(En)lighten up your home!

(En)lighten up your home!

With the advent of energy efficient light bulbs, lighting has become much cheaper as well: CFLs and LEDs consume a fraction of what traditional (incandescent) bulbs do – plus they last much longer. So changing to those types of lighting seems to be the efficient, economical and environmental thing to do. But is this always the case? And if so, which one is better, CFL or LED?

First things first: nowadays, the major types of bulb commonly found at home are (in ascending order of energy efficiency):

  • Incandescent lamp
  • Halogen lamp
  • Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL)
  • Light Emitting Diode (LED)

Light Emitting Diode (LED) and Compact Fluorescent (CFL) bulbs are the most energy-efficient light bulb options, followed by halogen lamps. Incandescent lighting is considered the most common, though least energy efficient, type of lighting used in homes. Still, don’t rush out changing to LED bulbs – not before you read the following tips:

What kind of lighting is best for your bathroom? 
Incandescent bulbs emit heat as well as light. In fact, as their principle of operation is incandescence, the energy they consume is mostly converted to heat than useful light. Though this does not seem very energy efficient (it’s not), there is a case when it may come handy: the bathroom. The extra heat they generate may be useful in the bathroom, especially during winter. In addition, most experts recommend using incandescent bulbs there, because the light produced has natural, complexion-flattering properties. It is true that yellow, warm light offered by incandescent lamps is much preferred for certain tasks, such as grooming, shaving and makeup. In the bathroom, especially around vanity mirrors, task lighting is critical and incandescent fixtures will allow you to easily control the brightness of these fixtures with a dimmer. LED bulbs of different colors do exist, and some even work with (new generation) dimmers, but they are much more expensive than ordinary LEDs, so keep that in mind. CFL bulbs also require new generation dimmers, plus they take some time to fully light up (sometimes more than a minute) which makes them impractical for quick on and offs, not to mention that turning CFL lights on and off frequently, significantly reduces their life.

For safety reasons stairwells are one of the most important areas in your home to light. Stairs and stairwells that aren’t properly (or at all) lightened make people at best fumble around in the dark and at worst, fall. In the case of stairs, good lighting is a matter of safety, both for everyday use and for emergencies.

Considering the use of stairs, and their lighting fixtures that may hang high above stairs (making changing a burnt out bulb cumbersome, even precarious), LEDs seem to be the best choice here:  The operating life of a LED is the longest among all bulbs, and is unaffected by turning it on and off frequently (in contrast to CFLs, halogen and incandescent lamps). In addition to low consumption, this characteristic gives LEDs a distinct advantage over the others, as you won’t have to replace them as often. Also, LEDs light up immediately, with no warm-up time, a characteristic stair lights should have.

You don’t have to be an expert in bulbs to choose the one that is more appropriate for every space in your house: each room has specific lighting needs, so be sure to take a minute to think about its use (frequency, duration, color and warmth etc.) then choose the bulb that satisfies your requirements, while being the most economical, to create the perfect environment in your home. And remember: Whichever bulb you choose, turn off your lights when not needed and recycle your light bulbs when they burn out!

Panagiotis Ladas
Electrical Engineer, Data Scientist