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How to choose the perfect light bulb

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ December 29, 2011

Are all light bulb products interchangeable? Not so, according to Consumer Reports. The product evaluator and watchdog recommends that you match the replacement bulb to your lighting fixture. Even if you buy a bulb made for energy efficiency, using it in the wrong environment can shorten its life and negatively affect its performance.

Selecting your bulb

First, let's look at your choices. It's not surprising that light-emitting diode (LED) and compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs oiffer the best options in green lighting. CFLs use up to 75 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and can last 10 times longer under average use.

LEDs use even less energy than CFLs and can last more than 30 years. On the negative side, they're more expensive up front. According to Old House Web (LED Bulbs May Be the New Light Wave of the Future), LED bulbs surpass CFLs in most every category.

Whichever bulb appeals to you most, always compare lumens when shopping. A good rule of thumb is to choose replacements with 800 lumens for traditional 60-watt incandescent bulbs, and 1,600 lumens for swapping out a 100-watt incandescent.

Remember that recessed bulbs may require more lumens to emit the intensity you're after. Color temperature ratings are on each package. For natural daylight effect, choose a replacement bulb in the 5,000K-6,000K range.

Matching new bulbs to purpose

In most parts of your home, you'll use lamps, ceiling and wall fixtures, In the kitchen, you may use a wide range of options. I've found that the best kitchen lighting is practical and dramatic. Most task lighting, spot lighting and under-cabinet lighting fixtures support the new CFLs and LEDs.

For overhead lighting, you may want to try LEDs if you dislike the spiral bulbs used in CFLs. Of course, there are also covered CFLs. In locations where you want the lights to come on quickly - entry lamps, bathroom fixtures, storage rooms - consider LEDS over slow-to-brighten CFLs.

For rooms with dimmers like kitchens, dining rooms and living rooms, choose LEDs or halogen bulbs specifically designed for use with a range of settings. New generation halogen bulbs use around 25 percent less electricity than incandescent bulbs and are good choices for dimmer fixtures. Many CFL bulbs are not designed for use with dimmers.

Last, if you want to use a new replacement bulb in an enclosed fixture (lamp or ceiling fan enclosure) read the package carefully to see if it's recommended specifically for that use. If not, it may overheat in the enclosure, dramatically shortening its service life.

The Department of Energy claims that if every American household swapped out just one incandescent bulb, we'd collectively save sufficient energy to light 3 million homes for a year. Changed yours yet?

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