Looking for energy-efficient light bulbs?

Lighting technologies and their applications are changing and expanding these days. This gives Canadian consumers more choices. A little knowledge goes a long way to making the right choice for the application you have in mind.

Light bulbs are probably the energy-using product that Canadians have to make choices about the most often. The average Canadian home has 30 light bulbs. That provides a lot of opportunities for consumers to take advantage of the latest technologies and models available.

Light bulbs (known as lamps in commercial use) have a variety of performance characteristics. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, light outputs (brightness), light appearances (colour temperatures) and levels of energy efficiency.

Detailed information for manufacturers

Additional information for retailers

Bulb types

In Canada, commonly used CFLs, halogen and incandescent light bulbs:

  • must meet minimum performance standards set by Canada’s Energy Efficiency Regulations
  • must have a label on the packaging that shows energy used (watts), light output (lumens) and life (hours)
  • (as well as LEDs) display the ENERGY STAR® symbol if the model qualifies as high efficiency

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs)

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) have improved tremendously since they were first introduced in the 1980s. They start almost instantly, do not buzz or flicker, contain less mercury and many are dimmable—all recent improvements.

Energy Star logo

CFLs produce the same light output and warm colours as incandescent bulbs and are very energy-efficient. ENERGY STAR® qualified CFLs use up to 75 percent less energy and last up to 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.

  • Some CFLs are encased in a cover that further diffuses the light and provides a shape similar to traditional incandescent bulbs.
  • A typical CFL can pay for itself in energy savings in eight months and continue to save you money every month after.

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs)

Light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs are quickly evolving and are now available for most residential applications. LED bulbs offer similar light quality to traditional incandescent bulbs, last 25 times longer and use even less energy than CFLs. They start quickly, are dimmable, can operate in all weather conditions and are very durable.

The design of LED products is crucial to good performance. Choose LED bulbs that are ENERGY STAR qualified for the highest quality and energy savings.

Halogen bulbs

Halogen light bulbs use up to 30 percent less energy, produce more light for the same amount of energy and last up to three times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. They are available in a wide range of shapes and colours and can be used anywhere a traditional incandescent bulb is used and for the same purpose.

Bulb attributes

Light bulb attributes are the features of a bulb that allow you to narrow your selection and ensure that you choose the one that is right for you. Usually, information on these attributes is found on the bulb packaging. They include

  • shape and size - often determined by the luminaire the bulb is for (e.g. a desk lamp with a shade, a pendant, a recessed downlight or a track)
  • brightness (light output) - the amount of light you want
    • Brightness is measured in lumens (lm); the higher the lumens, the brighter the light.
  • light appearance (correlated colour temperature) - describes the mood created by the lighting (i.e. how warm or cool the space feels)
    • The temperature of the light source is measured in degrees Kelvin (K); the lower the number, the warmer the light source. For example, an incandescent bulb would typically have a correlated colour temperature of about 3 000 K.
    • Most people prefer warm colour light sources in their home, which create a more comfortable and attractive ambience, while cooler colour light sources are often preferable in work areas for direct tasks or focus. Usually, the light appearance is noted on the packaging.

Kelvin (K)

Photo of a lamp on a table showing warm lighting

WARM = 3 000K
Produces a yellowish light. Good for ambience lighting (living room, bedroom).

Photo of a lamp on a table showing cool lighting

COOL = 4 000K
Produces a bluish light. Good for task lighting (kitchen and garage).

  • efficiency - the amount of power required to produce the light output.
    • Make sure to compare the light output (lumens) with the energy used (watts) to produce the light output. The easiest way to choose an energy-efficient light bulb is to look for the ENERGY STAR symbol.
  • rated life - how long the bulb will last
    • Energy-efficient bulbs last a lot longer than traditional incandescent bulbs - something to consider for high-use bulbs and hard-to-reach luminaires.
  • dimmability - determines if the light level can be adjusted
    • Dimmers can save electricity when they are used to lower light levels. Note that the dimmer switch must be compatible with the type of bulb.
  • suitability for cold temperature applications.
    • In a cold climate, outdoor bulbs must withstand temperatures far below the freezing point of 0oC.

For more information, look at our publications:

Technical guide

The ENERGY STAR name and symbol are administered and promoted in Canada by Natural Resources Canada and are registered in Canada by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.