Lighting Tips

High Wattage CFLs

High wattage compact fluorescent (HW-CFLs) are bulbs in the 55W - 200W range. They are intended primarily for retrofit in HID fixtures (after the HID ballast is disconnected) or for retrofit in high-wattage incandescent fixtures. HW-CFLs provide light output equivalent to incandescent 200W-500W; metal halide 70W-175W and high pressure sodium 50W-150W. The benefits of HW-CFLs: (1) high color rendering and more color temperature options than standard metal halide and HPS; (2) instant restrike after a power outage; (3) medium and mogul screw base; (4) better energy efficiency and lamp life compared to incandescent and competitive with metal halide and HPS. The drawbacks: (1) more suitable for general illumination rather than for directional lighting; (2) enclosed fixtures may overheat the ballast electronics of self-ballasted HW-CFLs; (3) frequent switching may shorten lamp life (therefore not recommended for use with occupancy sensor controls). Go to this page to view the Topbulb line of HW-CFLs.

High CRI Bulbs

The colors of Spring are a reminder how important color is in our lives. The subtle color variations of an iris blooming in the yard on a clear day can easily be seen and appreciated. The same iris in a vase at the office might not look quite as colorful. Why? Because it is the light source illuminating an object that determines how well humans see color. CRI, or color rendering index, is a numerical scale (0 to 100) used in lighting to indicate how a light source will make the color of an object appear to human eyes. The higher the number, the better the color rendering ability. In many cases, this difference is not important. However, for certain applications such as illuminating art or comparing fabric in retail clothing stores, CRI is important. There is also evidence that high CRI bulbs might be perceived to be brighter which could allow for the installation of lower wattage bulbs to save energy. Topbulb offers high CRI options for fluorescent, halogen and metal halide bulbs. Go to this page for more information on color rendering and to see a list of high CRI bulbs.

The New 60W Bulb (and it's not an LED!)

The 100W incandescent light bulb has been getting more than it's 15 minutes of fame lately in the press. The 60W bulb, by far the leading seller, must be feeling neglected! Whatever the politics, the 60W incandescent currently is scheduled to be replaced by a more efficient 60W bulb in 2014. These new bulbs are already being manufactured. They are still incandescent, they look the same, screw into the same socket, are dimmable, emit the same light and have the same rated life. The difference: they use 30% less energy and they currently cost about 3 times more than the traditional 60W. Those costs will likely come down in the next couple of years when manufacturers start producing in larger quantities. In the meantime, whatever your preference, we stock both.

Quality Light in the Workplace

It is well documented that light affects productivity in the workplace. The key is quality light, not quantity. A high level of ambient light alone (usually from the ceiling) is seldom satisfactory. Current best practice lighting design for the workplace emphasizes the following components: (1) task lighting for optimum individual control at the workstation and (2) daylight, if available, for ambient light, supplemented by moderate levels of 3500K to 4100K color temperature, indirect T8 or T5 fluorescent lighting. For more information or questions about lighting for the workplace, please call us at 800.867.2852.

120V or 130V Incandescent?

When shopping for incandescent or halogen light bulbs, sometimes you will find an option of buying the exact same bulb in either 120Volt or 130Volt. The 130V bulb will usually claim a much longer rated life. Longer life sounds great, but there is a catch. Operating a 130V rated bulb in a 120V socket will increase bulb life by 200% or more, but it will also reduce the light output by about 25%. So if you can live with less illumination for a particular application, 130V rated incandescent and halogen bulbs can be a very good deal.

Glare, A Common Outdoor Lighting Design Flaw

With darkness coming earlier in the day it is worth thinking about the quality of light coming from your outdoor lighting. I was reminded of this recently when I arrived at a home and had trouble navigating the steps because of the intense light coming from a poorly placed landscape light. Glare is the most common problem with outdoor lighting, both for homes and commercial buildings. Glare is caused by direct view of an unshielded light source and by high contrast between light coming from a fixture and the exterior darkness. It is better to use multiple, low light level fixtures that are shielded so they produce indirect light rather than one high brightness fixture. This basic design principle applies to all outdoor entries and walkways. For situations where the fixtures are already in place, experiment with lower light output bulbs or frosted bulbs and use the one that provides just enough light for safety. The brighter bulbs may actually be more of a hazard. Call us if you need assistance selecting bulbs for particular outdoor applications.

