An Explanation of CRI

Mar 28, 14 An Explanation of CRI

When you’re shopping for light bulbs, what are some of things you look for? The number of watts the bulb consumes? The initial lumen output? Most certainly the life hours, right? Well it’s time to add another one to the list: CRI. Never heard of it? Don’t fret; we’ll break it down for you!

What is CRI?

For starters, CRI stands for color rendering index, and it measures the effect a bulb has on the perceived color of objects. Simply put, CRI measures how well a bulb replicates the sun, which has a perfect CRI of 100. Underneath a CRI of 100, colors look exactly like they should: bold, vibrant, striking.

The great thing about CRI is that it’s easy to understand: the higher the CRI, the better colors will look. The lower the CRI, the worse colors will look. A bulb with a CRI of 80 or above is good, and a bulb with a CRI of 90 and above is very good. A CRI below 80 isn’t that all that great, and will make colors look yellow, washed out, and can even change the hue of objects.  For example, the lights you see in highway fixtures have a very low CRI, which is a very yellow light which leads to a bad CRI. Subsequently making colors tougher to differentiate.

Choosing the Right CRI

6421218149_cf3dc85106_zWhen it comes to residential lighting, you don’t really need bulbs with a very high CRI, especially in places like the living room or the kitchen (bathrooms, vanities, and closets are different since bulbs with a CRI are highly recommended in these areas) since these places mainly just utilize task lighting. For example, if you use BR40 lamps in your recessed lighting fixtures in your living room or kitchen, these bulbs typically have a CRI of around 80, with some bulbs peaking at 85.

9035006096_770e84628a_zHowever, if you’re displaying family portraits, art, or sports memorabilia, then bulbs with a high CRI, such as this Soraa LED MR16, would make these look even better; the colors would look more stunning and bold. The high CRI of these LEDs create brighter brights and whiter whites, while colors become more vibrant. Places where objects are on display, like art galleries, museums, or jewelry stores, will use bulbs with a very high CRI. You can learn more about Soraa’s LED’s in one of our previous blog posts. http://blog.1000bulbs.com/soraa-led-mr16s-changing-the-face-of-lighting/

So, when is CRI not really an important factor? While that’s purely up to you, you can skate by with low CRI bulbs in places like garages or outdoor lighting. Since there’s not a lot of aesthetic appeal in these areas, whether or not your cherry red Craftsman toolbox looks like Ferrari red doesn’t matter all that much.

Where do you use your bulbs with a high CRI? Let us know in the comments below, or drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, or LinkedIn!

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CFLs vs. LEDs: How Are They Different?

Mar 17, 14 CFLs vs. LEDs: How Are They Different?

Now that household incandescent bulbs are slowly but surely becoming a thing of the past due to government efficiency standards, many people are being pointed in the direction of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and LEDs as replacements. But you may not know what makes these two incandescent alternatives different from one another, beyond their appearance and pricing. When it comes to CFLs and LEDs, there have a lot more differences than what meets the eye.

Energy Efficiency: While both CFLs and LEDs fall well within the government guidelines of light bulb efficiency, they are not on a level playing field in terms of energy consumption. While a 60-watt equal CFL typically consumes about 13 watts of energy, a 60-watt equal LED will only consume about 8.5 watts. LEDs also produce more lumens per watt than CFLs. Even though they both conserve a considerable amount of energy compared to incandescents, this discrepancy in energy savings, among many other things, is why LEDs are being praised as the ultimate in efficient lighting.

Mercury: As you may already know, CFLs contain a small amount of mercury whereas LEDs do not. This mercury doesn’t necessarily make CFLs more dangerous, considering you’d be able to find more of it in a tuna sandwich, but it does mean you should exercise caution if one breaks. Here’s what to do if you break a CFL bulb.

