That Lightbulb Moment

Ever since the regulations changed to phase out the old style tungsten and halogen light bulbs, lighting has become something of a minefield. I can’t remember the times that I’ve bought a replacement bulb to find that the quality of light it provides is pitiful. And the real irony is that I’m not looking for anything special, just a nice ambient light for a table lamp. Instead I get something that takes time to heat up (please, who can wait until the light is bright enough to be actually able to see?) is gloomy and really not up to the task of lighting an interior space – garden shed maybe, but I don’t intend to read, knit or sew out there!

We all understand the reasoning behind it – energy efficient bulbs create less heat output, use less energy, create less CO2, cost less to run and they last longer, what’s not to like? It is one area of green technology that is easy to use and offers a reduction (albeit small) on household bills that makes you feel like you’re ‘doing your bit.’ However, the first wave of efficiency was really anything but impressive and as so often happens with new technology, everyone jumped on the bandwagon only to discover that they didn’t really like the product. So please do yourself a favour and discard any of those appalling coiled bulbs that you still have hidden at home. They are now outdated! You can replace them for something MUCH better and still be green.

compact fluorescent light

compact fluorescent light

Lighting output is measured in lumens. This is the amount of light a bulb produces. We’ve all be educated to buy bulbs by wattage, which is the amount of energy a bulb consumes! We’ve been focusing on the wrong thing ever since domestic electrical supply was established! It seems bizarre to think that anyone would ever have lit their home based on how much energy they were using. Perhaps that was when each room had one light fitting? So, forget watts and energy consumption – the new lighting technologies have reduced that completely – and think about how much light you want in your room! To replace a 60watt bulb you need about 800 lumens, the higher the quantity of lumens, the more light you’ll have, so an old style 100watt bulb will need a bulb that produces about 1600 lumens and a 40watt bulb will require about 450 lumens.

lighting label

lighting label

The new bulbs also have mysterious codes like E27 – this is the diameter of the fitting they’re designed for! A standard screw fitting is 27mm wide and the small ones are 14mm – or E14, a bayonet fitting is a B22 and 22mm wide. You’d think there’d be a bit more information about changes made to the fittings we all think of as standard, considering the number of people involved in DIY!

When it comes to halogen bulbs, or what we call halogen – the bulbs needed for down lighters – many are now LED fittings. LED or Light Emitting Diodes are fittings made up of many tiny bulbs. Each tiny bulb lights in one direct only and creates a narrow beam; en masse they create what we call an LED bulb. They don’t have filaments – so don’t burn out or generate heat and they do have long lifetimes – this is the reason they have found such favour in recent years. The quality of light LED fittings now produce has improved greatly too – another area that the initial product didn’t quite deliver the goods. Because each fitting has loads of tiny bulbs, the light is created by bulbs of different colours, or a coloured reflector, resulting in fittings that are much closer to a natural tone. Many are now of a warm colour temperature and thus suitable for domestic use. You will need to shop around though as the lumen rating will be the best guide to the light output an LED fitting can give.

What is colour temperature? The visual quality of the light produced is either warm or cool and is categorised on the Kelvin scale in the same way as celsius and centigrade heat measurements are. It’s why the lighting in some rooms has an inviting feel and others are more harsh and unwelcoming. Colour Temperature is also linked to something called the Colour Rendering Index which is a scale of how true to natural a colour appears under different lighting sources. In the home we tend to favour warmer lighting, so knowing what the light output of a bulb is will make a difference to the quality of light you will have at home.

Finding the right colour of light is as annoying as discovering that the output is too low to be practical for anything other than a night light and this is why those hours spent standing in front of the lighting department at your local hardware store is frustrating beyond belief. So, to aid you in your mission to improve the lighting quality of your home, I am here to tell you that it is confusing making a decision on which bulb to choose. You are not alone!

The thing is we have all used light bulbs in our homes for the best part of a century and we are used to paying to replace them, why do we now worry about the cost of the individual bulb when it is going to last us for years? Our concern should be for the quality of light it will provide! There are 8,750 hours in a year and many bulbs are guaranteed to last 10,000 hours, so if you have your lighting on 24 hours a day, you’ll still only have to buy replacement bulbs once a year. Of course, the reality is more measured than that. In the winter, you may have your lighting on for 6-8 hours a day, that one light bulb will last you nearly three years! Putting up with a light quality you don’t like is going to be very annoying over that length of time, can you see what I’m getting at?

This bulb is called an Energy Saving Halogen, it is fully dimmable, has a lifetime of between 5000-10,000 hours and is a warm white in colour. These are the bulbs that I feel are most successful in a domestic environment for table lamps and pendant fittings because they have an attractive appearance as well. Call me old fashioned but I like a light bulb to be discreet, I don’t want it to look space age, I don’t want it to stand out, I just want it to provide light.

Unless of course, you want a bulb that is a feature in its own right – like this one.

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