The Lighting Lowdown: Everything You Need To Know About Lighting

New technology means more efficient lighting options for your home.

| January/February 2009

  • The Eleek Nouveau Pendant is compatible with LED or CFL blubs.
  • The Ilumisys Designer Series includes five elegant LED light fixtures that require just 10 to 18 watts of electricity.
  • Dimming the voltage by just 10 percent can double a bulb’s life. All dimmers cut energy when you lower the light, but some new models do an even better job.
  • Even though incandescent blubs are inexpensive, widely available and emit a pleasing warm light, they are energy-inefficient, generates heat, burns out quickly, and many are soon to be banned.

Soon, choosing energy-efficient lighting will be a must for every homeowner. Thanks to new efficiency standards set by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, U.S. retailers will start phasing out many incandescent bulbs by 2012. Happily, a wide range of new, efficient options match the quality of incandescent light but last much longer and pay for themselves through lower energy bills.

LED-ing the way

The biggest buzz in efficient lighting today surrounds light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Because they emit light using electron movement and have no filament to burn out, LEDs last as long as 10 to 20 years. They’re also four times more efficient than incandescents and, unlike compact fluorescents, contain no mercury. Though LEDs have been illuminating digital clocks, watches and appliances for years, the new LEDs are bright enough to handle many other tasks. The LR6, a recessed can-style light by Cree, is one of the first LEDs on the market with a color rendering index (CRI) higher than 90, which makes it ideal for task lighting in places such as the kitchen. Though they’re designed for ease and work with existing can light fixtures, they’re pricey at more than $100 each.

Just as CFLs have dropped in price since their market introduction, LEDs are becoming more affordable. Researchers at Purdue University are exploring low-cost, metal-coated silicon wafers that would help cut the expense of making an LED lamp.  New advances in LED technology combined with improved manufacturing techniques could reduce the price of LED lamps to around the cost of a coffeehouse specialty, says Timothy Sands, director of Birck Nanotechnology Center at Purdue University. “When the cost of a white LED lamp comes down to about $5, LEDs will be in widespread use for general illumination,” Sands says. “LEDs are still improving in efficiency, so they will surpass fluorescents.  Everything looks favorable for LEDs, except for that initial cost, which is a problem that is likely to be solved soon.” 

DON’T be afraid to pull a bulb out of the box and screw it into the store’s lighting display to see if it’s the brightness and color you want.

DO choose energy-efficient bulbs with a “Kelvin temperature” (usually listed on the box) of 2,700 for warmer, general lighting and around 5,000 for cool task lighting. 



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