I was at Home Depot last week buying new light bulbs for my home. I stood for a very long time in front of their huge selection. Three other customers joined me in the same quest and seemed equally puzzled by the many choices. A task that used to take seconds, now consumes a large chunk of time.
When did buying light bulbs become so confusing and costly?
Here is a quick guide to lighting choices. Armed with this information, your time in front of the “bulb aisle” should be brief.
Incandescent- It’s Time To Move On
This type of bulb is being phased out of production. The light bulb, as we have always known it, will not exist in a few years time. Enforcement of regulations around energy efficiency is the driving force behind this change, as these bulbs convert less than 5% of the energy they use into light.
Halogens are a type of incandescent bulb, but use far less energy. This is not to say that they are still energy drainers and eventually will most likely be phased out for higher efficiency bulbs in the future. They are available in a wide variety of sizes and colors and are commonly used in pot or can lighting.
These bulbs use 25% of the energy of incandescent bulbs and last ten times as long. However, they contain a small amount of mercury and need to be recycled properly, not disposed of in the general garbage. These lights have come a long way since they were first introduced to the market in the mid 1980s. I still find them bulky to fit into fixtures and don’t care for their color.
LED-The Future Is Here
LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights are 6-7 times more energy efficient than conventional incandescent bulbs, cut energy use by more than 80% and can last more than 25 times longer.
In addition to the significant energy savings your home will realize, they offer the chance to eliminate the task of changing bulbs from the job jar. Eliminating time on a ladder mitigates risk for any homeowner!
LED Buying Guide-Lumens, Color and Dimmers
If you are buying lights these days, you will be left in the dark if you do not know what a “Lumen” is-literally! Lumens are the units of brightness, the more lumens a bulb has the brighter it will be.
Replacing a 40W bulb: look for at least 450 lumens
Replacing a 60W bulb: look for at least 800 lumens
Replacing a 75W bulb: look for at least 1,100 lumens
Replacing a 100W bulb: look for at least 1,600 lumens
After lumens, the next decision you will have to make is color. This often just comes down to a personal preference. LEDs come in two shades of white:
- Bright white: good for task and outdoor lighting
- Soft white: good for indoor room lighting
Generally speaking, incandescents sit at the bottom of the lighting scale with their yellow light, while LEDs have long been thought to tend toward the high, bluish end of the spectrum. This has been a steady complaint about new lighting alternatives, as many people prefer the warm, familiar, low color temperature of incandescents. Manufacturers are listening, though with more and more low-color-temperature (yellow or warm white) LED options hitting the shelves.
If you are using a dimmer of any kind, you must ensure that the LEDs are dimmable, and that the dimmer device is compatible with LED light. Some dimmable LEDs may work fine with a standard incandescent dimmer; however, it may dramatically reduce the life of the dimmer. It is recommended that dimmers be changed to ones compatible with LED lights.
Other LED facts:
- LEDs are making great strides and LED products now exist for replacing virtually any fixture type, including general-purpose lighting, downlights, cove lights and outdoor lighting
- LED lights emit very little infrared radiation and contain no mercury
- Combining the switch to LED bulbs, with a switch to LED designed fixtures will maximize your energy savings
- To ensure that you are purchasing an LED bulb with good color quality and energy efficiency look for the ENERGY STAR symbol.