Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Efficient lighting pt 2

A few days ago, in the first part of this article I wrote that the advances in compact fluorescent lights(CFL's) and major reductions in price, have made it a lot better choice for lighting than even a few years ago. This doesn't mean that you should go out and buy CFL's for every light in the house, but it does mean it may be time to begin moving in that direction. I would start with replacing any light that tends to burn for several hours every day. (I started with my reading lamp in my office. It is on the same switch as everything else in my office, and so runs about 10-15 hours a day.)

Two particular improvements have made the biggest difference. The first one is the addition of "bright white" and "daylight" CFL's to the older "warm white" and "cool white" bulbs. (In incandescent bulbs there is also "soft white" but I haven't seen it in CFL's and don't really know if it refers to a "color," or just the fact that the frosting on the glass softens the glare.) OK, "daylight" fluorescent lights have been around for several years, but they were always too expensive to consider. The other improvement is somewhat smaller CFL's are now available.

Each of these "colors" refers to what colors of light are more pronounced in the spectrum. Warm white has extra red and orange. Cool white has extra green and blue. Daylight is supposed to have a spectrum similar to the actual spectrum of daylight. Bright white seems to be a compromise between daylight and cool white, and the price is a compromise too.

About cost. The newer "colors" are somewhat more expensive to buy, and also put out less lumens than the cool white's, but they are worth it. The old (two years ago) advice was to buy the cool white bulbs, and go up one size. That means you replace a 40 watt incandescent with a 60W equivalent CFL. With the new "bright white" CFL's, this may or may not be necessary.

Even going up one size with the old bulbs wasn't satisfactory because the light "color" made things look different. Many people (mostly but not always, women) didn't like the way it made them look. One person said it made them look jaundiced. Chefs also didn't like what it made their food look like. (Anyone heard of green eggs and ham - in US Army mess halls? Compliments of cool white bulbs over scrambled eggs)

The newer colors fix that. There is a problem though. With the bright white, if the light is too strong, some people are bothered by the excess brightness. I went up one size AND switched to bright whites in my living room and ran into this problem. Too bright.

The one my wife complains about being too bright are also just long enough to be directly visible. They stick out of their shade about 1/2 inch, which of course is another problem. CFL's will not fit in many fixtures. This is also the other improvement I mentioned in the second paragraph. There has been a steady improvement in making the CFL's closer to the size of standard light bulbs. This has all but been accomplished. I don't think it will be 100% for several more years, but they have come quite a ways. I think, eventually, LED lights will have to be used in the smallest of fixtures.

I also tried a DayLight bulb. Went up two sizes, to a 75W equivalent, and while it is decidedly whiter and brighter than the 60W equivalent bright white CFL's, I don't think I would recommend it, unless you are really have a critical need for color balance (And there is still no guarantee you will like the color balance).

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