Life Hours: If you’re trying to make the choice between CFLs and LEDs, you should know the typical life expectancy of each. Bulbs with long rated lives are less likely to need frequent replacement and will drastically reduce maintenance costs. Incandescent bulbs are known to have a short life expectancy of around 1,000 hours. Even though CFLs can last anywhere between 6,000 and 20,000 hours, LEDs are capable of lasting up to 50,000 hours.

ledtracklighting1000bulbsLight Directionality: LEDs and CFLs are made to emit light in very different ways. While CFLs are omnidirectional, meaning they emit light in all directions, LEDs emit light in one general direction. The directional beam of an LED can be ideal for applications where focused lighting is needed, such as track or display lighting. However, LEDs can be made omnidirectional using lenses like on standard A19 LEDs.

Durability: We all know that incandescent bulbs have a very fragile filament that is prone to breakage if the bulb isn’t handled with care. CFLs and LEDs don’t use a standard filament, but still vary in their ability to withstand certain conditions, like areas that experience frequent vibrations or jolting. CFLs are considered to be more fragile than LED lighting because very strong vibrations can weaken the electrodes that the lamp uses to produce light. Also, CFLs are mostly constructed of glass and are much more likely to be easily damaged. LEDs are a lot tougher and can withstand rough handling.

Temperature Compatibility: Before making the choice between CFL and LED, you should also think about the temperature of the area in which you are planning to use them. If you’re looking for a light that will do well in cold temperatures, LEDs are the way to go. Conversely, CFLs don’t operate well in freezing temps but do much better in moderate to hot conditions.

On/Off Frequency: CFLs and LEDs also have different reactions to being frequently turned on and off. If you constantly turn a CFL on and off, its rated life is very likely to decrease. However, the rated lives of LEDs aren’t affected by frequent on and off cycling.

Heat Emission: All light sources emit some kind of heat – even LEDs. But the amount of heat CFLs and LEDs produce is drastically different.  In LEDs heat is generated in the rear of the lamp where heat sinks minimize its production. Whereas LEDs don’t produce Infrared (IR) or Ultraviolet (UV) radiation, CFLs produce both and can become very hot to the touch if left on for an extended period of time.

Lutron Skylark CFL/LED Dimmer

Lutron Skylark CFL/LED Dimmer

Dimming Capabilities: If you like having the ability to customize your lighting scheme, you’ll want to think about the dimming capabilities of your lights. CFLs and LEDs are more difficult to dim than incandescent bulbs due to the lack of a filament that generates light. Even though dimmable CFLs and LEDs do exist, they both need specialized dimmer switches in order for them to dim properly. In terms of which lights are easier to control on dimmers, LEDs beat out CFLs by a nose.

Start Times: As we’ve already discussed, LEDs and CFLs create light in very different ways. Their difference in technology is why one takes longer to produce visible light than the other. Even though CFLs are technically instant-on, they have to go through a few steps before the light it produces can become visible, usually taking around 60 seconds to reach full brightness. Some LEDs have a minuscule delay of about 1 second, but there is no delay in reaching full brightness and may be a better choice if you’ve gotten used to the instant-on of incandescent bulbs.

Did we miss anything? Do you have any more questions about energy-efficient lighting options? Let us know in the comments or chat with us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest!

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10 Lighting Terms You Should Know

Jun 07, 13 10 Lighting Terms You Should Know

Let’s face it: light bulbs can be confusing. Knowing which bulb you need is hard enough, let alone trying to understand all this jargon being thrown around by the lighting industry.  Below is a list of 10 commonly used lighting terms that will have you talking like a pro in no time.

Lumens (initial): While the amount of light a bulb produces is measured in lumens, the amount of light a bulb emits at the beginning of its life is referred to as initial lumens. Of course, the higher the initial lumens of a bulb, the brighter that bulb is going to be.

Lumens (mean): The term mean lumens is the amount of lumens the bulb produces at 50 percent of its life.

Volts: Think of volts, sometimes referred to as voltage, as a measure of electrical potential. Voltage is what pushes electrical current through a conductor. Typically, residences are wired for 110-130 volts, with businesses being wired anywhere from 220-277 volts. Most of your household bulbs operate at 120 volts.

Watts: This is probably one of the terms you hear the most. Watts (also referred to as wattage) refers to power consumption and the rate at which energy is drawn from an electrical system. The higher the wattage of the lamp, the more electricity that lamp will consume, and the higher your electricity bill.

