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What you need to know about light bulbs

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light bulb headerWhy a light bulb tutorial?

Yeah, we’re a cleaning company; so, you may be wondering why a cleaning company is highlighting light bulbs. After all, we don’t sell or service them. Well, we like to think of our company as problem-solvers, and one of the many mysteries in life seems to be lighting. More specifically, light bulbs.

A casual stroll down the lightbulb aisle of Home Depot or Lowes is all it takes to get blurry-eyed looking at all of the options.

A couple of months ago, yours truly went looking for fluorescent bulbs for our kitchen. I removed the bad bulb and took a picture of the end with the writing on it, and then drove up to Home Depot to get some replacements.

The hunt begins…

I was met with over a dozen choices. I knew the length was 48″, and I knew it looked white on the outside, but beyond that I didn’t know there were even more choices.

As it turns out, there are many, many more choices to consider beyond just the length and diameter like: lumens, color rendering index, pin type/sizing, color temperature, wattage, and more.

I looked at the picture I took of the bulb and tried to match it up the best I could. One of the friendly employees saw me rooting around and offered to help. But I’m a dude, dagnabbit. I don’t need some other dude helping me! Besides, chances are he’ll just take a couple of glances and point to exactly what I need, thus killing my curiosity – and my ego. What kind of adventure is that? “No thanks. I got this”, I told him. Back to my bulb hunt I went.

But I’m a dude, dagnabbit. I don’t need some other dude helping me!

The numbers weren’t making any sense, so I looked at the helpful charts the store has on the displays.

Making sense of it all

Aha! One of the numbers represented diameter, I determined. Yet another set of numbers represented the CRI (color rendering index) and another the color temperature. It was starting to finally make sense. Sort of.

Lamp Size Reference

Image courtesy of Lightopedia.com

I selected two bulbs, even though only one was burned out. I recalled my high school electronics teacher Mr. Blackford (woohoo – go Pinckney Pirates!) told us to always replace older paired bulbs because surely the other one would die in short order.

The color temperature I selected was different than the ones I pulled out. The new ones were brighter and a little more red than the originals. The older ones were more of a cool blue tone.

But did they match?

When I replaced the new pair, I looked over at the other pair that were still the bluish style. The warm red tone definitely made the kitchen feel – well – warmer than the blue ones. But now that they didn’t match, I had to make a second trip to Home Depot to pick up a matching pair of the redish ones.

Now these bulbs that I replaced were nothing fancy. They weren’t CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamp) or LED (Light Emitting Diode), or even HID (High Intensity Discharge) lamps. These were just your run-of-the-mill long tube fluorescent bulbs. Had I had the newer style fixtures, my hunt for the right light bulbs would have surely been more painful.

The finale

When I thought back over the ordeal I realized there was a lot more to choosing bulbs than the good ‘ol days when you pretty much told the guy at the hardware store that you needed a 75-watt bulb. He knew what you meant, and by gosh you would get a 75-watt incandescent screw-in bulb that fit virtually every fixture in your home.

In some ways I’m a bit saddened that those days are gone – that our choices for even simple things like light bulbs have turned into such a chore to select the right ones. But on the other hand I’m happy to see that we have ever-increasing choices that add value to our lives.

So here are the choices we need to consider when bulb shopping. Rather than redo it all, I’m just going to link the images from the fine folks at Lightopedia.com who have made it much easier to traverse the light bulb terrain.

Bulb Reference sheets

bulb shapes

Bulb shapes – Courtesy of lightopedia.com

Bulb Bases

Bulb bases – Courtesy of lightopedia.com

Lamp Size Reference

Lamp size reference – Courtesy of Lightopedia.com

Lumens and CRI

Lumens and CRI – Courtesy of lightopedia.com

LED bulb sizes – courtesy superiorlighting.com

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Scott Rendall

When I'm not running the most exciting and extraordinary cleaning company in the universe, you will find me organic farming, practicing Hangul (Korean), and studying history.
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