Pick me a light bulb
October 11, 2005 10:43 PM   Subscribe

I would like to replace my light bulbs but am confused...

I'd like to replace the old incandescent bulbs in my apartment with something better, less power, less heat, longer lasting. I've looked around online and the LED ones seem like a scam and the flourescent ones have that ugly white light, is there any choice out there that has pretty, soft light like an old style bulb without the heat and power use?
posted by Cosine to Home & Garden (16 answers total)
Actually, I find that I like the spectrum and less "yellow" tinge that compact fluorescents provide instead of incandescents, but you like what you like.

LED lighting can be done fairly cheaply and effectively, but there's a lot of silliness out there too. One option is to get the 12volt halogen lighting rigs (the kind you see in early-noughties cafes and bars with two exposed wires with the halogen bulbs dangling from them), toss the halogen bulbs, and replace them with LED units. They draw less power, last heaps longer, and ... err ... look fine so long as you don't want white (or don't mind looking like the walking dead if you do want white).

Another way may be to use a custom combination of LEDs to achieve the colour temperature you're looking for -- it should be pretty easy to find the colour temperature of a tungsten incandescent, and to translate that to a combination of the (very narrow) wavelengths that available LED lighting units provide. Of course, at this point it's become an engineering project instead of a home decoration question, which may be more than you were looking for.

You can also get normal fluorescent tubes with a more sun-like colour temperature, though I can't remember what they're called, sorry.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 10:54 PM on October 11, 2005

led 110/120vac bulbs are indeed a bit overpriced (for now), but they use something like 1/30 of the power of incandescent bulbs, and last as long or longer than the twisty fluorescent ones.

the biggest problem seems to be that the highest output I can find is comparable to ~1/10 the lumens of 60-75W incandescents. so more like 25-30W; fine for reading or desk lamps or maybe bathroom, but not for large areas.

if anyone has any recommendations for buying led bulbs, I'd love to hear about it -- just moved into a new apt. and would like to start replacing some of the icky incadescent bulbs. plus I never did like those fluorescent bulbs.

ooh, stringing multiple lower-output led bulbs sounds like a decent idea, thanks 5MeoCMP
posted by dorian at 11:07 PM on October 11, 2005

Response by poster: From what I read there isnt any option and wont be for a while now, for a direct swap of a 60watt incandescent for LED.
posted by Cosine at 11:14 PM on October 11, 2005

Er... get whatever bulbs you want, and then use a colour-corrective gel to get them to whatever colour temperature you prefer. Try here (Rosco, major theatrical/film/TV lighting supplier) for what you'll need.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:16 PM on October 11, 2005

(well, you *can* make one yourself... I tried: it took a fsckload of 6500K leds, and it was not cheap. heh.)
posted by dorian at 11:18 PM on October 11, 2005

Shop around for compact fluorescent, they differ widely from model to model. Some important factors are the colour of the light, the turn on time, weather there is a warm up, the dimensions, and price of course.

Some observations about specific models:
The Luminus bulbs at Costco have great colour and they are very inexpensive. They turn on right away, but there is a 10 minute warm up before they reach full brightness. They are a little larger than conventional bulbs.

Ikea bulbs have been terrible for years (my last experience is starting to be out of date now though, so something might have changed...). The colour is very blue/white and the price for a given brightness isn't that good. They sometimes flicker a little on turn on I think, but I don't recall a warm up time. They are perhaps a little larger than the luminus bulbs.

I just tested a pack of very small bulbs from Walmart, can't remember the brand, but it is the same as the one they always have on sale cheap. These were a bit expensive because they were the same size or smaller than standard bulbs in every dimension. The brightness was good but the colour was a little blue/white. No flicker on turn on, and I don't remember a warm up issue.

Finally, I just got a couple of Philips bulbs through the 2 free bulbs for Toronto residents at Home Depot. They are really great, but might be a bit pricey if you actually have to pay for them. Brighter and better colour than Luminus. No flicker on the start, but possibly a little warm up time. Exactly the same size as Luminus - as if they are made by the same manufacturer.

I don't think you should get LED bulbs. My guess is that they probably won't have a nice warm colour (check out the LED flashlights, they are all a little blue), and they are probably still too expensive. They are made for constant use in poor conditions and were long life is critical. Of course I could be wrong about LED bulbs, I don't have any direct experience with them.
posted by Chuckles at 11:21 PM on October 11, 2005

I don't think a corrective gel is the right answer if you are trying to optimize. The gel will be lossy, after all the whole point is that it blocks some of the light. It wouldn't surprise me if you had to go up a whole step in brightness to get the right amount of light out (from 60W to 100W incandescent, or 14W to 23W for CF) but that is just a guess.
posted by Chuckles at 11:28 PM on October 11, 2005

Okay, I always get whether wrong, but I don't normally get where wrong... ARGH!

And, a previous thread that discussed the compact fluorescent issue - I just replaced a burned out bulb in my overhead kitchen fixture...
posted by Chuckles at 11:34 PM on October 11, 2005

My local hardware store (not nearly as up to the minute as the net, I know) has a variety (at least 3 that I recall) of colour temperatures for flourescents available from 2000K - 6000K. I don't know what those numbers mean, I just buy the ones that say they're a bright white light, because that's the one I prefer, but you can definitely get a yellower light. I'm sure that any large hardware store would do the same for you.

I'm not an early adopter nut. I had a look at LEDs a while ago, and firmly decided that I would be interested in them when they became commonly commercialised for domestic applications. If I was off-grid I would probably change my mind, but for now I'll just purchase hydro and wind from the grid.
posted by wilful at 11:35 PM on October 11, 2005

Colour-correction gels block very little of the spectrum. If you're familiar with gel, they block even less (if memory serves; I no longer have a swatchbook) than the 'no-colour' gels, which impart only the barest tint to the light in question.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:36 PM on October 11, 2005

wilful -- ~6000K is close to true daylight*, and is often too "blue" and not "warm" enough for many people. personally I love it.

*which really only occurs for a couple hours each day, which is why we generally associate the sun and daylight with a much "warmer" idea.
posted by dorian at 11:46 PM on October 11, 2005

Compact flourescents look fine to me once the light has been passed through a lampshade or decorative light fixture.

In other words. Don't show the bulb, then no one will know.

/$7.00 gas bill (stove only), $9.00 water, avg $40.00 a month heating and cooling.
posted by sourwookie at 11:49 PM on October 11, 2005

If you have multi-bulb fixtures, you might try using one incadescent bulb and the rest fluorescent in each fixture. I find a single incandescent bulb is enough to give me a palatable spectrum.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:46 AM on October 12, 2005

dirtynumbangelboy writes "Er... get whatever bulbs you want, and then use a colour-corrective gel to get them to whatever colour temperature you prefer. Try here (Rosco, major theatrical/film/TV lighting supplier) for what you'll need."

You can't colour correct an LED with a gel. LEDs emit on a very narrow wavelength range and there is no way to shift or widen that range with a gel.
posted by Mitheral at 11:02 AM on October 12, 2005

I have some LED lighting. They are not a scam, but they are not ready for prime time either. I suggest you look into compact flourescent bulbs. They are the closest thing to what you are describing.
posted by Ken McE at 4:21 PM on October 12, 2005

Last I'd read, a year or so ago, White LED lighting wasn't any more power efficient than a decent florescent (compact or otherwise).
posted by Good Brain at 8:21 PM on October 12, 2005

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