Ah, The humble A19 60-watt soft white incandescent light bulb. How many have you changed in your life time? How many people did it take? Cue rim shot and canned laughter. Could Edison have ever seen the day his greatest, most difficult-to-perfect invention would sell for less than $1 each? The 60-watt light bulb doesn't have long to live folks. It has already been outlawed in several countries, and there were reports of hoarding when it was announced that they would be phased out in the EU.
Pay attention: the US is supposed to be phasing them out by 2014!
People, you have nothing to fear. There is no need for petitions. We don't need to create a "National Incandescent Association" and get some celebrity to talk about prying light bulbs out of his cold dead hands. There are more and better options being produced everyday. Between CFLs and the newest LED technologies, the lighting in your house of tomorrow is going to look radically different--or exactly the same. It's up to you.
One thing is for certain though, you are going to save money
on your lighting bill!
Honestly, think about it: how archaic is a piece of glowing hot wire inside a vacuum wrapped in glass? It's almost as if once we had moved past gas lanterns, we collectively decided that was far enough. Well, not quite--one hundred years ago those 60 watt bulbs only gave off a feeble glow. The generally-used unit of measure for light bulbs is lumens and those early bulbs gave off only about 100 of them. Inventors were able to double and triple that and, by 1910, were getting nearly 500 lumens out of a 60 watt bulb. Today a survey of the shelves at my local hardware store indicates that for 60 watts of electricity, we get nearly 800 lumens.
In my other job I sell antique lighting. A question that comes up all the time is "How many watts can I use in that fixture
?" What people are really want to know is "How much light am I going to be able to get?
" The brightness of the light bulb is relative to the amount of wattage it consumes, but one 60 watt bulb is not always the same brightness as the next. That's where the lumen measurement comes in--but lumens are a measure of visible light and we see different colors better than others. So if you are using a warm color bulb, it will take more lumens to appear just as bright. This is why four 25-watt bulbs in a fixture are not as bright as one 100-watt bulb. Generally, the higher the wattage, the hotter, whiter the light.
We all know what Compact Florescent Light bulbs (CFLs) are--besides being the light bulbs of the future. They are those strange little corkscrew or spring looking bulbs that started appearing all over the place ten years or so ago. When they first appeared they had many draw backs. They didn't fit in many lamps, they cost a lot, they weren't dimmable, they gave off a weird light and they took a few seconds to get fully lit.
Nearly every one of those problems has been solved now. They still cost more than an incandescent bulb and there are still some fixtures they won't fit into. Cost-wise they just keep getting cheaper. Since they can last eight times longer than incandescent bulbs, they actually are cheaper than eight old bulbs. Factor in the energy savings and suddenly you're making money on the deal when you pay $8 for a CFL that produces 800 lumens, only uses 13 watts, lasts 8 times longer and uses 75% less energy over its life. That's 360 kilowatt/hours less over its life. Look at your electricity bill and let me know how many dollars that works out to.
You can get fluorescent bulbs in many different shades of white. The color of light is measured in degrees Kelvin, you don't have to know why. A candle is less than 2000K, daylight on a sunny day is about 5000K and overcast days are about 8000K. I know, it's like crazy backwards world: the hotter this Kelvin guy gets, the cooler the light is. Well, just think about candle flame verses gas flame and it kind of makes sense. The gas flame is hotter, but the light is "cooler" in most people's minds.
I'm not just showing you how much I know: CFLs are rated by color in Kelvin right on their packages. People don't want blue/green fluorescent lights in their dining room or around their vanity mirror, but they might prefer it to read by. CFLs come in soft white, bright white, daylight and cool white. I could try to explain, but the picture above works much better.
Now, you may still be leery of trying these new things. Do what I did and replace the hardest to reach bulbs in the house first. The first CFL I ever used I put in a porch light that for some reason is mounted fifteen feet above the groun, and requires balancing a ladder on a flight of stairs to change. Just the savings in trouble changing the bulb made this one worth easily one hundred times the cost of an incandescent bulb. Because it used 75% less power, I never had to worry whether it was left on all day. Next I suggest replacing any hall, bedroom or kitchen light that is fully encased in a glass globe. The CFL light, filtered through that shade is hard to distinguish from the old bulbs you are used to.
The last place you want to use CFL bulbs are in decorative fixtures like sconces, and dining room chandeliers. For one thing, some of them can't be used on a dimmer. But the big problem is that though they may fit, they just don't FIT. They don't look right. Part of the problem is that these fixtures were made for smaller flame and torpedo shaped bulbs, also they look best with clear, not frosted bulbs. Though you can get CFLs in a torpedo shape, they are big and clunky and are all white plastic and frosted glass.
The good news is, though they are still just coming to market, the LEDs
LEDs or Light Emitting Diodes are already on the shelves of your hardware store. They don't yet have a 60 watt equivalent, but they have awesome looking smaller bulbs that will replace most 25 and 40 watt decorative bulbs. These new type of bulbs will cut again your energy usage for lighting, and last at least twice as long as the CFLs. A 2.5 watt LED gives you nearly the light of a 25 watt incandescent, or 90% less.
These bulbs truly are the light of the future. Besides making LED bulbs that mimic traditional bulbs, there are currently whole new LED fixtures that were impossible with other forms of lighting. Things like whole walls, or ceilings that can light up. Or thin strips of LEDs that can light a room, but be nearly invisible when switched off. From a design standpoint, lighting is suddenly very hot and very cool--especially if you're named Kelvin.