Long ago the light bulb was an exciting thing. Probably right after Thomas Edison invented it. It seems the bright little idea has become exciting once again. I thought when I was a kid that it was confusing to pick out the right size and wattage. Now, we have to contend with Lumens, Halogen, Xenon, Fluorescents and LEDs. So how do you make sense of it all?
As a Tampa custom homebuilder, we have to come up to speed on the different options for homes, so here's the crash course from what we have learned. First, lets get up to speed on the key terms. We are all likely familiar with Watts. Although most of us relate Watts to brightness, it's actually the amount of electricity used to produce light in a bulb. Next there is Lumens. This measures the amount of light or brightness a bulb produces. Lastly, there is Efficacy or efficiency of a bulb, which is measured as the number of Lumens per Watt. Now you're up to speed on the terms, but who cares about that. Lets talk about the three different types of bulbs.
First there are Incandescent bulbs. We should all be familiar with these. Inside them, a little metal filament heats up and glows to give off light. Halogen bulbs are Incandescent that have Halogen gas in them, which extends the life of the filament. Be careful with them. Halogens get incredibly hot, so they aren't very good in homes. The last type of Incandescent is Xenon bulbs. Similar to Halogens, the Xenon gas is inside the bulb, which extends the life. Xenons don't get hot and give a good natural light, so they are often used in under counter kitchen lighting. Overall, Incandescent bulbs are the least expensive, but have the shortest life and can get hot.
Many of us have used the second type of bulb - Fluorescents. The long tubes in offices and utility areas that produce that not-so-natural UV lighting have been used for some time. In the past couple of years, we have all seen these strange looking Compact Fluorescent (CFLs) popping up. Same concept as the tubes, but on a smaller scale for lamps and other lights. They do cost 2 to 3 times what a similar Lumen Incandescent costs, but last longer and only the ballast gets hot, not the bulb itself. For years, there has been concern with how to dispose of CFL bulbs since they are filled with mercury, but now many peole have become worried about potential health risks at home due to the mercury, microwaves that they emit and the strong electromagnet field they let off.
Lastly, we have Light Emitting Diodes bulbs or LEDs. The beauty of LEDs is that they are very low in power consumption, have a long life span and produce very little heat. The problem is they don't produce many Lumens or brightness. An even larger issue is that they cost about $50 for a single bulb.
Even with the higher costs of CFLs and LEDs, there is no argument that if you look over the long term, both of these types of bulbs are significantly less expensive to operate than a similar Lumen Incandescent bulb. For me, it's hard to overlook the potential health risks involved with CFL bulbs or the up-front cost of the LED bulbs. Call me old school, but I'm not going to be an early adopter on either of these. My guess is that improvements in manufacturing and technology will get the LED cost down soon, so I'm waiting for that bandwagon to jump on.