by Mina Fies
We’re always specifying lighting products so it’s super important we keep up to date with the latest technology. After all, it’s our job to help clients achieve the best light quality for their new spaces. Certain types of light bulbs have better inherent qualities than others, and we’re especially fond of these, as they make our spaces look best too!
The lights we’re all most familiar with is incandescent light, which renders objects (especially flesh tones) very well. Incandescent light bulbs have a color temperature (the value that determines the ‘warm’ or ‘cool’ appearance) of about 2700 Kelvin (K), which is on the lower, ‘warm’ side. The other great quality of incandescent light is its near-perfect Color Rendering Index (CRI) score of almost 100 (the CRI of daylight). For those of you shaking your heads, this just means colors appear most true in this type of light.
Due to the now-familiar legislation intended to phase-out most incandescent light bulbs by 2014, we have been working hard to familiarize ourselves with the new lighting types that are available. While the well-known compact fluorescent bulb seems to be preferred these days, their mercury content and common ‘cool’ temperature make them less ideal for lighting interiors. Luckily, we’ve come across some new options that are super-efficient and safe, and render colors more similarly to our old favorite!
One of those is LED light. LEDs have already gained widespread popularity in holiday décor, decorative strip lighting, and automobile lamps. The great thing about LED technology is that it is advancing rapidly. Already, there are LED equivalents for the classic 40-watt ‘A’ bulb, for MR16 bulbs (the low-voltage type you see in mini cans or spotlights), for halogen PAR bulbs (the type often used in recessed cans), and even for the little “candelabra” bulbs that you put in chandeliers!
Toshiba is one of the leading manufacturers of LEDs for the home – check out their full line of LED bulbs here. LED bulbs are great for all areas: they light immediately, are dimmable, and can give off 100 lumens from a single watt! (Incandescents produce less than 20 lumens per watt.) Of course, being new, LED lighting for the home is still somewhat expensive. The LED equivalent for a standard 2700 K, 40 W dimmable ‘A’ bulb costs around $30, and even the smaller LED candelabra bulbs cost up to $18.
As an alternative, an even newer technology that we’ve come across is the Electron Stimulated Luminescence (whoa) light bulb. ESLs are highly efficient and mercury-free like LEDs, and give off light in the 2700 K range, just like incandescents. So far ESL bulbs are only manufactured by one company, Vu1, but happily Lowes picked up the company’s first product in December 2011. The great upside to ESLs is their price: Vu1’s R30 light bulb (the equivalent of a 60-watt recessed can bulb) is only $15, compared to $42 for a similar LED equivalent. While still twice as much as our old incandescents ($6-$8 for the typical 75-watt PAR bulb), it seems likely that as both technologies advance, they will come more and more within our familiar price range. Don’t forget that although these bulbs may initially stretch your pocket past your comfort zone, you’ll save yourself a lot of trips to the store for replacement bulbs – all of these options leave the quick-to-burn-out incandescents in the dust.