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Let There Be Lightbulbs

Let There Be Lightbulbs
In the US, it’s hard to ignore the fact that beginning in 2012 some incandescent lightbulbs will no longer be available and others will be phased out. An energy bill passed by the US Congress requires the phase-out of incandescent bulbs beginning in 2012 with the 100-watt bulb and ending in 2014 with the 40-watt bulb. The law requires that ultimately all light bulbs must be 70% more efficient than they are today. The usual replacement for Thomas Edison’s incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs), does use less energy and lasts longer. However the harsh light that CFLs cast is certainly not Feng Shui friendly.

The common misconception is that incandescent bulbs will be outlawed. They are still legal, but starting in 2012, only bulbs that can generate the amount of light produced by a conventional 100-watt bulb, but with roughly 30 percent less energy, will be eligible for the market.

Other than hoarding incandescents, is there anything you can do to find Feng Shui friendly bulbs once the new law takes effect? Here is a review of some of the available options.

CFLs. These bulbs are omnidirectional, and their light can be harsh and unforgiving. I have heard from many people who have already made the switch to all CFLs and regret it, because they are suffering from headaches from the harsh lighting, not to mention the unflattering light these bulbs cast in all rooms. Other disadvantages are that CFLs can take a while to fully illuminate, and only a few of them work with dimmers. Plus, the presence of toxic mercury in CFLs poses problems when the bulbs break or when they eventually burn out and reach landfills. And, the “twister” shape is, well, ugly.

Halogens. A better Feng Shui choice, halogens are a type of incandescent. Halogen bulbs are omnidirectional, which means they throw light in all directions, making them good for a table lamp or a chandelier. Inspired by the original Edison bulb with an exposed fire-like filament, these bulbs produce light waves on the warmer end of the color spectrum — orange, red, yellow — making them a good choice for similarly warm colored rooms, but a poorer choice for rooms decorated in blues or grays. Some manufacturers are beginning to produce energy efficient incandescent bulbs with halogen technology. But these halogens need to be handled carefully because they run hotter than traditional incandescents, and they shouldn't be used if the outer coating is scratched. Halogen bulbs work with dimmers, contain no mercury, and don’t flicker or create electromagnetic fields (EMFs).

LEDs. Another good Feng Shui choice, light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs now come in a few standard bulb shapes for home lighting. LEDs are unidirectional, throwing light in only one direction, and they emit only low light levels. LEDs are costly, especially those that work with dimmers. The quality of LED lighting, even the “soft white” type, is noticeably cooler than halogen. LEDs work well for recessed lights or lamps that spotlight artwork, but this single-focus light is a problem for standard shaded lamps.

Full Spectrum Bulbs. The new law does not apply to fluorescent tube lights, three-way bulbs, and other specialty lights. However, I always recommend to my Feng Shui clients that they replace fluorescent lighting, especially overhead fluorescent tubes in offices, with full spectrum lighting. Originally designed for treating seasonal affective disorder (SAD), full spectrum bulbs simulate natural daylight and provide more balanced light and truer colors. These bulbs produce less shadow and glare, making them especially good for reading or working on crafts and hobbies. They are instant-on and don’t flicker. Full spectrum bulbs can use up to 75% less energy than traditional bulbs and can lasting 10,000 hours.

Despite advances, choosing Feng Shui appropriate lighting for different rooms will continue to present new challenges as incandescent bulbs are phased out and newer bulbs are developed. Here are some suggestions for lighting for specific rooms --

In the bathroom, where diffuse lighting works best, globe-shaped halogens are recommended. Food prep in the kitchen requires direct light on specific areas, so consider LEDs to replace the bulbs in the recessed ceiling fixtures. On the night tables in your bedroom try the warm light of halogens, especially since some research suggests you might sleep better without the blue light waves of LEDs. For the lights on a dimmer in your dining room, halogens will work best. You could fill a multi-bulb chandelier with LEDs, but it will be costly. For overhead lighting or to light up artwork in your living room choose the focused beam of LEDs.

For an evaluation of individual bulbs from specific manufacturers, check out the New York Times article, “Almost Time to Change the Bulb.”


© Copyright 2021, Carol Olmstead