Light Impressions Update

Last week I revisited the ‘Average Joe’ family to help them improve their lighting.

I came equipped with an assortment of different lamps from my well-supplied stash, including a few CFLs and LEDs, as those might be appropriate for some luminaires.

On closer inspection, it turned out they had replaced almost all their 60 watt incandescent lamps with 11 watt CFLs, like good and responsible citizens have been encouraged to do by their trusted authorities – despite the fact that you get visibly and measurably less light and poorer quality light from such an ill-advised switch. As described in my earlier post, the result was quite appalling.

Worst of all lamps was the one over the kitchen table, a dim yellowish CFL that made the whole kitchen very gloomy and hard to see in. The lovely elderly couple complained over the dimness but it never occurred to them to use another lamp because they had been told an 11 watt CFL should suffice and had missed that halogen replacements even existed. I put in a clear 53 watt halogen energy saver and it was like switching on the sun in their kitchen! The difference really surprised them. Now they could see!

I did the same in the 2 identical living room wall lamps. First I replaced only one of them to let them see the difference both in brightness and how the colour of their rusty red sofa looked more grey in the CFL corner. Also tried the Philips LED lamp and that too did not make colours as vivid as the halogen lamp.

Living room sofa – Halogen energy saver

The dining table already had a beautiful crystal chandelier with a halogen lamp in the middle so no need to do anything there.

A floor lamp with a dim 11 watt CFL got a 28 watt halogen energy saver. We tried different wattages but the family thought 28 W gave just the right cosy feel, with the light still clear enough to see well.

A table lamp that had a sad 7 watt CFL ball got a 15 watt clear incandescent ball. This corner was more grey and gloomy than it looks in this picture:

Table lamp – CFL

Here the difference in light clarity when it was replaced with an incandescent bulb shows very clearly:

Table lamp – Halogen

Then I replaced two frosted incandescent 15 watt ball bulbs in their window luminaires with clear ones. No reason to waste a frosted bulb behind a shade. This made only a slight difference of course, but I wanted to put the precious last specimens of the now extinct frosted bulbs to better use.

Living room window lamp 1 – Clear incandescent ball

The frosted ball got moved to the entrance window lamp (with the 7W CFL ball as backup for when it burned out) to replace a very unwelcoming blue-white clear 3W LED lamp with glaring little light dots seen through a partly clear glass shade.

Entrance window lamp – Frosted incandescent ball

Remember this rule of thumb, folks:

• Frosted or opaque lampshade where you don’t see the bulb – use a clear lamp.

• Clear lampshade, no shade or open shade where you see the bulb – use a frosted lamp.

The difference from these small changes was more striking in real life than shows in the pictures. Being very much an amateur photographer, I found it difficult to capture it on film as the camera keeps trying to compensate for what was lacking in the dimmer and poorer quality bulbs.

All in all, I added another 163 watts to their lighting use. If all those lamps are on an average of 5 hours a day all year, that would make about €9 per year, but as all lamps were indoors and about half the heat from the incandescent bulbs is estimated to help lower the energy bill, that makes about €4.5 per year. That’s about the price of one glossy magazine or two bottles of coke – to be able to both see well and have a nice ambiance in their own home for a whole year.

So do try for yourself and experiment with different lamps to see what type and wattage looks and feels best. It’s not going to cost you as much as you have been drilled to believe. Just turn the light out when leaving the room and it will cost you even less.

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