Starting January 1, the government phase-out of incandescent light bulbs in Canada moved a big step forward. Seven years after it was first announced by the government, the ban on certain bulbs is finally taking effect. As of now, 75- and 100-watt incandescent bulbs are banned in Canada. In twelve months the ban will be extended to include 40- and 60-watt bulbs. All of these bulbs are already banned in the US. Stores can sell their current inventory, but it’s illegal for manufacturers to make any more. Consumers can continue to use them, but eventually there won’t be any more for sale. Stock-piling has been reported in some areas.
While Canadian consumers may feel unhappy about this ban, the fact that the alternatives to the old incandescent bulbs are much more energy efficient could help to lessen the pain. Shocking as it may sound, as much as 90 per cent of the energy consumed by an incandescent light bulb is wasted, given off in the form of heat, not light.
The most expensive of the alternatives tend to be the LED bulbs, though costs are coming down all the time. Off-setting that higher up-front cost is the exceptionally long life these bulbs typically have: twenty-five years of life is not uncommon. A bulb that burns for eight hours a day can be expected to last seventeen years. As well, they burn much more efficiently. Energy savings of as high as 85 per cent are frequently reported for LED light bulbs. This, of course, saves consumers money and also helps reduce their carbon footprint.
Another problem LED light bulbs have struggled with is the quality of the light. Earlier versions were criticized for being too harsh, too “blue” and too bright for the typical living room. Manufacturers have been working on this for several years now, and most consumers now find the light is comparable in tone and brightness to the old incandescent bulbs. The latest LED bulbs have been extensively tested, especially by the US Department of Energy, and found to have a very high Colour Rendering Index or CRI—85 out of 100 for many brands—for their ability to show the true colour of objects.
A lot of innovative features are being built into LED lights as well. It’s possible to buy models that can be remotely controlled, eliminating the need for a dimmer switch. LED bulbs come in all kinds of colours, some even in multiple colours that can be changed as desired.
Kelvin temperature and lumens
To choose LED bulbs for ordinary use in the home, consumers need to know that the colour of the light emitted is measured according to its Kelvin temperature (K). A soft white light suitable for indoor lighting in the typical living room will have a lower Kelvin temperature, around 2,500–3,000K.
For brighter light, good for outdoor use or for task lighting indoors, a rating of 4,500–5,000K would be appropriate. Track lights or kitchen pot lights could be in this range.
The other term consumers will need to grow familiar with is “lumen.” This is the measure of the amount of light a bulb gives off. LED light bulbs are vastly more efficient than incandescent lights in the creation of light. For comparison, a 60-watt incandescent bulb would give off 300–900 lumens of light. An LED light gives the same amount of light using the equivalent of 6–8 watts.
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