LCD / DLP Lamp Life

The average rated effective life of most LCD/DLP projector lamps is about 2000 hours. This could vary based frequency of use. The lamp usually won't "burn out" like regular light bulbs, but will slowly grow dimmer. Most projectors have a built-in lamp hour counter. Consult the counter to help anticipate the best time to purchase a replacement. When a replacement is purchased, install it and re-set the counter to zero. Store the old lamp for back-up in case there is a premature failure of the new lamp.

The Power of Blue Light

Blue light, it turns out, is not the light of the "blues." In studies done over the last few years, human exposure to blue light (light with a predominant wavelength in the short end of the visible spectrum) has a stimulation effect on our circadian sleep system. Blue light helps us wake up and stay awake. In one interesting application, hospitals are starting to use red night lights in patient rooms so that when nurses need to visit in the night, the patient is not exposed to blue light (which is present in white light) and will be less likely to fully wake up.

How Does the Yellow "Bug Light" Work?

Insects and humans have different visual perceptions. The human visual system is activated by radiant energy in the color range from deep blue to dark red. The vision of flying insects, however, is shifted away from long-wavelength red toward the shorter blue and near ultraviolet (black light) wavelengths. Standard incandescent light sources emit both short and long wavelengths so they attract flying insects. Yellow bug lights do not repel bugs - they just don't attract as many as standard bulbs because the insects cannot see the yellow light as well as they can see blue or ultraviolet light. We carry many bug lights, but here's our favorite.

Do Screw Base LED Replacement Bulbs Make Economic Sense?

Do screw based LED replacement bulbs make economic sense? Availability is increasing of LED bulbs in common configurations like the workhorse 40, 60, 100 watt equivalent A-lamps and PAR20, PAR30, PAR38 equivalent floods. The energy savings is significant. A 35 watt PAR20 halogen requires only 8 watts when it's an LED. The catch of course is the price: $8 vs. $80. Where it gets interesting is when the life of the bulb is factored in: 2500 hrs for the halogen, 25,000 hrs for the LED. Now the huge price difference doesn't look so bad. Still, the high first cost is a barrier. Our advice: consider screw based LED's for special applications such as hard to reach areas where bulb replacement is difficult. With a 25,000 hour life, you can install the LED bulb and forget about it for a long time. Here are the LED bulbs we offer.

The Incandescent Light Bulb is Not Going Away

New U.S. energy standards for incandescent bulbs start taking effect on January 1, 2012. This will NOT mean the end of the incandescent light bulb. Instead you will start seeing a new breed of general service incandescent light bulbs. Some are already on the market . . . like new A19 bulbs at 72, 53, 43 and 29 watts that look identical to and provide the same light as traditional 100, 75, 60 and 40 watt bulbs. View these new bulbs.

Light Bulb Descriptions Can Be Confusing

Light bulb descriptions can seem arcane, but they tell a lot about the bulb before you ever read the fine print. Let's look at two examples. Many bulb descriptions include a letter followed by a number. A few examples: A19, BR30, PAR20, ED28, T8. The letters are a code for bulb shape (Bulged Reflector, etc) and the number is the diameter of the bulb, at the widest point, in 1/8 inch increments. To calculate the diameter in inches, simply divide the number by 8. Now look at a typical fluorescent bulb description: F32T8/841. Translation: F is fluorescent, 32 is watts, T is shape (tubular), 8 is diameter (1 inch) and 841 gives you both CRI and color temperature information. The first number tells you the color temperature range; in this case in the 80s. The second two numbers indicate color temperature, so 41 means 4100K.

The Key Role of Rare Earth Phosphors in Fluorescent Lamps

The color of light produced by a fluorescent lamp depends on a blend of rare earth phosphors used to coat the wall of the tube. A 2800K color temperature bulb produces a "warm" appearing light. A 4100K bulb produces a "cool white" light. Specific blends of rare earth phosphors with names like Cerium, Europium and Yttrium (also used in LEDs) can produce a range of color temperatures from 2500K to 6000K. In addition, these phosphor blends allow for high color rendering (82 to 95 CRI), and improved lamp efficacy.

