Most people know that the light bulb laws are changing. But beyond that, there is mostly confusion. What lights can I use? What lights should I use? Will they work with my current fixtures? Can they be dimmed? Go into your local home rennovation store, and you will now see incandescent, LED’s, CFL’s, Halogen and other new ones yet to come. What is the right bulb for your house, and when should you change? Here are some things you need to understand.
First, you have to be ready to say goodbye to your old light bulbs. The old fashioned incandescent light bulb is on the way out. Though the government could still change the schedule, the big changes will happen in 2014 (which is only 18 months away). There’s a good reason for this. The old bulbs are very inefficient, wasting 90 percent of their energy in heat.
So, do you just switch to a new light bulb and that’s it? Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy. Light bulbs produce light in different ways. In some cases, the light is different, the socket is different, some old dimmers won’t work with new lights and the prices of some of the lamps are much higher. So, which bulb is right for what space in your house? Do the higher costs of the CFL or LED lights pay off in reduced energy costs over their lifetime? What about the health risks posed by the mercury inside CFLs?
First, if you’re still buying old bulbs, you’re not breaking any laws. The Canadian federal government has now pushed back the deadline to ban incandescent importation to 2014 and Ontario announced in December it will shelve its own legislation to ban stores from selling them this year.
When the new lights are sold, the new labels will have easy-to-read graphics listing the type of bulb, strength of light in lumens (a more practical measurement than watts) and how efficiently it turns power into light and colour balance indexed by a number. The labels will also note whether the bulb is EnergyStar rated, which will go a long way to illuminating consumer choices.
The most efficient bulbs on the market are LED — Light Emitting Diodes — but they can cost $30 each. The other drawback to LEDs is that while some versions will retrofit to a standard light socket, they are better off in a specifically designed fixture, one that better dissipates the heat, LEDs can last as long as 25,000 hours (that’s about 20 years or more of usage) .But be prepared for a cooler more blue light, and a good chance that any existing dimmers you have might not work. In fact, the comforting warm light we get now from dimming won’t happen at all, as LED’s and CFC’s don’t change colour when they dim.
The compact flourescent (CFL) remains the most viable option on the market in terms of price and value for most homeowners in most situations, but the light is also cooler than the warm light we are used to, the lights require a ballast to make them work and they are also much more difficult to dim. Flourescents also contain trace amounts of mercury, and that means being much more careful with broken bulbs (you should open the window and leave the room for ten minutes if a CFL lamp breaks) and old bulbs must be taken to a recycling centre.
What about halogen lights, the ones that are used in track lights? They are quite efficient, and there may be new versions of these that meet the energy standards. Also, LED’s that replace them are now available. However, LED track lighting is an expensive option.
For now, don’t write off the incandescent light. There are new power saver bulbs that could meet the energy standards, and some are already on sale in the United States. If they can be developed in time for the change in laws, they could make for an easier change.
If you’re still a bit confused, you’re not alone. If you want to know the best bet for your home, make sure you talk to a home automation professional, and make sure you use the best quality equipment. OneTouch Automation is proud to represent Lutron, a company that has invested heavily in producing dimmers and switches that are all designed to work with all the new technology. While a home handyman may want to install his own lights and dimmers, your best bet is to let a professional help you find the option that is right for you.