Energy-Efficient Lighting

Thomas Edison captured sunlight in a glass bulb. With ever improving technology, today’s lighting engineers are making light bulbs more effective and efficient, less costly to use and safer. Americans can also do their part: Change a light bulb.

Consumers use approximately 10 percent of their household electricity to light their homes. They can reduce this amount and costs by replacing incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient fluorescent, halogen, and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs.

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs


A new generation of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) use up to 75 percent less energy and last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. They save money in the long run, despite their higher purchase costs. Use NOVEC's CFL calculator to determine the savings you could realize by switching to CFLs.

CFLs produce light without heat. They illuminate when an electric current passes through mercury vapor and emits ultraviolet light. The ultraviolet light makes the bulb glow when it reacts to a thin coating of phosphorous inside the glass outer casing. Many people dislike the purplish color and noise made by old fluorescent bulbs, but manufacturers have been gradually improving them.

Learn more about CFLs from or download our brochure (PDF).

A CFL contains a tiny amount of mercury—so tiny that it would only cover a ballpoint pen tip. Nevertheless, because of mercury, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency encourages consumers to dispose of fluorescent bulbs at hazardous waste sites. If that option is not available, seal CFLs in two plastic bags before putting them in the garbage for pick-up.

Safety precaution: Do not burn or incinerate fluorescent bulbs. Burning will release the mercury.

Halogen Lighting

Halogen lights are used for automobile headlamps, task lighting, recesses, sconces, and torchère lamps. Like incandescent bulbs, halogen bulbs contain tungsten filaments. Unlike incandescent bulbs, which contain argon or nitrogen gas enclosed in silica-based glass, halogen bulbs contain halogen gas enclosed in quartz glass. The glass and gas allow the bulbs to produce more light per energy unit, which makes them more energy-efficient and longer lasting. Despite their initial higher price, halogens cost less to use than incandescent bulbs in the long run. Halogen color temperature reaches 3,400 degrees Kelvin, which produces a bluish-white light, closest to daylight. In contrast, a 60-watt incandescent bulb produces 2,700°K light.

Safety Precautions: Do not look directly at lighted halogen bulbs or touch them with bare hands. The bulbs are dangerously intense and hot. For this reason, only use a torchère lamp that has an automatic tip-over switch and a mesh guard to prevent contact with the bulb.

LED Lighting

An LED is a semiconductor device which converts electricity into light. The technology resembles a light sandwich: two very thin layers of glass with a chemical in between. When charged with electricity, an electronic signal lights up electrodes, which in turn react to the chemical and emit an almost perfect ultraviolet light. LEDs produce 50 to 100 times more light for 50,000 to 100,000 more hours than do incandescent lights. LEDs’ longevity makes them perfect for traffic lights, exit signs, flashlights, and car dashboards. Although they cost more than other bulb types initially, their extraordinarily long life and low power requirements makes them the most cost-efficient bulbs. Light manufacturers are making LEDs more adaptable for residential use.

Currently, LEDs indicate when telephones, DVD and CD players, TVs, remote controls and other devices are on. Homeowners can install them under counters, in staircases and along garden walkways. LED holiday lights use .04 watts per bulb compared to 5 watts for each traditional two-inch bulb. Over a 30-day period, 500 LED lights on a Christmas tree or holiday display cost about $.19 in electricity. Consumers will probably never have to replace these bulbs, because they typically last more than 60,000 hours. Unlike traditional holiday lights, LEDs do not create heat. Therefore, they reduce fire hazards.


Household Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites for Used Fluorescent Bulbs


  • Fairfax County
    Household Hazardous Waste Infoline: 703-324-5068
    (Fairfax County may soon have disposal bins available in some Fairfax stores.)
  • Prince William County
    Prince William Landfill
    14811 Dumfries Road, Manassas, VA 20112
    Phone: 703-792-5750
  • Fauquier County
    Fauquier County Corral Farm Convenience Center
    Department of Environmental Services
    8477 Bingham Road, Warrenton, VA 20187
    Phone: 540-347-6811
  • Stafford County
    Regional Landfill
    Rappahannock Regional Solid Waste Management Board
    489 Eskimo Hill Road, Stafford, VA 22554
    Phone: 540-658-4592 or 540-658-4579
  • Clarke County
    Frederick County Landfill (Services Clarke and Frederick counties and Winchester)
    280 Landfill Road, Winchester, VA 22601
    Phone: 540-665-5658
  • Loudoun County
    Loudoun County of Solid Waste Management
    Phone: 703-777-0187