Choosing the Right Light Bulbs

By: John Billington

When shopping for light bulbs online or in a store, understanding some common lighting terminology you will encounter as well as the different types of bulbs that are available is helpful.

First, you will probably notice that there seem to be a million options in home lighting. The heat emitting bulbs to which most people are accustomed are called incandescent light bulbs, which use heat to produce light and waste a majority of the energy they consume in the in the process. Compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs, are fluorescent bulbs for use in standard fixtures which represent the home lighting version of the long used fluorescent tube lights. CFLs are rapidly gaining a stronghold on the lighting industry due to their significant energy conservation compared to incandescent bulbs. Halogen lighting is similarly energy efficient and produces very bright light, but the great deal of heat it produces makes it less desirable than fluorescent bulbs for many consumers.

If you have ever purchased a light bulb, or any electrical gadget for that matter, you have probably come across the term watts. A watt is a measurement of electricity, or the amount of work that can be accomplished using a given amount of electric current at a certain voltage. If you are replacing a standard incandescent bulb and are satisfied with the intensity of the light it produced, you can simply purchase a bulb with the same wattage. However, if you are replacing standard incandescent bulbs with more energy efficient compact fluorescent lighting, you will not need to purchase the same wattage as your old bulb. Why? Fluorescent bulbs are multiple times more efficient at utilizing electricity, and therefore require fewer watts to produce the same amount of light as a higher wattage incandescent bulb. For instance, you can replace a 75 watt incandescent bulb with a 20 watt fluorescent bulb, and achieve the same level of light output. The packaging of most CFLs denotes the equivalent incandescent wattage for your reference. Bear in mind that many light fixtures and lamps specify the maximum wattage bulb they support, and adherence to this specification is important for your safety.

While brightness levels for different rooms are largely a matter of personal preference, it helps to consider what level of lighting you prefer for specific applications when purchasing light bulbs. Many consumers utilize bright lighting in the kitchen for visibility, but dimmer ambient lighting in the living room for the atmosphere. You can use the bulbs already in your home to determine the appropriate wattage to purchase, either adjusting up for more brightness, down for less or staying with the same level.

You will also notice when purchasing light bulbs that the options span a wide range of prices. Compact fluorescent lights have a higher purchase price than incandescent bulbs, but are probably a better value when you consider the energy savings and longer life. Also, check to see if your utility company is offering a rebate or other incentive for switching to fluorescent lighting, as many are. Being educated on the pros and cons of different types of lighting that are available will help you make an educated decision for your household.

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