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Light Bulbs! What's the difference?

For a lot of consumers, navigating the ever changing light bulb isle is becoming as difficult as identifying a car part. From the various options available (LED, CFL, halogen, lumens, Kelvin, CRI), not to mention all of the various brands (GE, Philips, Cree, EcoSmart — each with its own packaging lingo) it might feel like one needs an engineering degree in order to pick out a light bulb!

Thomas Edison had a really good run; for 134 years we lived under the golden glow of his incandescent bulb. The problem is that his bulbs are not energy-efficient, hence the birth of new technologies with new names.

So, which of these light bulbs should you buy?

Can it dim?

This is the first thing you need to know before you shop. If you have dimmers, then you have to buy bulbs that are compatible. (It will say on the packaging.) Many of the newer bulbs are not and a lot of folks learned this the hard way. In an attempt to be more energy-efficient, they went out and bought a bunch of CFLs, only to find that they don't work. They quickly reverted back to incandescents under the assumption that the new bulbs weren’t compatible with their fixtures. Little did they know that they needed dimmer-friendly bulbs

Say goodbye to “watts”, say hello to “lumens”.

Forget about buying bulbs by wattage, which only measures how much energy a light bulb uses. Instead, shop by lumens, which measures the amount of light that a bulb emits. Almost all light bulbs now use a minimum wattage — usually well below 40 watts — so the measurement is no longer helpful in determining the brightness of the bulb. So when looking at lumens, know this: The higher the lumens, the brighter the light. For example, a 100-watt incandescent has about 1,600 lumens, whereas a 40-watt incandescent has about 450 lumens.

Professionals in the lighting industry know this change is going to take time to get used to (it’s like switching from Fahrenheit to Celsius), which is why most manufacturers have conversion charts on their packaging and Web sites. You can also check out the handy charts at www.energystar.gov. Or call the professionals at [Company] with any questions you may have.

Understand the color spectrum

This is where personal preference and style really come into play. Light bulbs come in a variety of shades, and each of these colors has a temperature rating that is measured in degrees Kelvin. The lower the Kelvin number (between 2,700 and 3,000) the more yellow the light, and the higher the Kelvin (between 5,500 and 6,500), the bluer the light. White light is usually around 3,500 to 4,100. We suggest buying several bulbs, each with a different Kelvin number, to figure out which best suits your decor and your space. Every shade of white is good for a different reason. Modern spaces look better in whiter light, and traditional mahogany-clad rooms look better in a more yellow light. “Daylight,” or a whiter, higher Kelvin light, is more popular in the Southern regions of the United States, whereas a more yellow, lower-Kelvin light is preferred in the North.

Choosing the right bulb for the right place

Ideally we would all use LEDs throughout the house: They last the longest (15 years or more, according to manufacturers) and give the best results. But they are expensive. Even though they will save you money in the long run, it's difficult for most to get past the sticker shock.

Generally LEDs range from $25 to $60. This is not an expense many of us can afford. Instead, use LED bulbs in hard-to-reach fixtures such as those in stairwells and double-story great rooms. Use a combination of CFLs (lasting seven to 10 years and costing $3.50 to $16) and halogen incandescents (about two years, costing $2.50 to $10) in other rooms based on your needs. CFLs are great in kitchens, hallways and bathrooms.

If you want the same glow that you are used to from traditional incandescent bulbs, try using halogen incandescents. They are inexpensive and use much less energy than standard bulbs, but they won’t last as long as CFLs.

We are here for your peace of mind and to answer any lighting or other electrical questions you may have. Contact John’s Electric today and take the guess work out of lighting choices.

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About John's Electric

Linn Park Fountain, Birmingham, AL

John's Electric Inc. is a family owned and operated electrical contractor business that proudly provides electrician services in Birmingham, AL and the surrounding areas such as Hoover, Homewood, Chelsea, Vestavia Hills, Pelham, Alabaster, Trussville, and Mountain Brook. John's Electric provides residential and commercial electrical solutions at competitive rates. We have been in this line of work for 30 years, giving us not only experience but expertise as well. You can depend on us. We are a state licensed electrician (#03875) for your protection.

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