"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
_ William Morris
, 19th century craftsman, designer, writer

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Lightbulb Moment!

I have been considering new pendant-style light fixtures to hang over my kitchen table for quite a while. Quite. A. While. Time to commit.

While browsing for fixtures that feature old-timey Edison light bulbs (with exposed inner filaments) to compliment our 1916 home,  I worried whether the romantic bulbs would be bright enough for reading, crafts, homework, etc..etc. Time to figure out if their substance matched their style.

While undertaking my research, I was sidetracked by the discovery that the existence of light bulbs as we know them in the U.S. may be undergoing drastic change. And by that I mean, sort of like what happened to the dinosaurs...

According to a report from The Associated Press, new standards resulting from the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act require that as of  October 2012 all bulbs producing 40, 60, 75 and 100 watts of light must draw 25 percent less electricity than they currently use to function. This means doom for the cheap, everyday light bulbs most of us are familiar with.


What does this mean for me and my tentative plans for kitchen lighting?

I decided to consult an expert.

Tina King is the product manager for Rejuvenation, America's largest manufacturer and leading direct marketer of authentic reproduction lighting and house parts. She is also directly responsible for the company's light bulbs. 

In order to answer my questions, King explained a few basics to me first.

"A common misconception is that wattage directly equates to light output. Not the case with newer technologies." King explained that in the not so distant old-days, if you were to add more wattage to the bulb you would get more light, "it's how we have thought about it for 100 years."

Now, however, the measured output of light output will be described in lumens. A word we will all be getting more familiar with in the near future. Say, by October 2012. 

King says this is where newer technologies like Compact Florescent bulbs (CFLs) and LEDs will shine (pun intended). "They can produce more light output with fewer watts. That is is why you now see these newer bulbs on the market at wattages like 9, 14, and 23 -but they have the incandescent equivalent of 40, 60 and 100 watts. 

In this new paradigm, if we want an efficient bulb with high light output, we need to read the lumens on the box. The higher the lumens, the more light and lower wattage, and the more efficient."

So where do filament bulbs fit in?

King said although Rejuvenation does carry a 70 watt Carbon Filament bulb (which I had pinned my hopes on), the lumen output is actually very low. "Carbon and Tungsten filaments just did not (and do not) produce a whole lot of light for the wattage they consume. They never did and never will." 


King continued, "These bulbs are purely decorative and I would not recommend them for trying to light up a room. They are very inefficient for that purpose...you would need a lot of them."

The good news? King said the charming filament bulbs will not be affected by the new legislation. "It does not cover specialty bulbs, this includes decorative bulbs like the Carbon and Tungsten reproduction bulbs."

It appears my search for the perfect pendant continues. 

In the meantime, I have learned how to correctly select new light bulbs for my home. Thanks to King, you can too. 

She has provided a brief comparison for LED, CFL, Carbon Filament and Incandescent bulbs below. 

Read on and be illuminated:

(I loved this wonderful, DIY chandelier in a shop at The OC Mart Mix. Lightbulb moment!)

Comparing Lightbulbs to Lightbulbs: 

LED (brightest):
Brightness: 450 or 800 Lumens
Lifetime: Tested to 25,000 hours (almost 3 years)
Efficiency: 56 or 64 Lumens/Watt

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFL) -GU 24 or Screw-in
Brightness: Range from 630 to 1850 Lumens
Lifetime: most are 6,000-15,000 hours (almost 2 years)

Incandescent Bulbs
Brightness: range from 600 to 1230 Lumens
Lifetime: most are 750-1,000 hours (42 days)
Efficiency: 11-12 Lumens/Watt

Carbon Filament Bulbs (the cute ones!)
Brightness: approximately 340 Lumens
Lifetime: no standard rating
Efficiency: approximately 8 Lumens/Watt

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