Not all bulbs are created equal. Choosing the right source for your light fixture can affect the functionality and appearance of your home, as well as your energy bill. Light output, energy efficiency, durability and style greatly vary from source to source. Before changing your burnt-out bulbs, consider the following four categories to choose a lamp that helps you meet the design and efficiency goals for your home.
Before selecting wattage, be sure to look at the maximum wattage your light fixture can yield. Installing the wrong wattage can create excess heat, which can create a serious fire hazard in your home. Wattage indicates the amount of energy a bulb uses (or in other words, how much electric power a bulb consumes), not the amount of light it emits.
The chart below helps you choose an energy-saving equivalent to a traditional incandescent source:
Lumens measure the amount of light produced by a bulb. Put simply, the more lumens a light bulb has, the brighter the light. For lights that are further from the area they are lighting (such as a recessed can in a 12-foot ceiling) – you will want a higher lumen output to ensure functional illumination. For task applications, higher lumen output is also desired to provide bright, direct light over work areas.
The following chart, adopted from the Lighting Research Center, gives you some guidelines for determining lumens by application:
|Task Area||Minimum Lumens|
|Kitchen cutting counters||360|
|Stairs, entries, hallways||1200|
New packaging makes it easy for consumers to compare efficiency ratings of bulbs. Today, all lamp packages include a Lighting Facts label, required by the U.S. Federal Trade commission, which clearly displays the following measurements:
- Brightness (measured in lumens)
- Energy cost
- Life expectancy
- Light appearance (“warm” vs. “cool”)
- Mercury content
- Purchasing Tip: When shopping, compare the lumens and life of different bulbs of the same wattage to settle on a lamp that gives you the best combination of light output and length of life.
- Deciding between an LED lamp or integrated LED fixture? Progress Lighting’s Director of Decorative Product Development David Peek says, “The performance and life of a fixture with an integrated LED source has been validated through an extensive array of performance and safety testing. In a standard fixture utilizing LED bulbs, the stated life and performance of the bulb has not optimized for the luminaire.”
For further bulb education, the American Lighting Association offers a detailed guide for types of light sources and light bulbs.
The Lighting Facts label is a great resource for determining the warmth of the source. As a general rule of thumb, a 3000K source will produce that natural, warm light that consumers are most accustomed to in interior settings.
Finally, it’s important to consider the style of your fixture and which type of bulb will further its intended design. For example, a fixture created for exposed bulbs would not be compatible with CFL sources design-wise, due to the spiral shape of the bulb. On the other hand, a light that has a soft, diffusing shade may work really well with a CFL lamp. If your fixture is intended to have an exposed source, selecting a lower lumen output (or mid-century design such as an Edison bulb) might better further the design.
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