My Search for a New Light Bulb

Incandescent Light BulbAs most of us now know, the traditional incandescent light bulb invented over 100 years ago is being phased out over the next couple of years. To learn more about the incandescent phase out, or if you are like “What?!”, make sure to check out our coverage on the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA 2007) – aka “the incandescent phase out”.

Whether or not you agree with the law, and there are plenty of opinions both for and against, it is coming. In fact, the first phase starts this January 2012 when the 100-watt incandescent light bulb will no longer be able to be manufactured or imported. In January 2013 it will be the 75-watt light bulb and in January 2014, the 60-watt and 40-watt light bulbs.

So, knowing this is coming, and knowing that I have a lot of light bulbs in my house that will need to be replaced, including 100-watt ones, I decided to start exploring my options and figured I would share them with you.

What did I learn?

  1. There are options available now.
  2. There is no one option for me. I will be using different technologies based upon my needs and wants.
  3. GE makes a very cool hybrid light bulb which is part halogen and compact fluorescent that I am now using.
  4. There are halogen replacements for incandescent light bulbs…did not know this.
  5. Philips has a very cool, very awesome, somewhat expensive, LED light bulb called AmbientLED. I wish I could afford many of these because they work very, very well.

Now on to the story…

Compact Fluorescent

To be honest, I am not the biggest fan of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).

  1. Disposal issues – since they have mercury, even a little, they cannot be just thrown in the trash. They must be disposed of properly.
  2. Warm-up Time – they are not at their immediate brightness level when you first turn them on. My wife really does not like this part.
  3. Not Dimmable – I dim practically every light in my house with either a wall dimmer or tabletop slide dimmer. I like to dim. Dimming saves money by reducing energy usage and increases the life of the lamp. However, the real reason I like to dim is that I really like to control the light output. I cannot do this with the vast majority of CFLs.
  4. Color Temperature – it is hard to replicate the color temperature of the standard incandescent light bulb. I like the color temperature I am used to. However, someone told me recently that when the incandescent light bulb first started to be used in homes people did NOT like that color temperature…it was not the same as the gas lamp they used. Interesting. I will adapt.

But, the reality is, CFLs are incredibly energy-efficient for the amount of light they output and long lasting. Last year, I replaced the light bulbs in my office desk lamps with CFLs. They have worked out well for my desk. Also, I was able to increase my light output (lumens) over the 60-watt light bulbs that were my upper limit when I was using incandescent.

Hybrid Light Bulbs

When I was out shopping recently, I came across the GE Reveal hybrid light bulb. The hybrid light bulb is a halogen-compact fluorescent combination. Wow!

GE Reveal Hybrid Light Bulb

When you first turn it on it is bright right away. A distinct benefit over the regular CFL. As the compact fluorescent part of the hybrid light bulb warms up and gets brighter, the halogen eventually turns off.

So, in the store I am thinking, that takes care of at least #2 on my list of my CFL issues…and makes my wife happy. Plus, since I use GE Reveal incandescent light bulbs in my house I was anticipating the same color temperature. Cross off #4 on my list. 50/50 is not bad.

So, I bought some and decided to give them a try in our bedside table lamps. Since those lights are not on dimmers, I did not need to worry about #3. Finally, since #1 will always be an issue with CFL I ignored that negative and moved on.

How do they work? Pretty well actually. The color temperature is not exactly the same as I am used to, but close enough. Also, they are bright right away. However, it is not a seamless transition between the halogen part of the light bulb turning off and the CFL part being fully bright.

What really happens is that the halogen turns off early and the light level dims for about a minute while the CFL continues to warm up. Kind of annoying. But, the light is good and it is incredibly energy efficient so I am keeping them in my bedside lamps. Instead of 60 watts, I am now only using 15 watts to generate 740 lumens of light (a standard GE Reveal incandescent generates 630 lumens). Plus, these light bulbs have a rated life of 8,000 hours, which is over 7 years of normal use.

I prefer the hybrid light bulb over the standard CFL.