Efficacy: Efficacy is the measure of lumen output per unit of power, and is measured in lumens per watt, expressed as “13 lumens per watt”. The higher the lumens per watt, the brighter the bulb, equaling a higher efficacy.

Color Temperature: Despite its name, color temperature actually has nothing to do with physical temperature. It refers to the color of the light produced by the lamp, measured in degrees Kelvin. A simple rule of thumb for remembering color temperature is this: the lower the temperature, the yellower the light, and the higher the temperature, the whiter the light. For example, a 2700K bulb has a warm color to it, perfect for living rooms or dining rooms. A 5000K bulb has a very white color to it, often referred to as “natural white” or “stark white,” and is ideal for office buildings, doctors’ offices, and in department stores.

Beam Angle: The name is a dead giveaway. Beam angle is simply the angle of the beam of light produced by the bulb. Beam angle is a key factor typically associated with bulbs such as MRs or PARs, which are generally used for things like track lighting or recessed lighting and is measured in two ways, either with actual degree measurements or with a series of designations. The degree measurements range anywhere from 7 degrees to more than 160 degrees, while the designations run from very narrow spot, spot, narrow flood, flood, wide flood, and very wide flood.

Center Beam Candlepower: Center beam candlepower, sometimes abbreviated as CB Candlepower, is the measure of the intensity of light produced at the center of a lamp beam, which is measured in candelas.

Life hours: This is exactly what the name suggests. Life hours are the number of hours the bulb can be expected to operate. For most lamps, life hours are calculated by observing when 50% of a group of lamps fail.

CRI: A bulb’s CRI, or color rendering index, is the measurement a light source has on colors and surfaces. Bulbs with a high CRI (80 and above) make colors appear more vibrant and natural, while bulbs with a low CRI (79 and below) will make colors look washed out and even take on a different hue.

Are there any other lighting terms you can think of? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus!

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Grow Light Basics, Part 3: Ballasts

Mar 22, 13 Grow Light Basics, Part 3: Ballasts

Part 1 of this series covered bulbs and lamp coverage; part 2 covered grow fixtures and timers. In the final chapter, we will be discussing ballasts. There are a wide variety of ballasts to be used with different types of bulbs, different wattages, and different set ups. If you are trying to find the right ballast for your growing needs, stick around and see if we can answer your questions.

Fluorescent Ballasts

If you are using fluorescent tubes for your indoor grow, make sure you use a fluorescent ballast. As stated in part 1 of this series, T5 bulbs are used often for indoor grows, so be sure to double check the lamp type. Once you have determined the size of lamp; you will then need to determine the start method. Instant start ballasts do not preheat the electrodes; they are best if the lamps need to stay on for long periods of time. Programmed start ballasts heat the lamp cathodes slowly; allowing for a longer lamp life, and rapid start ballasts apply voltage and heat cathodes simultaneously. Lastly, consider the ballast factor. For bright lighting, use a high output ballast with a ballast factor above 1.1, for low lighting, a low output ballast with a ballast factor of 0.77 is best.

Magnetic Ballasts

Magnetic ballasts are used with both metal halide lamps and high pressure sodium lamps. They regulate the starting requirements, as well as the line voltage for specific lamps, delivering stable power to the lamps. When using a magnetic ballast, be sure to use a lamp that is at a wattage equal to or less than the ballast wattage.

Some metal halide lamps are pulse rated; they feature a high-voltage ignitor that work with the ballast to start the lamp utilizing a series of high-voltage pulses, generally 3 to 5 kilovolts. The ignitor reduces the amount of tungsten sputtering, as well as warm up time, to increase the life of the lamp. If you use a pulse start metal halide bulb, be sure to double check the ANSI code of the ballast to ensure the pulse rating of the ballast works with the bulb.

Digital Ballasts

Using metal halide and high pressure sodium lamps? Digital ballasts are the best way to go! These lightweight ballasts operate both types of lamps, detecting the lamp inserted at that time, and will run the lamp to ANSI specifications. They can be dimmable and also run quietly without the hum of magnetic ballasts. While most digital ballasts operate both metal halide and high pressure sodium lamps, some only operate one or the other. In this case, you can either use the specified lamp, or a conversion bulb.