TCLP Compliant, Low Mercury Lamps May Reduce Disposal Costs

Typical fluorescent lamps contain toxic mercury in the range of 8 to 14 milligrams. For a number of years manufacturers have offered a low-mercury version of their popular lamps. Philips "Alto&," Osram "Ecologic," GE "Ecolux" - these lamps contain 3.5 to 4 milligrams of mercury. Promoted as "green," the lamps are TCLP compliant meaning they pass, according the manufacturer, the Federal standard that qualifies them as non-hazardous waste. In some states, TCLP compliant lamps do not need to be recycled, they can go directly into landfills, reducing disposal costs. Other states require recycling regardless of the mercury content in the bulbs. To learn the requirement in your state, follow this link.

Why Krypton and Xenon Bulbs Have Longer Rated Life

You may have wondered why some bulbs feature krypton or xenon gas. For many years, incandescent bulbs were filled with nitrogen gas. When argon became more affordable, it was substituted for nitrogen because it decreased the rate of evaporation of the tungsten filament and increased bulb life. More recently, krypton or xenon are used in some bulbs in place of argon. Because the molecular size is larger than argon, both these inert gases do a better job of retarding the evaporation of the filament and give longer life to the bulb. Also, since both krypton and xenon have lower heat conductivity than argon, the filament temperature is higher which increases the efficacy of the bulb. Xenon is better than krypton at both of these enhancements, but it is significantly more expensive. These specialty gases are used in filament bulbs where the added cost is justified by the improved performance. Click here to view krypton and xenon bulbs offered by Topbulb.

Why Dimming Incandescent, Halogen and LEDs Extends Bulb Life

Dimming incandescent and halogen bulbs not only provides both an aesthetic and energy conservation benefit, it also increases the life of the bulb. Incandescent and halogen bulbs can be dimmed by lowering voltage across the bulb filament. For incandescent bulbs, a 20% reduction in voltage using a dimmer increases the life of the bulb by a factor of nearly 20. Dimming halogen bulbs also increases bulb life, but because of bulb wall temperature requirements for the halogen cycle, the impact is less. Interestingly, dimmable LEDs may also have a small increase in life if they are dimmed. Life degradation for LEDs is determined primarily by the solid state junction temperature: higher temperatures reduce life. Since dimming lowers the junction temperature, the life of the LED should be extended.

Advantages of Pulse-Start Metal Halide Lamps

Pulse-start lamps offer several benefits: (1) higher light output per unit of electric power - higher savings if paired with electronic ballast; (2) higher light output as lamps age; (3) longer lamp life; (4) more stable color rendering as lamps age; (5) quicker startup - pulse-start lamps can reach full brightness in two to four minutes instead of the five to ten minutes needed by probe-start lamps. Topbulb offers ED & BT pulse start, and PAR pulse start bulbs.

How Heat Affects LEDs?

When you hold your hand close to the surface of an illuminated incandescent or halogen bulb you feel heat - radiant heat to be precise. When you do the same with a cluster of LEDs, you don't feel heat. The spectral output of LEDs for lighting does not contain infrared radiation. Why then do you often hear of the need to dissipate heat from LED lamps? And why the elaborate cooling fins that have become a common feature of LED replacement bulbs? The answer is that while LEDs do not produce infrared radiant heat, they do generate heat at the solid state junction. Too much heat at this junction will lower the life of the LED and reduce light output. The cooling fins perform the task of dissipating this heat. So, if you use LEDs as replacement bulbs, be aware that light output and rated life will be adversely affected if they are placed inside enclosed or poorly ventilated fixtures where it will be difficult to dissipate heat.

How Heat Affects CFLs?