Halogen Light Bulbs

I was surprised to find that there are halogen replacements for incandescent light bulbs. Not only that, being a fan of GE Reveal light bulbs, I was happy to see that there are halogen GE Reveal lamps. I did not know these were available. Maybe I never noticed? Maybe they are new? Either way, they are a compelling option for me since these are dimmable!

GE Reveal Halogen Light BulbWhat about the energy savings you ask? They are definitely not nearly as energy efficient as CFLs.  The 60-watt replacement halogen I purchased uses 43 watts of electricity and generates 565 lumens. A standard GE Reveal 60-watt incandescent light bulb generates 630 lumens and, as a reminder, the GE Reveal hybrid 60W replacement outputs 740 lumens.

But, did I mention they are dimmable? Also, I like the color temperature of halogen (#4 on my list), they are at full light output immediately after turning on (#2), and they have NO mercury which makes for easy disposal (#1). Actually, the GE Reveal halogen light bulbs meet ALL of my requirements.

There are some downsides compared to CFLs or the hybrid light bulbs. The rated life of the halogen, 1,000 hours, is the same as the GE Reveal incandescent. Definitely not as long-lasting as the hybrid or a standard CFL. In addition, while I am reducing my energy usage by almost 30%, I could reduce it by 75% with the hybrid!

For those places where I do not have any dimming needs, I will use the hybrid light bulb. When I need a dimming solution, I will be using the halogen light bulbs.

LED Light Bulbs

More and more LED light bulbs are becoming available. I have tried a couple and have not been all that impressed. I have two complaints about LED light bulbs, beyond the purchase cost, of course.

First, the lumen output has not been comparable to the incandescent light bulb that I am replacing. Second, an incandescent light bulb’s light is omnidirectional. Light is outputted all around the light bulb. The LED light bulbs that I have tried have not been able to replicate this. Light generated from LEDs are directional in nature. Work has to be done on the LED light bulb to produce an omnidirectional light.

Philips AmbientLED Dimmable Light Bulb

Then, one day recently, I was handed the 60-watt incandescent replacement Philips AmbientLED Dimmable A19 LED Light Bulb. I was provided a sample. I did not have to shell out the $40 to try it.

Holy cow!! I LOVE this LED light bulb. Let’s forget the $40 entry fee for a minute and just relish in the details of this wonderful LED light bulb.

  • 12 watts
  • 800 lumens – 60 MORE lumens than the hybrid light bulb
  • 25,000 hours rated life – that is 22+ years!!
  • Dimmable
  • Omnidirectional light beam output
  • 2700K color temperature – like a traditional incandescent light bulb

It is kind of ugly though (see picture). I don’t think that I would be putting this light bulb in my pendant or bathroom vanity light fixture for the whole world to see. This light bulb is better in a table lamp hidden from prying eyes. Plus, you cannot put this light bulb in a closed fixture, like a flush-mount ceiling light. It says so right on the box. I am guessing this has to do with proper management of the heat outputted from the LEDs.

So, for the right application, table lamps, and other light fixtures where the light bulb can be hidden from view, this is, by far, my favorite incandescent light bulb replacement. I would use them wherever I could if it was not for the $40 price. This is just a little rich for my blood right now.

Until these come down in price, and they will, I will be sticking with the GE Reveal hybrid and halogen light bulbs. I will use the hybrid when I do not need dimming and the halogen when I do.

Have you started to replace your incandescent light bulbs? Which one, or ones, are you using? Why?

Chris Johnson

I am the President & CEO of Pegasus Lighting. Beyond my day job, my professional interests include small business, technology, web design and development, operations, marketing, and social media. My personal interests include spending time with my two children and wonderful wife, reading presidential history and business books, and striving for my work | life balance.

17 thoughts to “My Search for a New Light Bulb”

  1. Are you aware of any replacement bulbs for picture lights that are fiber optic tubular bulbs? How about halogen tubular bulbs? Why is halogen better for illuminating pictures than incanescent light?