If you have any other questions regarding ballasts, fixtures, bulbs, or any other accessories for your indoor grow, be sure to let us know in the comments or reach out to us on Google Plus, Facebook, and Twitter!

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Beam Angle Explained

Jan 18, 13 Beam Angle Explained

Reflector bulbs are more than just floodlights and spotlights. Like any light bulb, they come in shapes and technologies to fit any application. Two cases in point are the PAR and the MR16. These common bulbs, whether halogen, CFL, or LED, are highly specified, containing engineered surfaces that control the beam of light to an angle so precise it takes seven different classifications just to explain their possible uses!

Very Narrow Spot (VNSP)

The very narrow spot is just like it sounds. At 7 degrees or less for an MR16 or 15 degrees or less for a PAR lamp, this reflector casts an intense, focused beam without a square inch of wasted light. Bulbs with a VNSP beam angle are often used to highlight a small statue or figure on display in a museum or in a jewelry store to make diamonds “pop.”

Narrow Spot (NSP)

landscape lights

Photo by RBerteig (flickr)

Like the very narrow spot, the narrow spot is most popular in commercial applications. At 8 to 15 degrees for an MR16 or 16 to 30 degrees for a PAR lamp, the reflector casts a beam slightly less focused than a VNSP. Look for bulbs with an NSP beam angle in retail settings highlighting a special or sale item or in landscape bullets illuminating a sign or garden feature.

Spot (SP)

The spot, though primarily used in commercial applications, also shows up in homes from time to time. At 16 to 22 degrees for an MR16 or 31 to 60 degrees for a PAR lamp, the reflector casts a medium-sized beam. Bulbs with an SP beam angle are used in stores to highlight a special or sale area or outdoors to illuminate an architectural feature.

Narrow Flood (NFL)

Fireplace Spot Light

Photo by ell brown (flickr)

Businesses and homeowners alike find uses for the narrow flood. At 23 to 32 degrees for an MR16 or 61 to 90 degrees for a PAR lamp, this reflector casts a medium-wide beam. Stores use an NFL beam angle to highlight a display table, while homes might use this bulb in recessed eyeball lights to illuminate a painting over a fireplace mantle.

Flood (FL)

This true “floodlight” has wide variety of applications. At 36 to 45 degrees for an MR16 or 91 to 120 degrees for a PAR lamp, the reflector casts a wide beam. Bulbs with an FL beam angle can be seen in everything from pendant lights in coffee shops to recessed lights in living rooms.

Wide Flood (WFL)

Need a lot of light? There are worse options than the wide flood. At 46 to 59 degrees for an MR16 or 121 to 160 degrees for a PAR lamp, the wide flood has a dispersed beam to cover a large area. Bulbs with a WFL beam angle are common in many general illumination applications from motion-sensing lights above garage doors to recessed cans in auditoriums and movie theaters.

Very Wide Flood (VWFL)

recessed lights

Photo by mccun934 (flickr)

The very wide flood finds its way into specialty applications, more often than not. At over 60 degrees for an MR16 or over 160 degrees for a PAR lamp, this reflector casts an extremely wide beam. Bulbs with a VWFL beam angle are used to illuminate without highlighting any particular object or area. They’re good options for outdoor flood lighting and low-ceiling recessed lights.

Keep in mind these designations vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some brands, like Ushio, throw them out altogether for their simpler system of “narrow,” “medium,” and “wide.” Also note that just because a bulb may have a commercial application, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it in your home. Use reflectors to make your walls a canvas for your lighting ideas, and be sure to share those ideas with us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or Pinterest!

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Your Guide to Incandescent Light Bulbs

Aug 03, 12 Your Guide to Incandescent Light Bulbs

With today’s emphasis on energy efficiency in lighting, it’s easy to forget that our old, inefficient friend, the incandescent light bulb, still exists. In fact, it may never go away. The lowly incandescent isn’t just the less-efficient alternative to modern bulbs, it is oftentimes the only bulb available for many everyday applications.