Screw base compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) are designed so they can easily replace incandescent or halogen bulbs while providing both energy savings and longer life. Quality CFLs on the market today can come very close to matching the quality of light, instant on and even dimming characteristics of incandescent and halogen. One area of comparative weakness has been that CFLs often come with the warning not to use them in "enclosed fixtures." Flush mount ceiling and wall fixtures and recessed downlights present a problem because of potential heat build-up inside the fixture. The concern is not about fire. It's about the fact that excess heat, particularly around the base of the CFL, can cause premature bulb failure. Screw based CFLs are built with integral voltage transformers so they can be screwed into a 120V socket. Heat causes the transformer to fail prematurely. Hence the warning about "enclosed fixtures." The good news is that there are CFLs in the 5W to 15W range that have special transformers built for high heat conditions. If you have an application that may require this type of CFL, please give us a call at 800.867.2852.

The Appearance of Light (Color Temperature) is Key Design Issue

When deciding on the best light bulb for a particular application, one consideration not to overlook is the appearance of the light as perceived by the people using the space. For example, many people will find a formal dining room more appealing with "warmer" appearing light, while for a large, open-plan office "neutral to cool white" appearing light is the better choice. Color temperature designations of light bulbs can be confusing. Sometimes you'll see subjective terms such as "warm white" or "cool white." Other times, the quantitative Kelvin temperature number will be used: 2700K (warm white), 4100K (cool white). Here are some approximate reference points: candle light is 1800K (warm yellow), a standard 60W incandescent light bulb is 2700K (warm white), lights in a portrait photo studio are 3200K (neutral white), fluorescent lights in a classroom or office are often 4100K (cool white), daylight with a thin overcast sky is 6500K (bluish, white light). Most incandescent and halogen bulbs are in the Kelvin range 2700K-3000K. Fluorescent, metal halide and LED bulbs can be purchased with color temperature options from 2700K to 6500K. If you have questions about color temperature when purchasing bulbs from Topbulb, please use our 800.867.2852 phone number and we will be happy to explain the options.

Decoding Edison Base Types

There are hundreds of unique bases for light bulbs. The most familiar is the Edison screw base found on most incandescent bulbs and many halogen, compact fluorescent, HID and now LED bulbs. The common terms are medium, intermediate, candelabra and mogul. However, because the light industry likes mysterious codes, you may also see E26, E12, E39, etc. E obviously is for Edison. The number after the E is the diameter of the base in millimeters. Here are the most common Edison base codes: Medium (think household 60W bulbs) = E26; Intermediate = E17; Candelabra = E12; Mini Candelabra = E11; Miniature = E10; Midget = E5. The large Mogul bases found on higher wattage incandescent and HID bulbs are E39. Most Edison base bulbs are called "single contact" because there is one contact button at the center of the base. However a few are called "double contact" (two buttons) in which case the designation becomes E26d or E39d. The good news is there are relatively few Edison base designations. It really gets crazy with pin-based bulbs - there are well over 75 different types!

How Efficient are White LEDs?

The energy efficiency of a light bulb is measured in lumens (light output) per watt of electrical input. A typical incandescent bulb produces up to 18 lumens/watt. A halogen bulb is a little more efficient at up to 20 lumens/watt. Fluorescent and HID bulbs have ballasts consuming some of the input electricity. Including the ballast, CFLs produce up to 60 lumens/watt, while metal halide ranges from 50 to 120 lumens/watt. It may be surprising, given all the hype, that the energy efficiency of white LEDs ranges from as low as 40 to over 100 lumens/watt. A premium 12.5W LED, being marketed as a replacement for a common 60W incandescent, delivers about 65 lumens/watt. Certainly this is a significant improvement over the 18 lumen/watt, 60W incandescent but virtually no improvement compared to the 69 lumens/watt 13W CFL, also equivalent in light output to a 60W incandescent. Clearly many factors come into play when you are comparing the benefits of various bulb options.

Light Bulb Coatings Revealed

Most light bulbs are available with a variety of coatings, or, no coating at all. Clear bulbs are useful when a stark, intense luminance is desired. If clear incandescent and halogen bulbs are fully exposed, the human eye will see the illuminated tungsten filament directly. This is used to good effect in Edison-style historic reproduction bulbs. Clear bulbs can create hard shadows that in most cases are not desirable. One solution is "inside frost," the most common bulb coating. It is applied to most bulb types and sizes to provide soft appearing illumination. Frost produces moderate diffusion of the light with almost no reduction in light output. Some bulbs come with a white coating. Finely powdered white silica coats the inside of the bulb. The result is more diffuse light than inside frost, minimizing shadows with very little absorption of light. So called "daylight" incandescent bulbs are coated with neodymium that gives a bluish appearance to the light. These bulbs are not true "full-spectrum" bulbs; rather, they give the appearance of daylight by filtering out the warmer wavelengths light. Other specialty coatings, such as for shatter-resistance, are also available. If you have any special coating needs please call us.

