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How to Find Energy Efficient Bulbs That Don't Suck: Nutrition Facts for Light Bulbs

By: Matt Grocoff , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Home Improvement Tips, Green Renovations, Technology, Old House Blogger Contest

Finding light bulbs that look good when you get them home has always been frustrating.  But, there is now a foolproof way to avoid the “prison glow” you’ve love to hate.

Starting in January 2011 many companies began voluntarily labeling light bulb packages with lumens, watts, kelvins and efficacy.  Greek to you too?  Not worry.  The label is now clear, easy to understand and full of fun colors.

The challenge and frustration with buying compact fluorescent bulbs or LED bulbs is trying to find ones that are the right color and brightness for your tastes.  If you gave up on CFL’s because they were “too blue” or weren’t bright enough, you probably bought bulbs that weren’t labeled properly and ended up with a lousy bulb.

Now with the mandatory “Lighting Facts” label, you’ll find simple language like “color accuracy” and “light output.”

Until now it drove me crazy to try to explain to people how to find a good quality efficient light bulb that they’d be happy with.  People would think they were doing their good deed for the planet or trying to save some money.  But, they would soon be disappointed when they got home to find their living room turned into a scene from the film Clockwork Orange.

Light color, or color temperature, actually impacts hormones in your body.  Until about a century ago, humans were exposed only to natural rhythms of sunlight and an occasional dim candle flame.  Now you see people with an eerie blue glow staring into their iPhones at 10 p.m.  Not exactly a healthy rhythm.

Ever notice how hard it is to fall asleep after working on the computer?  Computer screens, and some light bulbs you’ve mistakenly bought, mimic the color of sunlight.  These lights, sometimes called “cool white” or “bright white”, are great for working during the day, but lousy when you want to get cozy on the sofa.  The high color temperature spikes certain hormones in your body that scream “the sun is up . . . stay awake!”

To find a light bulb you like, just look at the new Lighting Facts label on the package.  I’ve posted a chart below that shows the color temperature of different types of light.  Here’s a quick primer to take with you on your next shopping trip:

1.  Bedroom and Living Room:  Pick a bulb in the “yellow” range as close to 2700K as you can get.

2.  Garage, Basement, Laundry and Utility Room:  These are rooms where mimicking the sun is okay.  So, look for bulbs in the “white” range and have a high color temperature of about 5800K.  Don’t go too much higher than that or you’ll end up in the ugly “blue” range.

3.  Computer Screen: There is a great free program I use called F.lux.  It makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.

Correction:  The original version of this article incorrectly stated that the LightingFacts label was required on all bulb packaging starting in January 2011.  The error has been corrected.  According the DOE, the LightingFacts label is a voluntary pledge program.

SOURCE

DEGREES K

Artificial Light

Match Flame

1700

Candle Flame

1850

40-Watt Incandescent Tungsten Lamp

2650

75-Watt Incandescent Tungsten Lamp

2820

100-Watt Incandescent Tungsten Lamp

2865

500-Watt Incandescent Tungsten Lamp

2960

Professional Tungsten Photo Lamp

3200

Color Photography Studio Tungsten Lamp

3350

Photoflood or Reflector Flood Lamp

3400

Daylight Blue Photoflood Lamp

4800

Daylight   (Sunlight is the light of the sun only.  Daylight combines sunlight and skylight.)

Sunlight:  Sunrise of Sunset

2000

Sunlight:  One Hour After Sunrise

3500

Sunlight:  Early Morning or Late Afternoon

4300

Average Summer Sunlight at Noon in the Mid-latitudes

5400

Direct Mid-Summer Sunlight

5800

Overcast Sky

6000

Daylight Fluorescent Lamp (see note below)

6300

Average Summer Sunlight (plus blue skylight)

6500

Light Summer Shade

7100

Average Summer Shade

8000

Summer Skylight (varies)

9500 – 30,000

Comparison of a standard 60 watt (W) frosted incandescent lamp with a color temperature of approximately 2700 kelvin (K), a 13 W 3500 K compact fluorescent lamp, and a 13 W 5500 K compact fluorescent lamp. These lamps are all similar in lumen output, only the color temperature is different.

Comparison of a standard 60 watt (W) frosted incandescent lamp with a color temperature of approximately 2700 kelvin (K), a 13 W 3500 K compact fluorescent lamp, and a 13 W 5500 K compact fluorescent lamp. These lamps are all similar in lumen output, only the color temperature is different.

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  1. 1 Response  to “How to Find Energy Efficient Bulbs That Don't Suck: Nutrition Facts for Light Bulbs”

  2. frank
    Aug 29, 2011
    This is very helpful, especially since incandescent bulbs are on the way out(by law). I bought a bunch of CFL's, which are "blue" and cold. They were $13 a piece so I don't want to throw them out, but they suck!