Choosing the right light bulb
Lifespan, color rendition, dimmer compatibility among top considerations
In the world of home improvement products, it used to be that one of the things you could count on for consistency year after year was the light bulb. Little-changed since its invention, it was a product you didn't really have to give much thought to.
No longer. Today, there's a lot of confusion surrounding this simple staple of the American household. Are 100-watt bulbs banned? Are those twisty bulbs dangerous? Can you use these new bulbs with a dimmer? Aren't the new bulbs really expensive? There are lots of questions and lots of confusing answers, so let's try to clear up what we can.
Incandescent bulbs are the traditional household light bulbs. They consume electricity, which is measured in watts, and give off light, which is measured in lumens. However, most of the electricity they consume is actually given off as heat, so these bulbs have never been particularly energy efficient.
Incandescent bulbs haven't technically been “banned.” What's happened is that new energy efficiency standards have been put into place, which simply means that the bulbs now need to consume less electricity for same amount of lumens produced.
So the traditional 100-watt light bulb is, in essence, a thing of the past. It's being replaced by a bulb that produces the same amount of light, but uses about 72 watts. Since that translates to money in your pocket in the form of energy savings, it's not a bad thing. Similar wattage-to-lumen reductions are set to phase in for other bulbs over time, but given the ongoing mess in Washington, those dates are a congressional moving target.
Halogen bulbs, also called energy-saving bulbs, are incandescent light bulbs that have a capsule inside that holds halogen gas around the filament, which increases the efficiency of the bulb. Halogen bulbs are a little more expensive to buy initially, but their energy efficiency increases by about 25 percent over a standard incandescent bulb, and they can last up to three times as long.
Another advantage to halogen bulbs is their color rendition, which is the ability of a light source to render the colors of an object similar to the way sunlight does. This makes them a great choice for many desk and task light applications. Halogen bulbs also can be used with dimmers.
Compact fluorescent bulbs