Guidelines for Selecting LED Replacement Bulbs for the Home

Replacing household bulbs with LEDs is becoming a viable option for people as LED prices continue to drop. The more difficult decision is how to pick suitable replacements. Ideally, after you replace your current bulb with an LED bulb, you won't be able to see any difference in the quality of illumination. To get this result, the first rule is don't think "watts." Think "lumens." Look on the packaging of your last purchase of 60W or 100W standard bulbs. You should see "Lumens" or "Light Output" listed with a number like 850 or 1600. This is the number to compare to the "Lumens" for an LED bulb. Most reputable manufacturers use a standardized label called Lighting Facts that clearly calls out the lumens (see a sample label). Select LEDs with lumens within a 5% difference of your existing bulb. Next, make sure you choose an LED bulb in a "color temperature" close to 2700K (also on the Lighting Facts label). Most people like a warm appearing light in their table/floor lamps, downlights and other general lighting applications. However, if you are replacing a PAR halogen type flood or spot with an LED, the closest color temperature is 3000K. Above 3000K you will be getting more blue color in your bulb that you may find undesirable (example, many LED outdoor landscape lights that have an icy blue appearance). LED bulbs come in dimmable versions, but you will pay more and you will need to read the fine print on which model dimmers will work. Finally look for at least a 3-year warranty. Some brand name companies offer 5-year. Our best advice: for each type of bulb in your home, buy only a single replacement LED, install it and make sure you are happy with the appearance and functionality before you replace other similar bulbs.

Other than Energy Savings and Long Life, What are Additional Benefits of LEDs?

The benefits of converting from traditional light sources to LEDs usually focus on energy savings and long life. However there are several other potential benefits worth mentioning. (1) When LEDs are switched ON, they illuminate instantly and at full light output in contrast to fluorescent, HID and even incandescent bulbs. This is especially important for emergency egress and security applications. Interestingly, LED vehicle brake lights illuminate 200 milliseconds faster than incandescent. This translates into almost 20 feet of additional stopping distance at 65 mph. (2) LED performance or life expectancy is not affected by frequent or even rapid on-off cycling. By comparison, the rated life of a fluorescent bulb is shortened when it is turned on and off many times a day. (3) LEDs are more resistant than standard light bulbs to mechanical failure due to shock and vibration. While this is not an issue for household use, it might be an important advantage for industrial and some commercial applications. (4) Cold temperatures are a challenge for fluorescent bulbs. LEDs actually increase light output efficacy as operating temperatures drop, making them excellent choices for outdoor and cold storage uses. (5) LEDs produce minimal ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) radiation giving them a significant advantage for retail, museum or even household lighting where artwork, fabrics and food can be affected by both UV and IR. If you have questions about LED performance for any application, call us and we'll do our best to provide you with the latest research-based information.

Advantages of MR-Shaped Light Bulbs (MR11, MR16)

MR16, MR11, MR8 shaped light bulbs are low voltage, bi-pin halogen reflectors that come in a wide variety of options and wattages. "MR" stands for multifaceted reflector. MR bulbs were originally developed for the projector industry but later found widespread use in applications such as track lighting. The main advantages of MRs, compared to PAR, R or BR type reflector bulbs, are: small size; whiter appearing light; and more precise beam control. Of course substituting them for existing 120V PAR, R or BR screw based bulbs is generally not an option. However, for new projects or remodels, it is worth considering MR16s for dynamic accent lighting or special downlight applications where the goal is to create well defined pools of light. In addition, because they are inherently directional, MR type bulbs are a very good match for LED technology. If you are replacing halogen MR16s with LEDs, pay attention to two specifications: make sure the beam angle is close to the same, and, also try to match the "center beam candle power" or CBCP. This is a measure of the intensity of the light, which is a more important metric than overall lumens, particularly for narrow beam spotlights designed to highlight objects or art. Topbulb has over 200 variations of MR type light bulbs as well as several MR16 LEDs.