Standard Shape

They’re known as A-shape, pear shape, or traditional, but most people just call them light bulbs. Standard shape bulbs are the old-fashioned bulbs that many of you are still using or are hoarding in your attic. Though these bulbs are the type most directly affected by EISA 2007 and other lighting legislation, lower-wattage and special application bulbs aren’t going away anytime soon.

Low Voltage

Have an RV or a camper? Chances are you use one of these 12 or 24 volt light bulbs. Other applications include landscape and outdoor lighting, especially battery-powered. Though they look just like other bulbs, don’t use them in your home, or they’ll blow out in a fraction of a second!

Antique and Vintage

An increasingly popular bulb type, antique bulbs are reproductions of bulbs made in the 19th century, with many very closely resembling the original bulb made by Thomas Edison himself. Though they are highly inefficient, even in comparison to other incandescent bulbs, these beautiful creations are popular in restaurants, retail stores, and of course, home restorations.

Spot and Flood

Though Halogen reflector bulbs are more popular, incandescent spot and flood lights are popular options for recessed cans in homes, businesses, and even elevators. Many are also weatherproof, making them a good choice for covered outdoor fixtures.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 19:  McDonald's fren...

French fries under a heat lamp (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Infrared

Also known simply as “heat lamps,” these reflector bulbs emit more infrared heat than light. In effect, they are heaters you can screw into a light socket. Infrared heat lamps are commonly used in fast food warmers, buffets, and even household bathrooms.

Decorative Chandelier

Meant to replicate the look of a flame, these bulbs are what you see in chandeliers, electric candles, and a host of other decorative light fixtures. The most popular versions are straight tip (torpedo) and bent tip, but specialty bulbs like shaped like prisms, satin string bulbs made to reproduce a gas flame, and flicker flame bulbs are also common.

Decorative Globe

Used in holiday lights and outdoor light stringers as well as bathroom vanities and even as a non-traditional alternative for chandeliers, globe bulbs are nearly as widespread as standard shape bulbs.

Tubular

Tubular bulbs include many sizes and styles of bulbs made for applications as varied as older incandescent exit signs and picture lamps. You may also see these in household appliances like vacuum cleaners and as replacement bulbs for microwave ovens.

Linear

Linear incandescents are one of two proprietary technologies made or licensed by GE for their Lumiline brand and by Sylvania for their Linestra brand. Though rare now, these were once a high-CRI, warm-toned alternative to fluorescent tubes.

Silver Bowl

Silver bowl bulbs are frequently used in restaurant pendant lights and other base-up fixtures. The reflective coating on the top of the bulb redirects light into a hanging fixture so that it is refracted by the fixture’s shade, reducing glare.

Control panel

A variety of bulbs in a control panel (Photo credit: Elsie esq.)

S6, S11, and S14 Indicator

S-type incandescent bulbs are found in everything from heavy machinery to instrument panels. S11 and S14 bulbs are widely used in signs, marquees, and flashing arrow sign boards you see in merging traffic as well as in amusement park rides, where they outline the profile of roller-coasters and bring a sparkle to Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds.

C7 and C9 Commercial

C7 and C9 bulbs are well-known for their use in Christmas lights, though they have many commercial and specialty applications as well. Like S-type bulbs, C-type bulbs are often used in marquees and signs. In homes, C7 bulbs have especially widespread use in night lights.

Colored and Bug Lights

Though CFL and LED colored light bulbs are slowly gaining ground, colored incandescent bulbs are much more common. Colored light bulbs can be found in just about any bulb shape mentioned above. An especially popular subset of colored bulbs, the yellow bug light, is used on porches and decks as their yellow color blocks the wavelengths of light that attract moths and other irritating flying insects.

Code Beacon

Code beacon bulbs are high-wattage, high-output bulbs used on the roofs of buildings and in radio towers to signal aircraft.

Traffic Signal

As their name implies, these bulbs are used in old-fashioned traffic signals, though they have been all but replaced by Halogen and LED bulbs.

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