Aug 1, 2011

A primer on the new light bulbs.

In just a few years, incandescent light bulbs will no longer be sold in California, with the rest of the US following suit.  Why? We now understand their inefficiencies and, as a population, want to reduce overall energy consumption.  The choices of light fixtures and light sources are ever-expanding and technology is improving.   Here is a brief guide to alternative sources of illumination. The overall benefits are improved lighting with significant energy savings.

LED and halogen lighting can be warm and elegant.

1) Compact fluorescent (CFL):  These bulbs have already been readily available for many years.  With a 75% improvement in energy use, they can replace incandescent bulbs in most household fixtures. They last 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs, burn cooler, cost about the same, and are now available in dimmable versions. Some bulbs need to have a few seconds to reach full light capacity, so this is not a good choice if you need bright light immediately.  Manufacturers are working on eliminating the trace amounts of mercury that these bulbs contain. Home Depot and other hardware stores accept CFL's for recycling.

2) Light emitting diodes (LED): Very long lasting - 15-20 years depending upon usage - and use even less energy than CFL's. These bulbs are an ideal source for task illumination in kitchens, baths, offices, and as accent lighting just about anywhere. They don't get hot, can be dimmed, and are now made in the same traditional shapes as incandescent bulbs, and can also be used in household fixtures. Advances in technology and manufacture have led to the production of fixtures that house LED's and produce a clean, white light.

3) Halogen: These are older than the previous two sources and also last longer (three times) than incandescent bulbs. They burn hot and so are best used in fixtures that have metal housings as in outdoor fixtures and recessed fixtures. I don't recommend them for under or in-cabinet lighting due to the production of heat and the danger of fire.

4) Hybrids: GE has a CFL/halogen hybrid that provides a lower energy use than halogen and a whiter light than older CFL's, making it a good choice for some users. The halogen lights the bulb until the CFL reaches its full more warming up to get the right wattage from your bulb.