Update on the Cost-Effectivness of Replacing Standard Bulbs with LED

11/2012 - A year ago we wrote a tip where we asked the question, "Do screw based LED replacement bulbs make economic sense?" Our answer: "Probably not yet for most applications." At the time we compared an $8 halogen flood with an $80 LED flood. What a difference a year makes! That $80 LED is now around $50. So let's run the numbers again. Energy: An 11 watt LED flood will provide about the same light output as a 50W halogen flood - an almost 80% energy savings. Bulb Life: At 35,000 hours, the LED has a rated life about 15 times that of the halogen bulb. You will replace the halogen at least 12 times, spending $96, before the $50 LED needs replacement. Even if you ignore the energy savings and just compare the difference in bulb life, the $50 LED makes more economic sense than the $8 halogen. The energy savings is a bonus. The reduced ladder time for bulb changes is a bonus. Bottom line, because costs have dropped, LEDs are now a player, not just in this example but with many types of bulbs and applications.

Options for Energy Efficient Outdoor Lighting

Upgrading your outdoor lighting for better energy efficiency requires careful light bulb selection, particularly in cold winter climates. Compact fluorescent gives you a big efficiency improvement over the standard incandescent bulb in outdoor wall and pole mount fixtures, but it is a technology that is cold temperature averse. You'll get a dim, slow starting bulb at best. In some cases no start at all. The problem is the ballast. The solution is to buy CFL bulbs with integral ballasts rated for cold temperatures. Look for bulbs that list a minimum start temperature below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. For outdoor security floodlights, LED improves on the efficiency of halogen and avoids the limitations of fluorescent. This is a lighting technology that actually works better when the temperature is cold! Off the shelf LED light bulbs will start instantly and give better performance when temperatures are low. The only potential downside is when you are substituting LED flood bulbs in fixtures with ON/OFF motion sensor control. The wattage of the LED bulbs may be too low to meet minimum "load" requirements for some sensors. Test your fixture with inexpensive low wattage incandescent bulbs. It may work fine. Newer "No load" motion sensor outdoor fixtures are available. Both CFLs and LEDs can be excellent outdoor light sources year around in the right application. See Topbulb's expanding line of LEDs here. If you prefer the CFL solution, click here for some CFLs with start temperatures at minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Options for Energy Efficient Recessed Downlights

Recessed downlights (or "cans") are a good place to start saving energy in residential and small commercial buildings. Many buildings built in the last 30 years are filled with downlights in entryways, lobbies and reception counters. In residential kitchens, it is not uncommon to find five to ten recessed cans, or more. These lights are often "on" many hours a day. The common bulb of choice for these fixtures is the R- or BR-shaped reflector flood. (not to be confused with the more precise optics of halogen PAR bulbs). This type of incandescent bulb is very inexpensive. It also is very energy inefficient. While LEDs are often pitched as the ultimate solution, this is one case where CFLs are competitive, at least for now. CFL reflector floods can cost five to seven times less than LEDs. CFLs are rated at 8,000 to 10,000 hours while LEDs range from 25,000 to 35,000 hours - not enough of a difference to overcome the current differential in price. If dimming is a requirement, then the advantage to CFLs is diminished because their cost goes up. Other factors may point to LEDs as the better choice for your situation, but for the basic downlight application, "instant on" CFLs are hard to beat. See Topbulb's CFL floods here, and our LED general application floods here.

Why are Some LEDs Rated for 25,000 Hours and Others for 50,000 Hours?

