Nov 9, 2011

Alternative lighting - a primer

In 2013, a new law will begin to turn the lights out on the 131-year-old incandescent light bulb that we have come to associate with the warm glow of home.  Sorry David Cook...seems as though leaving a light on for you has too many environmental ramifications!    Governments around the world have passed measures to phase out incandescent light bulbs for general lighting. The aim is to encourage the use and technological development of more energy-efficient lighting alternatives, such as compact fluorescent lamp (CFLs) and LED lamps. The Department of energy has set minimum efficiency standards for lighting which phase in between 2012 and 2014

Reading the Label

Federal Trade Commission-mandated new

 label on light bulbs will tell you all about the 

bulbs you buy.

The Lighting Facts label on the back will
 repeat the information about brightness
 and energy cost, and add facts 
about the bulb’s life expectancy; 
light appearance—whether the light
 it shines is “warm” or “cool”—  
wattage, or the amount
 of energy the bulb uses
 and whether the bulb contains mercury.
Senate debates have stirred the pot by asking why the government should have a say in the type of light bulb people use in their homes. They've missed the point, of course, since the desire to help everyone reduce energy consumption has long-term personal,  environmental and economic benefits.   Rather simply, the replacement of incandescents with more efficient light sources is more economical.  Despite a slightly higher cost per bulb -- about $1 per bulb, with some municipalities offering rebates -- their use saves 75% of the energy cost over incandescents and has 4-5 times the longevity of incandescents;  overall costs are much improved.   Since only the bulb will change (fixtures can remain the same) the process of switching bulbs should not be difficult.   Also available - although with a higher price tag - are LEDs [light-emitting diodes] and high-efficacy halogen bulbs. 

What does this mean for you?  Keep your traditional fixtures and screw an energy-saving bulb into it. The law will not BAN incandescent bulbs, but will phase them out.  Sure, you can stockpile bulbs for a while  but why? The new bulbs offer the same light production with lower energy and maintenance costs.  Concern for the "how bright will the new bulb burn" can be addressed by reading the label.  Lumens are the measure of light output by bulbs. A typical 60 watt incandescent bulb produces 800 lumens, so simply select a CFL or halogen that is labeled at 800 lumens.   Wattage is NOT the same as a lumen but represents the energy consumed to produce the light or lumen. Wattage on CFL's  halogens and LED's will be significantly  lower since they are designed to save energy. 

Long-term, these new bulbs offer more variety in lighting and are more beneficial with improved quality of light,  lower energy consumption, and better operating and maintenance costs.  LED and other technologies are predicted to be the mainstay of lighting in the future, as they are significantly more efficient than either halogen or CFL's.  A good designer - many have been using alternative lighting for years - can guide you with the best layered lighting for task, accent and ambiance.

LED light bulbs (LEDs) are one of the great new energy conservation inventions that has potential to make a significant impact on CO2 levels world wide. By 2020 50-70% of lighting, will be LED. Why? LEDs emit a much higher percentage of light in the desired direction, generate very little unwanted heat, and the energy savings may be doubled in environments where each watt of incandescent lighting can add another watt or more to the power needed for air conditioning. The EPA encourages the use of innovative light source technologies such as LED Light Bulbs.