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Lighting basics. What to know before you start shopping…

Elvis Elvis

If you’re on the hunt for that new chandelier or wall sconce, it’s good to know some lighting basics. Lighting fixtures all use different bulb types, and their effects vary. Before you buy, know the color of a lamp’s output…cool or warm? Or, what type of lamp can save energy and be less expensive to operate.

Keep these qualities in mind as your shop for light fixtures AND as you select colors for your home…a paint chip or new carpet can look very different under different lamp types!

Please note, on this page we often refer to “lamps”. This industry term actually refers to a lightbulb or tube, not the decorative lamp you set on
your end table!

Lighting basics. What to know before you start shopping...

Commonly used lighting/lamp types:

  • Incandescent: The light bulb of light bulbs, this is lighting and illumination courtesy of Thomas Edison. Incandescent lamps give off continuous spectrum light, which means that it contains all colors of light. BUT, it leans towards the warmer colors such as red and yellow, therefore giving off a “warmer” light. Incandescent lamps are common, inexpensive to buy, and flattering to skin tones. Unfortunately, they are also more expensive to operate since they require more energy than other types of lamps.
  • Fluorescent: An inexpensive hero in the lighting world, fluorescent lamps have become valued by factories, schools and stores for their ability to reduce operating costs. They have slowly made their way into homes, and are commonly used in the more utilitarian portions of the house. The human eye perceives this light as cooler, and it can have a tendency to distort natural colors.
    (Ironically, making it not such a good choice for many retail stores!)
  • Halogen: A development from the incandescent family, halogen lamps are tiny, compact powerhouses! They give off huge amounts of light, in relation to their size and wattage, and give off a lot of heat. Their light output is clear and balanced. The drawback from this type of lamp is it’s high temperature which can cause fire and unfortunate accidents if not handled properly. Never, use a halogen bulb without it’s protective shield or touch the bulb with bare hands. The natural oils in your skin will react with the quartz exterior and weaken the bulb, shortening it’s life.
  • Compact Fluorescent: According to the US government’s ENERGY STAR, “If every household in the U.S. replaced one light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb, it would prevent enough pollution to equal removing one million cars from the road. Compact fluorescent bulbs provide high-quality light, smart technology, and design, requiring less energy while lasting longer than typical incandescent bulbs”Compact fluorescent bulbs have an average life-span of 7500-10,000 hours compared to an average incandescent’s 750-1000 hours. So even though they are more expensive to buy, you will replace them less often! Keep in mind however, that compact fluorescent bulbs are simply old-style fluorescent tubes repackaged as smaller light bulbs…and come with all the good and bad attributes of a standard fluorescent. Their color rendering will not be great, the light output is cooler in tone, and they can be slow to reach full light output (up to 3 minutes).