Question: Why do some very similar LED light bulbs declare a 50,000 hour life and others, including Energy Star Qualified bulbs, only list 25,000 or 35,000 hours? How does a customer know what to believe and which is the best buy? There are two parts to the answer. First, if "rated life" is based on the absolute failure of the LED bulb - the point in time when the bulb emits no light ("is burned out"), then most standard LED bulbs will last around 50,000 hours. But, there is a big asterisk on that 50,000 hour number and this is the second part of the answer. At 4000 to 5000 hours of "on" time, the original light output of most LEDs has already dropped well below 100%. When manufacturers test their bulbs according to standardized industry procedures, the light output typically declines to an average of 92% of the original output by 6,000 hours. The decline continues and accelerates as the bulb ages. For an LED bulb to meet the requirements for Energy Star Qualified, the bulb must be tested to determine that it still has at least 70% of the original light output at 25,000 hours and that number can be listed as the rated life. Some manufacturers can get approval for listing higher rated life. If an Energy Star Qualified LED bulb lists a 35,000 hour life, for example, it has been tested for a longer period of time to determine that it will have over 70% of the original light output at 35,000 hours. Bottom line: with Energy Star Qualified LEDs, you know the bulbs have been tested and you know when the light output declines to the point that, even if the bulb is technically still producing light, it will be time to replace it. Topbulb carries many Energy Star Qualified LED bulbs. Click to browse our complete LED inventory.

When "Infrared" Means Heat, When it Means Long Life

The term "infrared" applied to light bulbs, can be confusing. In most cases it means "heat." In other cases it means "long life." First, when does infrared mean heat? Well over 95% of the input energy to an incandescent light bulb ends up as heat. Technically, tungsten filament light bulbs (incandescent and halogen) are better space heaters than producers of visible light. So it's easy to eat lamps used in bathrooms, food-preparation areas and animal husbandry are simply incandescent light bulbs. Typically these will be "R" and "PAR" type bulbs where the reflector helps focus the infrared. Red coatings may also be used, but the color does not increase the heat, it only minimizes visible light. For specialized applications requiring higher heat output, tubular quartz halogen bulbs are available in high wattages. Where does infrared mean "long life?" Some halogen MR16 and PAR bulbs have an infrared reflective coating that prevents heat from escaping from the back of the bulb. In this case infrared means higher efficiency and longer bulb life. To view these infrared long life halogen bulbs, click here. For Topbulb's heat lamp bulbs, click here.

Ways to Solve the "Not Enough Light" Problem

How do you make a room or space that always seems not to have enough light, brighter? Most homeowners and even businesses can relate to this problem. Here are a list of things to try:

  1. Sometimes the solution is as simple as replacing the current bulbs with ones of slightly higher wattage.
  2. If the space uses incandescent bulbs, switch to halogen. The higher filament temperature of halogen produces whiter, brighter light.
  3. If the space uses fluorescent lighting, try bulbs with the same wattage but with higher color temperature - 4000K or higher (cool white). You'll get the same amount of light as the old bulbs, but the whiter light seems brighter to the human eye.
  4. If the space uses mostly track or other accent lighting, try adding a floor lamp or ceiling mounted fixture that directs the light up toward the ceiling. This works best with white ceilings that are high enough to not have "hot" spots of light. The effect of this type of indirect, diffuse light can be dramatic.

Of course, you can always call us if you need help choosing bulbs to improve your lighting.

Match Beam Angles When Replacing Floods and Spots

A problem with directional lighting such as track lights can occur when bulbs are replaced. It's easy to simply look at the wattage and the base of the bulb and overlook the light distribution or beam angle when purchasing a new one. Not getting the beam angle right will change the quality of the lighting. A single piece of wall art may require a relatively narrow beam of light, while a collection of photos on the wall will require a wide flood. This may seem obvious, but it is easy to buy the wrong bulb unless you remember to identify the beam spread. The part number on the box gives you the clue to the beam. For example, 50PAR20/NFLis a narrow flood. Here's a quick guide to the abbreviations:

  • FL (flood, 30 to 40 degree beam angle)
  • NFL (narrow flood, usually 25 degree beam)
  • SP (spot, 10-15 degree beam)
  • NSP (narrow spot 8-9 degree beam)
  • WFL (wide flood, greater than 40 degree beam)

Before you buy, think about how you want directional light to work for your application. Then choose the optimum beam spread. Topbulb has a great selection of halogen and LED floods and spots. Give us a call if you need assistance.

