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.
Here is an example of what is happening in the the world of lighting today and what will continue to happen in the foreseeable future. LED’s are all the rage and designers are finding all sorts of new ways to incorporate them into light fixtures. The reasons are clear: LED’s consume far less energy than incandescent light bulbs, LED’s are cool to the touch, LED’s have better color temperature than they did in the past, LED’s have a super long life, and LED’s are small so fixture design can be very creative. In addition to LED fixtures like this one, LED light bulb design is evolving very quickly also. Technicians are finding ways to make them more attractive and more like the good old fashioned incandescent light bulbs. Some of the new LED light bulbs even grow warmer in color temperature as they are dimmed, just like incandescent light bulbs do. Additionally, new, more efficient heat sink materials are being developed which allow LED light bulbs be more streamlined and closer in appearance to both A-lamps and candelabra bulbs. Pretty soon you will be able to use LED bulbs in chandeliers and not notice a difference between them and the candelabra bulbs they replace. Best of all, LED’s are becoming less expensive all the time as manufacturing becomes more efficient and more manufacturers enter the marketplace. As with anything though, I urge you to be careful when buying any LED product as there still are huge quality differences among the myriad of products and producers out there. Try to see the product before you buy it to make sure the color of the light is acceptable to you. I recommend buying dimmable LED light bulbs and fixtures – some LED’s are not dimmable. I also recommend caution in using dedicated LED recessed lighting fixtures. Once you install them they are in the ceiling a long time and the quality of the light might not be satisfactory for you. Instead, consider buying a regular recessed fixture and using an LED light bulb. That way you are not locked in. Please visit our website www.fogglighting.com and like us on Facebook. You also might be interested in the Underwriter’s Laboratory app, LightSmart, which can be downloaded from the App Store. It has all kinds of great information about lighting…and its free.
I get asked this question almost every day, and every day I have the same answer: “Don’t get locked into a technology that is changing daily.” By this I mean, use LED replacement light bulbs, but do not buy fixtures with dedicated LED modules already built in. The LED dedicated fixtures are much more expensive than conventional fixtures, and you will be stuck with them when a much more advanced LED option becomes available in a few months or a year. The exception to this rule is in the use of under cabinet or cove lighting where LED tape light and other LED fixtures have been proven to be good alternatives (albeit more expensive).
The Light bulb pictured here on the left is a technological breakthrough. This light bulb is manufactured by Soraa, the most advanced LED MR16 manufacturer in the world. This MR16 can be used in any fixture that uses MR16’s. It is dimmable, comes in various color temperatures and is available with a variety of lenses, filters and louvers which control beam spread and glare. Not all replacement bulbs are created equal. This is one of the best. It costs a little more than it’s cheaper rivals, but the results are noticeable.
The light bulb pictured on the right is an LED replacement bulb for a standard incandescent light bulb. Notice the “fingers” that extend up from the socket to the base of the globe. These “fingers” are made from a material that will draw heat away from the solid state components in the light bulb. (LED’s generate heat because of the resistance in the solid state components – much like a computer).
This brings me to crux of the LED dilemma – until scientists can find much more efficient heat sink materials than are available today, LED’s are stuck in limbo. The greater the lumen output, the more heat is generated and this heat must be dissipated. This breakthrough will come fairly soon, and when it does, there will be a flood of new products.
Please visit us at www.fogglighting.com and like us on Facebook. Also check out the app “LightSmart” from UL which has tons of great information about lighting. Need lighting help, call Fogg Lighting at 207-797-7568.