standard bulb at CRI of 80, we have a soft white rendering; for the 90’s models, the white is brighter ”.

This is the most energy efficient option, especially because it consumes less W for a given brightness than other kinds of bulbs. As an indication, for a luminous flux of 400 lm, Hydro-Québec estimates that an incandescent bulb will consume 40 W and an LED 7 W. This corresponds to an energy saving of approximately 80%.


The LED filament bulb

In the LED filament bulb, traditional incandescent filaments are replaced with LED chip compounds to almost identically replicate the look of classic bulbs for those who prefer the appearance. If so, this may be an interesting choice.

Energy Star certification


Energy Star certified bulbs are the most energy efficient choice. “Energy Star certification guarantees products tested to rigorous energy efficiency specifications,” said Department of Energy and Natural Resources spokesperson Nicole Green. It is granted by an independent body, the Environmental Protection Agency, in the United States. All you have to do is look for the symbol with the blue star on the packaging to make sure you have an Energy Star certified product ”.

The most efficient Energy Star certified bulbs are LED. Sylvain Constant, engineer at Hydro-Québec, recommends them. He explains: “Certification ensures quality, because there are minimum standards to be met to obtain it, for example with regard to energy consumption, the quality of lighting in terms of intensity and rendering. colors as well as the durability of the bulb, which must be at least 15,000 hours. “

To be more precise, an Energy Star bulb is, among other things:

  • Energy savings compared to the conventional incandescent bulb of up to 90%;
  • A minimum lifespan of 15,000 hours;
  • An IRC of 80 or more;
  • A minimum three-year warranty.

Finally, the engineer is careful to specify that this does not mean that certain non-certified bulbs are not as efficient as those recognized by Energy Star. “Some manufacturers decide not to go for certification for reasons that belong to them, even if their products meet all the minimum standards required,” he says.

Are smart bulbs worth the cost?


“Smart” bulbs – mostly LED – are bulbs connected to a system that you can control through your cell phone. Such lighting can be automated, that is, you can program lights to turn on or off according to a specific schedule. This is an increasingly accessible solution according to Daniel Goulet, of the luminaire manufacturer Bazz. “Before, we needed to bring in an electrician to run wiring through the walls to add a recessed light,” he explains. Now you can control the lighting of the whole house from a single switch or even from the Wi-Fi system. ”

Presumably such a feature turns out to be interesting when it comes to energy ‘wasting’, in the sense that you can make sure that your lights don’t stay on for no reason (for example, after a certain time, in the evening, or if you forgot to turn them off when leaving). That said, smart bulbs are still much more expensive than the rest. Therefore, when it comes to energy saving, standard and / or certified LED bulbs are probably still your best option. If you choose smart lighting, it’s mostly a matter of amenity.

What about outdoor lighting?


LED bulbs – and more so those that are Energy Star certified – are equally recommended for outdoor lighting. In addition to the many advantages mentioned above, they are resistant to cold. For localized lighting, for example for a spotlight or a recessed luminaire illuminating a specific area such as the entrance to your property, favor a reflector type bulb, with the flattened end.

Recycle your old bulbs

Has your light bulb died? Above all, do not throw it away: it is recyclable. There are different recovery programs, depending on whether it contains mercury (AFC) or not (incandescent, halogen, LED). To find the closest drop-off point depending on the product, consult the “Where’s it going?” App. From Recyc-Quebec.


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