    Many thanks for your response.


  2. Jack:

    I am not aware of any picture light replacement tubular lamps that are fiber optic. From a quick search on the internet I did come across halogen tubular light bulbs. Without knowing your exact picture light I don’t know if they will work for you, but it does seem they are available.

    For your second question – why is halogen better for illuminating pictures than incandescent light? First, halogen is incandescent light. The difference is that a halogen lamp introduces halogen gas into the glass envelope. This increases the lamp life and introduces a crisp white light instead of a yellowish light. Is halogen better than traditional incandescent lamp for pictures? I am going to say that is more of a personal preference than anything else. Whatever you like better is what you should select. I hope this helps.

    For additional information about the differences in light sources visit our Compare Light Sources page.

  3. I never quite understood the appeal of the Reveal incandescents – I tried them years ago and found them a bit dim. As you note, the 60W Reveal only puts out 630 lumens, whereas a 60W soft white puts out 840 lumens. Not the bulb you want to use if pursuing efficiency! The hybrids look interesting though – will have to try one out.

    The biggest challenge for “a new light bulb” seems to enclosed fixtures. CFLs will overheat and shorten their life in an enclosed fixture, becoming very inefficient on a dollar basis due to the higher cost of the bulbs. I’m not sure if LEDs will solve this problem, or if some of the newer halogens are cool enough for an enclosed fixture.

    You can now buy dimmers and photocells that claim to work with CFLs; however, since all CFL packaging usually says “not dimmable” without qualification, I’m not sure who to believe.

  4. Thanks for your comments. I am a big fan of the incandescent Reveals. I prefer the color temp of these over a traditional soft white. Since the lumens are less than a traditional soft white I could see how they could be dimmer. However, I must say I am hooked on Reveals.

    You are right about enclosed fixtures and heat management. This is an issue. The 60W replacement LED light bulb I mention in my blog post specifically states on the box that it should not be used in an enclosed fixture. LEDs alone will not solve the problem about heat management in enclosed fixtures. The manufacturer of any LED light bulb must manage the heat output. If not, then the life of the LED will definitely be shortened. I have yet to see an LED light bulb that can be used in an enclosed fixture. However, I am sure someone will figure out how to manage the heat so that they can be used in enclosed fixtures in the future.

    I too am curious about halogen light bulbs in enclosed fixtures. I wonder if a 43W halogen light bulb operates cooler than a 60W incandescent? If so, then it should be fine in an enclosed fixture. If it operates hotter than one would have to be careful about the wattage of the halogen bulb in relation to the max wattage of the fixture itself.

    It was my understanding for a CFL to be dimmable it needed to have a special dimmable ballast. Without this ballast then a fluorescent lamp is not dimmable. Thus, I think if the CFL packaging says the lamp is not dimmable then it is not dimmable regardless of the dimmer switch itself. If someone knows differently please comment on this post…thanks so much!

  5. What an informative post – thanks so much! My problem light is my dining room fixture – it’s “Tiffany”-style glass, with a yellowish cast. I love the look of the fixture, but not the light output! It makes the room dull and, well, yellowish! To get around it, I use the regular GE halogen bulbs in it right now, since they are brighter, but I am worried about overheating. The fixture is rated for 60 watt bulbs (3 of them) and I get away with 75 watt bulbs right now. If I had my way, I’d up them all to 100 because I like it nice and bright. But I worry about using 3 100-watt halogens because of how hot they burn. And, I have a dimmer switch, so I can’t use CFLs. Thoughts?

  6. Unfortunately I have no good ideas for your situation. Since the fixture is rated at 60 watts I definitely do not think that you should go to 100-watt light bulbs. In fact, if it was me I would stick with 60-watt light bulbs and not even use 75-watt ones. However, I understand the want for more light. In addition, with the glass you describe there is no good way to get around the “yellowish” cast and it sounds like it is reducing the light output as well. Is there any way that you can additional light to the room with another fixture? Maybe that is a solution? If you could add another light fixture then the “Tiffany”-style fixture can become more of a decorative light then a general light.

