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Ask Mr. Tight Watt: 3 Lighting Answers  Smart Choices Archive

Ask Mr. Tight Watt: 3 Lighting Answers

Mr. Tight Watt answers your energy-related questions.

Ask Mr. Tight-Watt

Mr. Tight Watt and our lighting expert, Rob Kirkpatrick with Service Concepts, have both been busy this month. Smart Choices readers have asked three interesting questions. Here are the answers Rob provided:

Q: Do candelabra (small base) bulbs for my chandelier come in the new LED energy efficient bulbs? If so, what wattage do I purchase in the new bulbs to equal my old 40-watt regular light bulbs? –Shirley, a Smart Choices reader

A: Shirley, there are more and more LED “bulbs” coming to market all the time. Some are excellent quality with realistic product claims, and others are, well….

The very best advice regarding LEDs is to start with which is a site created by the U.S. Department of Energy about the Lighting Facts label that we should look for on the box of any LED light we buy. Page 2 of the flyer shows the amount of light you need to replace most sizes of incandescent bulbs. With that information, and the Lighting Facts label, you should be able to make wise choices. 

In your case, you want replacements for 40Watt bulbs, which the chart says you want at least 450 lumens. Don’t settle for less. Generally, think in terms of a 5:1 ratio, so for a 40 Watt equivalent bulb, you’ll be at about 8 Watts for LEDs. That’s the size that starts to get pretty expensive. Prices continue to come down, but you’ll probably be paying over $50 each right now.

Q: How do we use CFLs in lamps with 3 levels of illumination? Do CFLs work in recessed ceiling lights? –Barbara, a Smart Choices reader
A: 3-way lamps use special 3-way bulbs. They actually have two contacts on the bottom instead of one. If you put a standard CFL in a 3-way socket, you’ll get the same on-on-off-off as you get with a standard incandescent bulb as you click through the switch positions. It won’t hurt the CFL.

There are special 3-way CFLs made for 3-way lamps, although they’re a bit pricey.  They are available through your co-op store.

As for recessed lighting can fixtures, CFLs are OK to use. They do not generate as much heat as incandescent bulbs do. CFL flood lights are designed for use in those cans (as long as you don’t put standard CFL floods in cans controlled by dimmer switches). There are some pretty good dimmable CFLs now starting to appear on the market. As we evaluate them further for quality, you may start to see some on your co-op web store.

For more information on recessed lighting fixtures, check out a previous Smart Choices article.

Q: How much wattage does a yard light use? Can it be installed on a timer? –Milo, a Smart Choices reader

A: Typical “yard lights,” “barn lights” or security lights as provided by utilities will vary by size and type. Typical lights will be either 175 Watt mercury vapor or 100 to 150 Watt high pressure sodium lamps. In each case, they have a ballast which uses energy also. A 175 Watt mercury vapro lamp uses over 200 Watts total. You’ll want to be very careful about timers, and wiring generally with these. If your co-op supplies the light for a monthly charge, talk to them. If it’s something you’re installing yourself, I’d advise getting specific advice from a qualified electrician. To save energy, most often these lights will come with photo cells so they only operate from dusk to dawn.

There are new LED replacements bulbs that can be used in those older fixtures, saving as much as 80% of the energy. They are expensive, but you can see them on your co-op store.

For more questions and answers on lighting, check out Energy Star’s Q&A.
 Click on the “lighting” section on the left, under the heading Frequent Questions. 

Ask Mr. Tight Watt a question or to view other questions he has answered.

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