Monday, January 2, 2012

Design Tips: Energy Efficient Light Bulbs

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and are settling back into "normal" life... The new year always brings expectations of a fresh start and change. Resolutions anyone?

Let's resolve to reduce the energy we use lighting our homes, use the light we have sensibly, and dispose of our burned-out bulbs properly.

In 2007, our government under President George W. Bush enacted the Energy Independence and Security Act in an effort to reduce our country's dependence on foreign energy sources. The current Congress is seeking to delay the ban, citing manufacturers of light bulbs have spend millions of dollars in development of more efficient light sources, and the debate about consumer rights to choose what they want.

This year, on January 1, 2012, traditional 100 watt incandescent light bulbs were supposed to have been phased out, but because of the general confusion, stockpiling by retailers and additional Congressional moves, who knows what going on. I sure don't!

I say act responsibly. If you need a lot of light, look at fluorescent sources first to see if that will meet your need. Fluorescent light has come a long way since the buzzing, flickering greenish glow of tubes in years past. Modern CFLs, short for Compact Fluorescent Light(bulb), as well as modern fluorescent tubes, come in a variety of colors from warm yellow glows to bright white.

Fluorescents are best used when the light will stay on for a while. They'll burn out quickly if they get turned off and on frequently, and for very short periods of time. The light is not effective since most fluorescents have a dim "warm-up" period, so you're better off using a light bulb that's bright immediately. Use fluorescents in your office, work space, living rooms or kitchen but not in bathrooms, closets and stairwells.

There are even fluorescent tubes and lamps that imitate full-spectrum daylight. I have these in my garage, where I often work out, especially on rainy, snowy or icy days. I really do feel better after spending time under these lights, and, I have to turn them off in the evening or I will have a hard time sleeping!

Other downsides to fluorescents, compact or not, is that you should not dispose of them in the garbage, and don't handle broken bulbs with your bare hands. There is mercury inside fluorescent light bulbs and tubes. Many areas and retailers have recycling options, it's worth digging around to find out how to do the right thing.

Most fluorescents are also not dimmable, nor compatible with some daylight sensors. I found out the hard way when I was replacing my "long-lasting" CFL in an exterior fixture every other week! How's that for irony? Check with the manufacturer or packaging for the correct usage.

In many rooms at my house, I use CFLs for most of the light, but accent with traditional incandescent light bulbs. Some of my light fixtures need a "prettier" light bulb since it is exposed, so I usually opt for clear or candleabra-style incandescent bulbs.

I'm eagerly awaiting LEDs to come down in price and up in light amount, or "lumens." So far, I'm not finding them to be very bright. My new LED holiday lights are lovely, but it hasn't worked out so well for my desk lamp.

Until LEDs arrive for real, I'll enjoy the control, light quality and improved efficiency of halogens over incandescents.

To me quality of light is so important because it strongly affects how you feel in your home. No one wants to live in a dark and dreary house or one flooded in harsh white light. So, choose your lighting sensibly, use only what you need, and dispose of properly. If we all do that, we won't need legislation to tell us what we have to use!

Until next time!
-Elaine Bothe

For additional information about full-spectrum lighting, talk to Kay the Light Bulb Lady at Sunlan Lighting, in Portland Oregon.

For info on phase-out dates, wattage and lumen differences between incandescents, CFLs and halogen bulbs, check out the article "Lights Out for the Incandescent Light Bulb," published online at the Washington Post website.

For more information about recycling compact fluorescents, visit

Warning: Do not exceed manufacturer's recommendations for light bulb wattage. You can't always replace any light bulb with another type, some may overheat or cause other problems. Use caution, and, always check with an electrician and manufacturers for information.

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posted by Jennifer Adams Design Group Blog @ 12:01 AM 


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