  7. The CFL bulbs leak out UV radiation. Apparently I am one of the minority consumers with skin sensitivity issues. Sitting next to a CFL lamp makes my skin feel sore after around 20 minutes. But I can’t imagine this UV is good for everyone else either. After all, it’s not a good idea to spend all day in direct sunlight either. I already spend a lot of time outside, so being exposed to even more UV is probably not a good idea. I do not want to get premature wrinkeling.

    I have tried the LED bulbs, but they make some of the colors in my room look a little off, and everything seems a little more dull and greyish. The current technology of LED light is still not full spectrum – it is deficient in deep red and cyan frequency light. So for right now, I will just be using LED bulbs in certain places in my house where the quality of light does not really matter.

    Meanwhile, I have stockpiled on the old bulbs. Rather ironic, since I actually prefer halogen, but can just not afford to stockpile all the halogens I will need since they are 5 times more expensive. Even halogen will eventually be “phased out” in 2020. I feel sorry for those who will be born into the future and will never experience the nice soft glow of an incandescent.

  8. I’m so sorry to hear CFLs make you feel that way! NEMA issued a statement recently about CFLs and UV rays being relatively harmless to most people (read more about that here) but rare cases of CFL sensitivity do exist – so you’re not alone. When you can, I’d suggest staying at least a few feet away from any CFL you encounter.

    As far as the future goes, I can only encourage you to take heart! LED technology has only been around for 50 years, and we’re still expecting major improvements in the coming years. As with any developing technology, we’re anticipating better quality at lower prices with every coming day.

    At Pegasus, we do offer Halogen household lamps for under $4, which isn’t as cheap as an incandescent light, but it rivals the price of most CFLs. If you’re interested, you can find them here.

  9. One little but important correction to the article:
    While Halogen bulbs are dimmable, doing so can reduce their lifespans and make them burn out faster. The packaging on these halogen bulbs claims they are dimmable, and this claim is misleading, perhaps even a little deceptive.

    One factor is the running at reduced power; halogen bulbs don’t like being put on dimmers, since the halogen cycle which redeposits tungsten onto the filament only works at high temperatures; otherwise, they will blacken and burn out very quickly (somewhat slower at reduced power, but life may initially drop sharply before the lower temperature has a bigger effect). However, if the power supply to a halogen bulb is only reduced to only 90%, it can actually increase the lifespan of the halogen bulb. Basically, a slightly lower temperature will make the filament last longer, but only as long as it is still hot enough to still function as a halogen bulb. So it is not just a simple phenomena.

    Will dimming switches work with a halogen light bulb?
    Yes, conventional incandescent dimmers will work to dim halogen lamps. However, the effectiveness of the halogen cycle to keep the lamp walls clean and give longer life may well be affected. This cycle depends upon correct lamp operating temperatures, which of course will be changed when the lamp is dimmed. Therefore, using a dimmer may not extend the life of your halogen lamp as much as a dimmer typically extends the life of a standard incandescent lamp.

    The halogen lamp is designed to prevent the tungsten from depositing on the inside of the bulb wall and darkening it. Because the halogen action stops working when the bulb wall temperature falls below 260 degrees Centigrade, which may happen when the dimmer lowers the voltage, the halogen lamp blackens and its life is not prolonged as much as an incandescent lamp on a dimmer. Eventually a severely dimmed halogen lamp can become blackened and fail. The wall blackening can be partially reversed if the halogen lamp is operated at full power, non-dimmed, periodically to allow the halogen cycle to remove some of the deposited tungsten.

    Because the inner capsule in a halogen bulb is so much smaller and operates at such a high temperature, even a small ammount of tungsten build up on the inner wall can start absorbing too much of the heat and light, and then cause overheating. It is this overheating that can cause the inner capsule to rupture. This is the same reason why you are not supposed to touch the old exposed halen capsules with your bare hands, because the oils from your skin will become charred at these high temperatures and will blacken, start absorbing too much heat and light, cause localised overheating on the spot where you touched it, and then eventually could cause the capsule to rupture. Fortunately these new halogen replacement bulbs mentioned in this article have a larger outer bulb of regular glass, that protects the inner capsule, so it is okay to handle them with your bare hands.

