Understanding LED Light Bulbs
Q: It used to be easy to replace a light bulb; now there are so many options, I don’t know what to choose. What do you recommend?
A: It’s hard to imagine a household commodity that has changed more in the last five years than the light bulb. The incandescent bulbs we all grew up with wasted a lot of energy and have been phased out. Government mandates ushered in the brief reign of the more efficient, but widely despised, compact fluorescent bulbs, or CFLs, which emit terrible-quality light and are difficult to dispose of because of their mercury content. The public’s loathing of CFLs accelerated the development of light-emitting-diode bulbs known as LEDs, which now rule the lighting world. These use up to 80 percent less energy than the old incandescents and can last for decades. LEDs are improving all the time and their prices are coming down. However, the quality of light they produce varies significantly, so it’s helpful to understand some lighting nomenclature before you buy.
Most LED bulb boxes have a Lighting Facts label that indicates brightness (measured in lumens), color temperature (labeled K for Kelvin temperature), energy use, estimated energy costs, and expected life. Since most packages also specify the type of incandescent bulb the LED replaces, you don’t need to pay much attention to the brightness measure. Instead, zero in on color temperature: 3,000K is my recommendation for a universally flattering, warm-white light. Anything higher is going to have a cooler, bluish-white cast. Another good measure is the Color Rendering Index, or CRI, which tells you how accurately the bulb renders colors compared to an incandescent bulb, which has a CRI of 100. For LEDs, a CRI of 80 or higher is best.
To ensure an LED will fit in your fixture, bring your old bulb with you to the store and compare the bases. The splayed fins that LEDs have to dissipate heat make them larger than other bulbs. Make sure the bulb is dimmable (you may need to replace your dimmer switches with LED-friendly ones to avoid annoying flickering or buzzing). And if you plan to use the bulb outdoors and/or in an enclosed fixture (some LEDs require more airflow than these lights provide), check that these applications are noted on the box.
If you haven’t already, now’s the time to embrace this new technology — unlike previous innovations, this one is here to stay.
Planning Landscape Lighting
Q: What’s a good strategy for lighting a yard?
A: I suggest following a less is more approach. You don’t want your yard to be lit up like a theme park, and I promise your neighbors don’t either. Too much exterior light can be blinding, uses unnecessary electricity, and contributes to the brightening of the night sky, making it difficult to see stars and disrupting animal habitats. Instead, focus on installing fixtures where you need them — near a patio or path, for example — and accentuating a few special features in the landscape. In addition to making your yard feel inviting when you’re outdoors, these pockets of illumination give you something to gaze out at (other than a black window) when you’re inside your home at night.
I recommend down lighting, also known as moonlighting, as an environmentally friendly means of landscape lighting. You can place downlights, which have a cylindrical casing around the bulb to eliminate glare, high up on tree trunks and aim them at a walkway, seating area, or the tree’s own foliage for a moonlit effect. Path lights — typically 18- to 24-inch posts topped with canopies that direct light downward — are a good choice for highlighting plantings in a garden. Modern versions, such as those shown above, are also available. Place path fixtures about 20 feet apart to create glowing areas that draw the eye from one plant to the next versus a single blast of illumination. Avoid stationing these lights at regular intervals along a path, which conjures a landing strip, and using them on lawns, where they are vulnerable to lawnmowers and weed wackers.
Opt for solid brass or copper fixtures, which hold up well in Maine weather and can withstand the occasional ding from a power tool, and use 20-watt equivalent LED bulbs. These last up to 20 years in a landscape setting (compared with six months to a year for halogen bulbs), a lifespan you’ll be especially thankful for if your fixtures are in a tree.
What could be cooler? The Koncept mr. GO comes in five fun colors, 5-50 hours of illumination depending on level setting AND has a USB output to charge your other devices on the GO!
Three Essential Types of Lighting
Three essential types of lighting are Ambient, Task and Accent, sometimes called the triple crown of interior illumination.
|Good Source of Ambient Light|
Ambient Lighting, also called general or overall lighting, provides the light necessary for safe and effective interior illumination, allowing hazard-free navigation of the interior space with minimal shadows. Usually a ceiling fixture meets the requirements of good ambient lighting. To determine a room’s ambient lighting requirement multiply the room’s square footage by 1.5 to get the minimum number of incandescent watts necessary. You can then translate those watts into fluorescent or LED wattage equivalents if you like. Ambient is only the base layer in a well designed lighting plan which also could include wall sconces, floor lamps, recessed lights or picture lights.
Task lighting focuses light on tasks that are performed in a given room. It is a layer of light that should be used in addition to, not in place of, ambient and accent lighting. In most homes, kitchens, laundries and bathrooms require the most task lighting. But the requirement of these three room require different types of task lighting. Kitchens need recessed lighting in the ceiling aligned with the front edge of the lower cabinets in addition to under cabinet lighting and some kind of ceiling fixture and/or pendants. Bathrooms need wall sconces on either side of vanities for optimal light for makeup application and shaving. And laundries need bright ambient light to facilitate separating colors and to provide light for ironing and folding.
|Example of Accent Lighting|
Accent lighting is used to light art, sculpture or interesting architectural features like stone fireplaces. It is the layer of light that gives a room “texture” and interest and dimension. It lets you focus on the interesting features that are in the room. Some people think that accent light should be up to three times brighter than surrounding ambient light. I do not necessarily agree with this thought. I think accent light should not distract, but rather enhance, the ambiance of the room. Wall sconces, picture lights and directional recessed lights can all be used as accent lighting.
And remember, use dimmers on every light in the house. They cost a little more than switches, but they allow so much greater control over the lighting that they can really make a lighting plan “pop”. Please visit us at www.fogglighting.com, like us on Face Book and call with all your lighting questions and needs. We help people light up their lives!