The day had finally come (well, actually night) when I got to see my house in a new LED light to be exact. I was impatiently awaiting the arrival of the eight lights that I had ordered two months earlier. Now the light fixtures, along with the boxes of their corresponding bulbs, have sat in the garage waiting for their moment to shine. We were only an electrician of a new dawn.
The light fixtures in our house needed an update. The old ones were 20 years old and could best be described as early dungeons. The new ones look very light in 2020 in terms of color and feel, and shimmering without being overly adorned. I chose them with the help of a designer, who assured me that installing new fixtures throughout the house would take us out of the dark ages.
When electrician Charles Polen pulled up in his van, I bounced on my toes like a kid at a carnival. For Polen, these transformations of light happen every day. For me it was like an Easter sunrise. Even though Polen has been to our house several times, knows his way and didn’t need my help, I couldn’t stay away. I watched, periodically entering the Hallelujah choir, as a Polen dismantled one by one the old, heavy oil-bronze fixtures that hung from the ceiling like gigantic tarantulas, and replaced them with fresh, shiny fixtures.
By removing and replacing it, I bugged it with questions like “Can owners do this themselves?”
“Turning off a light is not that difficult,” Polen said, “and it’s not dangerous if the power is off.”
“So we don’t need an electrician?”
“A lot of DIY enthusiasts do this,” he says. “But some go into the wall and see all kinds of junctions for other wiring systems, red, black, green and white wires, and get mixed up. Then they disconnect a wall outlet or the whole next room goes dark, and they’re in trouble. A lot of my calls start with a woman saying, “My husband tried to do it, but now it’s not working.” “
Fortunately, we know better.
For entertainment, Polen let me put the new bulbs in each fixture as they went up into the kitchen, dining room, hall, hallway, and master bathroom. I have observed how, like candles on a cake, light bulbs are the supreme glow of a light fixture. And that’s where the light bulb went out.
It was there that I understood why the designer I was working with insisted that she order new bulbs for these lights. His exact words were, “I won’t let you buy them unless you also buy light bulbs.”
I thought it was a bit extreme. I mean, I have blisters. But I did not discuss. I wanted these devices. However, by equipping each fixture with a new set of LED lights, I understood why. My old light bulbs were going out in comparison, and at the end of the day, I had shown them all the doors. I cannot go back.
Here is why you too will be saying goodbye to your old bulbs once you learn the benefits of this new generation of LED bulbs:
Appearance. Not too many years ago, LED bulbs (for light emitting diodes) were limited in terms of color spectrum and dimming capability. No more. Now they give off great light in a range of temperatures (which I prefer on the warm side) and look classy. Until I installed these modern looking bulbs, I had no idea how old fashioned our old bulbs were. The new ones look, well, current.
Longevity. Although they cost more upfront, LED lights last much longer than other bulbs – around 50 times longer than a typical incandescent bulb, 20 to 25 times longer than a typical halogen, and eight to 10 times longer than a typical incandescent bulb. longer than a typical CFL, according to Bulbs.com. Each LED bulb lasts for around 50,000 hours or, if used eight hours a day, 17 years.
Unit. As long as you switch to LED, make all the bulbs in a light fixture look the same. Ideally, you should buy them and put them on at the same time. This ensures the best match of the light temperature. Ideally, the bulbs from fixture to fixture and room to room should also match so that lighting throughout the house is consistent. Start with a single device and eventually install LEDs throughout the house.
A function. By not putting in an assortment of types of bulbs, you will also improve the lighting performance. When a switch controls multiple bulbs, such as all bulbs in a single fixture or multiple recessed boxes in a room, they must all match. “If you have incandescent bulbs mixed with CFLs or LEDs on a switch, the mismatched electronics will cancel each other out,” Polen said. “They won’t work or flicker, and if they’re on a dimmer, they won’t dim.”
Security. Unlike CFLs, which I refused to embrace (don’t tell me about their horrid color and curlicue-like appearance), LEDs are mercury-free, so they don’t harm the environment. They also stay cool to the touch.
Energy savings. If all of that didn’t sell you, the energy savings will. Polen pointed out that right in my hallway the two overhead lights previously had three bulbs of 60 watts each, so a total of 360 watts. Replacement lights use less than 40 watts combined, or a ninth of what we were using, and are brighter, so they look better dimmed. The chandelier in the dining room went from 320 watts to 48 watts. At this news, my husband, who was not thrilled with the price of this renovation, turned on. New fixtures with new bulbs. It’s like, well, night and day.
Marni Jameson is the author of six books on the home and lifestyle, including “Downsizing the Mixed Home When Two Households Become One”.