    However, halogen bulbs are still more dimmable than CFLs or LEDs. Putting a normal CFL on a dimmer switch will drastically reduce its lifespan, much more so than halogens. Another problem is that even for most CFLs or LEDs that claim to be dimmable, their operation is still negatively affected by dimming. The CFLs will lose much of their efficiency at lower powers, and even some of the “dimmable” versions will still result in some flicker if the dimmer is turned down to low. Many of the “dimmable” LEDs actually only dim down to 20% of their brightness. Any lower than that and the light starts to go out, or sometimes there is some flicker, or in some cases it even causes an annoying hum. There do exist, however, LED lighting that are indeed fully dimmable, and putting an LED on a dimmer will not affect its lifespan. For comparison, dimming a halogen bulb, while potentially taking away from its lifespan, will not in the slightest immediately affect the operation of the bulb.

    All this goes to show that there all sorts of new considerations that have to be made when switching to any of these new energy efficient bulbs. They all have their own special disadvantages in several situations. Most consumers can’t be troubled to educate themselves about all the complexities, and just assume these new bulbs work just the same as the old. Then they are surprised when their new more expensive bulbs burn out after only 6 months.

  10. What is your recommendation for lighting an artist studio? CFL or what?
    Seeing true color in natural light is the goal.
    Please also let me know what kind of fixture / lamp is best for this specific bulb and application. Floor lamp? Tripod and arm? Track?

    Thank you,

  11. Shelley,

    In lighting, we measure color accuracy via the Color Rendering Index (CRI). 100 is considered a perfect score. Natural daylight is used as the reference for 100 CRI.

    For the most accurate color rendering among halogen, LED, and CFL, halogen is your best bet. Its CRI is 100. Halogen light bulbs can be used in track lights, floor lamps, recessed lights, etc. They come in a variety of shapes, allowing them to be used in all of the fixtures you mention.

    Over the past few decades, Compact fluorescent light bulbs have become much better at color rendering. However, the nature of the light source limits the color rendering to the mid 80s for high quality CFLs (sort of like scoring a “B” on a test). This is certainly adequate for general lighting around homes or businesses but I would not recommend it for an art studio.

    LED light bulbs are sort of the wild card in this situation. They do not have as high of a CRI as halogen BUT they generally do not emit damaging UV rays, which can harm artwork. As LED technology progresses, CRI for the source is expected to increase.

  12. Cree is an LED manufacturer, one of the top-end ones. They just came out with their own LED bulbs that are just awesome. They have a 40W and 60W in soft white, and a 60W in daylight. The color of these bulbs is quite good. They are dimmable, dim well and dim down to very low levels using an appropriate dimmer (Lutron C·L for instance). They are suitable for use in fully enclosed fixtures. They even look like normal bulbs, having a standard glass enclosure (with a “safety” type silicone coating on it). I suppose there may be rare instances where they may not fit, but I have had no issues in any of my fixtures. The bulbs are approx $10 for the 40W, $12 for the soft 60W and $13 for the daylight 60W. The 60W soft white uses 9.5W, I the daylight 60W uses 9W; the 40W uses 6W. The light throw on these is great, and they’ve even managed to make them look like they have a filament. At least at the moment they are only available at Home Depot. I’ve waited years for this bulb.

  13. the lights in my ceiling fan became dim; the load voltage is ~40. Why did this happen and what is the fix. Any comments very welcome!


  14. Thanks Jacob and I tried other bulbs but the problem is that with no load (no light bulbs in place) the voltage is 120, but with the bulbs inserted, the voltage drops to ~40 V. I suspect there is a light control unit in the fan housing that may be defective but I can’s tell unless I take it all apart.


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