In reference to creating the light bulb, Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Since Edison’s lifestyle-changing invention more than 100 years ago, little has changed in lighting technology until now. Manufacturers are hard at work developing new lighting that is more energy-efficient while still offering the color warmth and dimming capability of Edison’s incandescent bulb. Although manufacturers have found many ways that don’t work along the way toward innovation, like Edison, they labored through the challenges to expand the lighting industry and give consumers more options than ever.
Consumers long have used incandescent bulbs because it was the only option out there for many years and, more recently, because there had been no promising alternatives. With the coming phase-out of incandescents, however, the pressure is on manufacturers to produce lamps that meet government efficiency mandates while giving consumers the light color they desire. Early fluorescents cast a blue hue similar to that of natural daylight. Daylight has a color temperature of 5,000 Kelvin; a regular incandescent bulb is 2,700K, which is a significantly warmer color. “The lower the number the warmer the light and the higher the number the cooler the light,” explains Randall Whitehead, president of Randall Whitehead Lighting Solutions, San Francisco. “Manufacturers of CFLs, CCFLs [cold-cathode fluorescent lamps] and LEDs are making 2,700K or 3,000K their gold standard.”
Now that manufacturers are putting out warmer-colored lamps, their challenge is to create a dimmable bulb in which the color gets warmer as it is dimmed. Fluorescents and LEDs do not get warmer when dimmed. “That’s off-putting to the general public,” Whitehead asserts. “I’ve been advocating to the manufacturers to give the public alternative sources that are the color of dimmed incandescents, which is between 2,200K and 2,400K. Getting these warmer color temperatures is going to open people up to the idea of using sources that are a bit foreign to them.”
Jeff Dross, corporate director, education and industry trends, with Kichler Lighting, Cleveland, recommends looking for a bulb with a warmer 2,700 to 3,000K color temperature. “I live in this cloistered lighting world but I talk to my friends about lighting. They say they don’t like CFLs because they’re blue, and when I ask them what they bought, they tell me they bought the daylight bulbs,” he says. “What people don’t realize is daylight is extremely blue. When you look at the box and it says daylight, that’s what people think they want. It confuses consumers.”
The U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, D.C., recently released data about energy use in houses. In 2001, lighting accounted for about 7 percent of a home’s energy use. In 2010, which is the most recent data, that number jumped to more than 15 percent. “It’s not because we’re using more lights in our house,” Dross says. “Between 2001 and 2010 virtually every piece of equipment in the house has become more energy-efficient with the exception of light bulbs. If we continue the same way, the theory is that by 2025 45 percent of electric bills will be dedicated to lighting.”
California’s Title 24 requires that buildings meet certain energy standards. Part of the residential section of the code mandates 100 percent of lighting in bathrooms must be high efficacy. Incandescent sources may be used only if paired with a switched motion sensor, which requires the user physically turn the light on. “That means, however, the first thing in the morning when you flick that switch, all the lights come on at 100 percent,” Whitehead says. “A lot of people are not prepared to see their own faces under that much light first thing in the morning. Manufacturers now are making dimmable versions of these switched motion sensors.”