Comparing light bulbs

December 21, 2011 | By | 7 Replies More

With 100 watt incandescent bulbs being phased out, how to the alternatives that provide 1600 lumens compare. Here’s a straightforward graphic from Scientific American.


Category: Energy, Sustainable Living

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Tony says:

    I have adopted a very individual/eclectic/geeky strategy for lighting. First of all, I try to use halogen lamps everywhere I need light only for a short time. And for those places I need longer lights, I use HQI lamps.

    There are so many things to consider, to make it a rather personal choice:
    – Energy consumption
    – Light quality (color rendering index CRi)
    – Cost
    – Ease of installation and handling
    – Requirements for light (“Taste”)

    CFL are reasonably good, energy efficient, long-life and can have a good CRI (but some don’t!) But I need indirect light, and after two lamps have fallen over breaking the CFL (and releasing mercury on my rug – yuck) I stopped using them. Plus the cheap ones have a lousy CRI…

    Ten years ago I was hoping for the day I could buy LEDs for lighting the house – and today I don’t use a single one… First of all, boy are they expensive. But secondly, their CRI is average to not so good. Maybe something for outdoor illumination, like drive-ways, but I don’t want them were I live.

    Halogen lamps I find reasonably good. Their CRI is the best – 100, the standard. They are longer-lasting than incandescent. The light color is better (more white) than the yellowy incandescent. And they are more energy efficient that incandescents – but still not good in efficiency terms.

    But HQI is the gold standard for me. I admit, the technology is cumbersome. Good electronic ballasts can be expensive. They involve high voltage. You need to match the “chemistry” of the bulb with a ballast that supports it, if you want optimal results.… You need to match the wattage of the ballast with the wattage of the bulb… You need to match the socket of the lamp to the bulb… They need time to heat up. Cheaper HQI bulbs have average CRI, one needs to pay a bit more for good CRI (and as far as I know, there are only two manufacturers of the better HQIs). But these things last forever. They are similarly efficient like CFL. They have an almost halogen like CRI. And the electronic ballasts I buy used are reasonably cheap.

    I have good light, rather good efficiency, I recycle commercial ballasts and I enjoy the smug feeling of not only having something special, but of doing something good 🙂

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Tony – thanks for the feedback.

      On talk radio I hear many folks outraged that they cannot any longer get 100w incandescents. I heard Rush Limbaugh railing about this 2 weeks ago (I listen in occasionally to see what he is bloviating about). For them it’s a freedom of choice issue, and they don’t want to talk about environment or energy production at all.

  2. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    I live in a house built in 1960. Currently I’m using CFL throughout the house except in the bath and dining areas. Th main reason is not only for efficiency, but the fact that they seldom need replacing. The Dining area and bathroom fixtures are specialty fixtures require the torpedo tip bulbs, and the lights in the bath uses the smaller candelabra sockets.

    I recently bought an led bulb to try in my nightstand lamp. the 2.5 W led seems almost as bright as the 10 W CFL, but with a warmer color. I am on the lookout for led replacements for the bath and dining area.

  3. Dan Klarmann says:

    There is nothing natural about indoor and nighttime lighting. Before gas mantel lamps (involving lanthanides), and the barely subsequent development of electrical incandescent bulbs, lamps were very yellow. Even kerosene was better than earlier technology (whale oil, tallow, beeswax).
    This 20th century standard of slightly yellow lighting makes the new CF and LED “daylight” units seem harsh and blue in comparison. But factories could balance the CF colors pretty well, and have even more control over the LED’s.
    Eventually, folks will be used to whatever colors can be produced inexpensively in those realms. I’d bet on LED’s and OLED’s dominating residential lightning by the 2020’s, given the inherent limitations with CF technology (low life for short cycles, mercury, high voltage, too-strong green band).

    Also incandescent and fluorescent bulbs depend on tungsten, a material rarer than gold, running out, and not even a target of recycling, as I discussed in Running Out of Light.

  4. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    I was very surprised by the color of the led bulb that I tried. It was a yellowish white, very similar to an incandescent. I was expecting a more bluish white like the led flashlight bulbs.

    BTW, no pun intended, but NPR broadcast a piece this morning during my morning commute comparing the efficient technologies for the new bulbs that was very enligntening

  5. grumpypilgrim says:

    I made a big switch to CFLs more than a decade ago, but have been very disappointed with their lifespan. Some died far, far short of 10,000 hours. The problem seems to be worse for bulbs that get turned on and off more often. So, for now, I’ve been replacing the dead ones with standard bulbs until the price of LEDs comes down to earth.

    I’m glad Tony mentioned the CRi issue — that hasn’t been a factor I’ve considered in the past but it sounds like one I’ll want to consider when I get serious about LEDs.

    Of course, one other really good thing about white light LEDs getting brighter is that bicycle headlights can finally have both decent light output and decent battery life!

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