An Electrician’s Guide to Choosing the Correct Light Bulb
First and foremost, let me start out by clarifying that wattage is an indication of how much power a bulb consumers and not the amount of light it generates. Can you believe that? Me either! My whole life I thought the more wattage the brighter the light. I think I’m still in shock…no pun intended!
OK, now that we have debunked one of the world’s greatest electrical myths, let’s get down to business.
Light bulbs are going to vary based on their technology, color, amount of light they produce and the amount of power they consume. Before purchasing bulbs, you really need to know what the fixture requires in order to use it effectively and safely.
Thomas Edison designed incandescent bulbs, which is what we all think of when we hear the word. They produce light when an electric current passes through a filament and causes it to glow. Inexpensive and widely available, they are the most commonly used bulbs today, but are being replaced by more energy efficient choices.
Halogen bulbs produce a bright, white light. They have a longer life and provide more light (lumens) per watt than regular incandescent bulbs. These small lights are high in intensity. Since halogen bulbs burn hotter than other types, they require more caution. All halogen lamps sold in the U.S. today have approved safety shields to reduce fire risk.
Xenon bulbs have a white light similar to that of halogen but have a much longer life rating, some up to 20,000 hours, much like fluorescent. They operate at lower temperatures than halogen.
Fluorescent s use 20-40% less electricity and can last up to 20 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Because fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, it is important to dispose of them properly. The larger ceiling fixtures that use long fluorescent tubes have electronic ballasts that allow them to turn on instantly and operate without hum.
Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) produce light when voltage is applied to negatively charged semiconductors, causing electrons to combine and create a unit light. Because they are small, several LEDs are sometimes combined to produce a single light bulb.
LED lighting is vastly more efficient and longer lasting than any other type of light source. Look for the ENERGY STAR symbol to ensure that you are buying an LED bulb with high-quality color and energy efficiency that is as good as or better than fluorescent bulbs.
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