Landscape Lighting Rules of Thumb

Whether you are lighting pathways for safety, or trees and shrubs for accent, following some basic rules will prevent your landscape from becoming an eyesore rather than an attractive addition to the property.

  1. Less light is better than too much light in the garden and on walkways. Too many fixtures create a visual mess rather than a pleasing view.
  2. Similarly, non-uniform lighting provides the most interesting visual composition. Use contrast in light levels (different wattage bulbs) as a way of focusing attention either on the direction you want people to walk, or on a primary feature of the landscape.
  3. Avoid glare. Use path light fixtures that direct the light on the path, not in a person's line of sight. This can be a serious problem when someone ascends steps and is looking up, directly at a beam of light ahead.
  4. Avoid hot spots on plants and trees. Fixtures that aim light at ornamental shrubs or up into trees can produce very interesting effects, however if the fixtures are placed too close to vegetation or tree trunks, obvious hot spots of light ruin the effect.
  5. Finally, if you use LED bulbs, make sure they produce a white (not blue) appearing light.

If you want more information about landscape lighting and, in particular, the best bulbs to use, please contact us.

Use UV Lighting for Water Purification

Water purification may seem an unexpected topic for a lighting newsletter. However, increasingly, as studies show that chemicals like chlorine are losing the fight against certain pathogens, talk turns to using ultraviolet light. The EPA recently called on municipal water suppliers to treat water with UV radiation to inactivate key pathogens such as adenovirus and other viruses, as well as bacteria and parasites such as Giardia. What's good for city water is also good for a whole host of other applications such as hot tubs, swimming pools, water gardens and aquariums. Ultraviolet germicidal lamps produce energy at 253.7 nanometers. Lamps used for water purification also emit radiation at 185 nanometers for ozone production. These wavelengths are not visible to the human eye, although germicidal lamps also emit some visible light. The lamps are rated by UV output in watts (not to be confused the wattage of the lamp). If you have either water or air purification applications, see Topbulb's extensive line of ultraviolet lamps here. Call us if you need help with UV lamp issues.

LCD Projector Lamp Life

Fall means back to school, football on TV and home theater on cool evenings. It also means it's time to think about your LCD/DLP projector lamps. The average rated effective life of a typical lamp is about 2000 hours which sounds like a long time. The key phrase is "effective life." Before the lamp burns out, it dims to the point that it stops performing. Where that point is may be at 80% or less of total "burn out." To prolong effective lamp life, follow these procedures:

  1. When installing new lamps always use gloves so that no fingerprints are left on the glass which will cause hot spots and early failure.
  2. Clean the air filters of the projector. Blocked filters cause lamp overheating.
  3. If you replace only the bulb into an existing housing, take care not to over tighten the terminals. Under tightening is not good either, so make sure there is good contact and then stop.
  4. When using the projector, always switch off the lamp only, or, use the remote control "off" which usually does the same. The key is to leave the fan running to allow the bulb to cool slowly. The temperature of an operating lamp is several thousand degrees F. Cooling a lamp too quickly is a leading cause of early lamp failure.
  5. Make sure the lamp is off and fully cooled before moving the projector. Mechanical shock of hot lamps is another cause of premature lamp failure.

When it is time to replace, Topbulb has an extremely large line of lamps (and bare bulbs) for most brands and models of projectors, rear projection TVs, and electronic whiteboards.

One Solution to Seasonal Affective Disorder

For some people, the onset of fewer hours of daylight means dealing with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) a form of depression. After years of research and some initial skepticism, it is now widely recognized that SAD is a medical condition affecting about 10% of the population in northern latitudes (about 2% in a place like Florida). There are many theories about the causes of SAD. One is related to the chemical melatonin that regulates sleep. Melatonin is produced by the body when there is an absence of light and helps induce sleep. Melatonin can be suppressed by light. A fluorescent light box is designed to help, assuming a person sits in front of it for at least 30 minutes each morning. Blue wavelength light is particularly important. Any fluorescent, metal halide or LED light bulb with a color temperature of 5000K or higher will have a large blue light component. Topbulb carries many bulbs that provide both quality illumination and 5000K or higher color temperature. A good place to start is on this page. Please call if you need assistance.