Dimmers, Daylight & Grown Up CFLs

light switch dimmer save moneyEveryone seems to understand that replacing incandescents with LEDs or CFLs is the right thing to do, so why the delay? LEDs are still expensive but they will eventually become more popular as prices continue to decrease.

On the other hand, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are a practical alternative right now and easily screw into most existing lighting fixtures. CFLs are more expensive than incandescents, but they fully compensate by lasting nine to ten times longer.

Again, non-compliance baffles most greenies, but it is another example of the need for better education of the public.  As a start we need to address the stigma attached to ‘fluorescent’ lighting.  What stigma?  Pick one.

Our pasty, stark reflection in the bathroom mirror of an  office building.  The occasional flicker or buzz of an old fluorescent tube in our aunt’s kitchen.  And remember those fluorescents in creepy windowless basements and underground garages? Well, although CFLs have grown up, not everybody is privy to this information.

Manufacturers, retailers and environmentalists need to do a better job.  First we need to remind everyone that CFLs do contain small amounts of mercury – which is why proper recycling is critical. Home Depot, Ikea and most other vendors of CFLs have easy recycling programs, so this should not be a deterrent to use. LEDs are definitely the future and probably the best long-term solution we have presently, but in the interim places like Home Depot carry a decent choice of ‘colored’ CFLs.  These lamps provide a range of light that includes artificial daylight, bright light and soft light. A store lighting expert can help you compare colors to find your best option, as each style lighting really is quite different.

The bulb color I originally asked for was ‘daylight’, but my favorite is actually ‘soft white’.  I am guessing the engineers who created these bulbs probably named them as well, as their names are scientifically accurate. For instance, I was surprised to learn the ‘daylight’ colored lamp is meant to replicate the light the sun produces when it is directly overhead in the middle of July.  In other words, the ‘daylight’ option is incredibly, glaringly bright!

If you would be shamed to have your friends know you still use incandescent lamps, man up and take those incandescents out of the closet. Here’s a little inspiration courtesy of the Department of Energy:

If every American home replaced just one light with an ENERGY STAR light, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, about $700 million in annual energy costs, and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to the emissions of about 800,000 cars.

Imagine how much impact a green apartment manager could have in a year! Especially if they have huge event space in Houston or other cities in the country.

Changing old habits is difficult – particularly our less energy efficient ones – but it is easier to select the perfect lighting option if you understand the range of CFL temperatures.  For instance, a lamp with a  temperature between 2700 and 3000 degrees will produce the warmer light associated with incandescents.  With new coatings and shapes and even some CFLs that can be dimmed (yeah!), there is no longer any comprehensible reason to use incandescents.

Unless your housemate has a great sense of humor, however, please mention you made the lamp change. To save power and extend lamp life, CFLs turn on slowly and gradually reach full brightness within a minute or so.

A last word about LEDs versus CFLs.  Bright green HOAs and property management professionals know LEDs, despite their cost, are the way to go and Green Landlady agrees.  LEDs last five times longer than CFLs and use about a third of energy.  If an all out common area LED lighting upgrade busts the budget, consider replacing lights as they burn out or, because they should last ten years or more, try them in hard to access areas as a form of risk management such as when maintenance of fixtures requires ladders.

It’s all about awareness and education, folks, so once you make the final switch?  Start bragging to all your friends and maybe they’ll take their incandescents out of the closet too.

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