Those bulbs are ugly

I happened to be at a big box hardware store, that shall not be named, talking to the lighting guy. We were speaking about LEDs and he said something about how they look bad.
When I asked why, he responded “They’ve got all these little dots putting out light, have you seen them?”
I fell silent for a moment, this was a new argument for me. I then asked “How often do you stare at the light bulbs in your home?” He didn’t have an answer to that.
Since I’m not a lighting expert or engineer, there’s an excellent chance any definition I try to provide about lumens, Kelvin or spectrum would be torn apart. I encourage those of you looking to enlighten about the definitions to do so in the comments.
People come up with all kinds of crazy reasons not to install CFLs or LEDs. Usually the reasons are based on price (though they won’t say it), false information, absolutely nothing or a combination of the three. (There are some places not to put CFLs, and I’ve talked about some places not to use them.)
While the “dot theory” was new to me, plenty of people complain that the light quality isn’t good, they’re too dim, or that they’re too expensive. These arguments are based in little to no fact, but let’s give each of them a very few moments discussion.
Light quality: Frequently people opposed to CFLs or LEDs say these lights aren’t good for their artwork, or for reading, or that they provide only a cold, dim light.
What they’re typically missing is an understanding of lumens, kelvin (light temperature) and spectrum (light color.) CFLs and LEDs, just like incandescents, can be purchased in a variety of flavors and styles, including warm, cool, daylight and bright. To say that CFLs or LEDs are “too cold” or “too dim” means that you either don’t know what you’re talking about or you refused to purchase bulbs that had the same lumens/kelvin/spectrum as the ones there previously.
Too dim: We could go into a great lengthy and technological discussion about lumens, which measures the light intensity of a bulb. Or, you can look at the package that the bulb comes in which typically says something like “Equivalent to a XX watt bulb” where “XX” is the number of watts.
Still not satisfied? Look at the package of the incandescent bulb (or look it up online.) How many lumens does it provide? Now look for a CFL or LED that provides the same amount of lumens. That was easy, wasn’t it?
Too expensive: There is, of course, something to this. The initial cost of a CFL or LED bulb is higher than an incandescent. This is, I think, the crux of most people’s arguments. Light quality and other issues are a charade because these people aren’t going to the store to buy high quality incandescents – they go to the supermarket or hardware store and buy the least expensive bulb they can. They’re not concerned about a warm glow around Johnny’s third-grade painting, they’re concerned about the bottom line.
Well then, here’s the bottom line: A CFL will save you between $30-$100 per bulb over it’s 7-10 year lifespan. LEDs will save you more than $100, some almost $300, over it’s 17-30 year lifespan. Your incandescent? It’s going to keep sucking energy and money until it dies in a year. CFLs and LEDs pay for themselves long before they die, and then keep on saving.
They’re too something-or-otherish: My brother and I recently had a discussion about how much he’d save if he installed some air-tight LED lights for some recessed lighting in his home. His immediate response was that the light was no good for reading. Knowing my brother and the location of the lights I asked “how often do you actually read in that room?” His answer, never. (He has since installed one as a test and liked it. He’s now waiting for me to buy the rest for him.)
My point is this, people come up with all sorts of reasons to oppose new bulbs for a variety of reasons that make absolutely no sense whatsoever. They fail to recognize that these bulbs will save them money, and help the planet, while providing equal or better light quality.
So the next time someone says they don’t like either CFL or LED bulbs, ask them why. Then try to politely explain that they can get the same quality light with a more efficient bulb.
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2 Responses to Those bulbs are ugly

  1. Mark Kaepplein says:

    You’ve completely ignored CRI, Color Rendition Index, which indicates how accurately the light shows the color of objects. Incandescent, halogen, and xenon are all about 100%, LEDs are next but usually produce too little general light at high purchase cost. The best CFLs are 82% and the best common florescents 84% – specialized “full-spectrum” bulbs can be better, cost more, produce less light per Watt, and often only come in more blue, higher Kelvin numbers.

    LEDs are best used where you might now have a reflector type hologen or incandescent spot light, say a reading light in a place where changing burnt-out bulbs is difficult. LEDs are very directional.

    Worse CRI continues to be a problem, but the flicker objection to florescents was overcome years ago with electronic ballasts replacing old, less efficient, 60Hz line frequency magnetic ones. Flicker had been worse in homes than at work as most commercial fixtures had more bulbs and multiple magnetic ballasts that could be alternated to produce less noticeable 120Hz flicker.

    Personally, I use CFL’s for general lighting and Xenon or halogen for as-needed task lighting (reading, under sink, over stove). Its a good balance of cost and quality.

  2. Jeremy says:

    Hi Mark, and thanks for the comment.

    In fact, to be rated Energy Star the CFLs must meet an 80 CRI or higher standard. As such, I don’t think that the CRI of fluorescents is really a problem unless you’re either making or displaying art. By the way, I think that CRI is rated from 1-100 on a scale, not as a percent.

    LEDs do cost more than other bulbs, in large part because they’re new. Just like the first of anything, the price will (and already has) come down dramatically. I expect that to continue for many years. I think you’ll find that LEDs do not produce too little “general” light though. I’ve seen them right next to a CFL and incandescent, and the light is just as bright.

    The only thing I can say about xenon lights is that I’ve never once been asked about them or researched them.

    Thanks again,


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