For most of the 20th century, the purchase of a light bulb was simple: it was enough to choose from the shelves a light bulb with a socket fitting the female part of the lighting fixture, (usually bayonet or screw, small or large) and of a power matching more or less the expected lighting intensity – 100w for intense lighting, 25 or 40w for more modest lighting.
The situation is now more complicated, for three reasons: the evolution of European regulation; the development of new technologies; and the heterogeneity of bulbs’ performances.
Since 2012, European regulations have banned the use of traditional incandescent bulbs, which married high consumption and low lifespan (about 1,000 hours). Only a few decorative filament models are now tolerated.
“Eco-halogene 230V” bulbs have developed to replace them.
They are a direct substitute for traditional light bulbs, plugging directly in the existing luminaires, with an energy saving of around 30%: an eco-halogen bulb of 70W illuminates like a 100w incandescent bulb.
After some modest beginnings, the quality of their light is now fairly good, with Colour Rendering Indices (CRI) often greater than 95, close to the maximum of 100. They are also directly compatible with the traditional light dimmers.
On the other hand, they remain relatively energy greedy and are therefore also condemned to disappear. European regulations will prohibit their sale in September 2018, with the exception of a few models such as R7s and G9 bulbs, which remain tolerated.
Manufacturers of light bulbs have not remained idle, and have introduced a profusion of new models that can usually be classified in two categories: Fluo-compact, and Light Emitting Diodes (LED).
The fluo-compact technology offers substantial energy savings, since these bulbs have an output fivefold greater than an incandescent bulb, and a long life span (6000 to 15 000 hours). But these bulbs use the same technology than “neon” tubes: they produce a pallid light and are often long to light up (up to a minute for low quality models).
They are also quite polluting: they contain mercury and like a mobile phone, produce short-range electromagnetic fields. It is recommended to stay at a distance (more than 1m), so they are not recommended for your bedside or office lamps. These bulbs are safe as long as the mercury remains enclosed, but if they break, it is recommended to avoid breathing the fumes and to vent the room for ten minutes.
Another drawback is that these bulbs work poorly with standard dimmers.
The LED technology (Light Emission Diodes) is undoubtedly the solution for the future. Luminaires designed specifically with specially selected LEDs of high quality, if properly done and constructed with care, now work perfectly. These are the models that we at Vraiment Beau will prefer and often recommend.
In contrast, standard LED bulbs designed to replace traditional light bulbs are still evolving and their performance remains highly dependent on the quality of their manufacturing. If you need such a bulb, we would recommend Philips or Osram bulbs, better designed and with better cooling. We have also discovered an German manufacturer, Carus (available on our site), who proposes very interesting products, with a high CRI, many of which can also be controlled remotely. For spotlights, we are also very impressed by SORAA lights, both powerful and with excellent light quality (also available on our site). Nautic, one of our “pet” lighting manufacturer equips all its spotlights with these light and the difference with “standard” spotlights is stunning.
LED bulbs cost more than halogen or fluo-compact bulbs but have a longer lifespan of 50 000 hours on average. This life expectancy must be taken with some caution, as it is measured in a laboratory at a constant temperature adapted to each model, far from the conditions of real life. LED modules are often enclosed in the glass bulb, which exposes them to high temperatures (more than 65°C) and significantly reduces their lifespan (down to a quarter of the nominal life).
Last point, the LED bulbs are compatible with a dimmer only if they are labelled as dimmable, and this should be specified on the packaging or on the datasheet.
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