Choice of lamp matters
Cold white light in a bedroom, dim lighting in a hall? Both are recipes for discomfort – no matter how good the luminaires look. So choosing the right lamp obviously matters, especially in living areas, because it defines the lighting atmosphere of the room: cosy or businesslike, relaxed or focused.
Incidentally, even though many people still speak of "light bulbs", the correct term is "lamp". It is the part of the lighting system that produces the light. The purpose of the luminaire is to protect the lamp and distribute its light.
Modern lamps are becoming increasingly energy-efficient – especially in conjunction with electronic ballasts. The most important types of lamp for the home are:
LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) are the shooting stars of recent years: the powerful little mites consume little energy and operate reliably for many years. What is more, they generate very little heat – an important characteristic for recessed spots, for example – and zero UV/IR radiation.
LEDs can produce nearly any colour in the RGB model; a theoretical 16.7 million variants are possible. Coated with a special fluorescent material, LEDs also deliver white light. One shortcoming, however, is that white LEDs are only available at present with a colour rendering index of Ra 70-90. Light emitting diodes are available in numerous designs and are spreading into more and more areas of lighting, including domestic lighting: as effective lone light sources, grouped in special modules, as flexible light strip or even in combination with other lamps.
Tip: Being small, LEDs are ideally suitable for recessing in walls, floors, furniture or cornices. As sources of coloured light, they set striking accents. Modern technology enables colours to be changed – even in continuous lighting operation – by remote control.
Where domestic interiors require brilliant, agreeable white light and good colour rendering, halogen lamps are the light source of choice. Halogen lamps are available for standard mains voltage and as low-voltage halogen lamps, which always need to be operated by a transformer.
Low-voltage halogen lamps with infrared coating (IRC) are particularly energy-efficient: compared to a conventional incandescent lamp, they consume around 40% less power.
Tip: Where direct, directional light is required – e.g. for accent lighting - the brilliant light of halogen lamps is always the right choice. Modern IRC halogen lamps are power savers.
Energy-saving lamps / fluorescent lamps
Energy-saving lamps are "folded" fluorescent lamps that are economical on electricity: working with electronic ballasts (EBs), they consume up to 80 percent less energy than incandescent lamps for the same brightness. New-generation fluorescent lamps can also be dimmed and have good colour rendering indices of Ra 90 or more.
Energy-saving lamps can simply be fitted in place of incandescent lamps: they come with the same base – E27 or E14 – and normally a ballast incorporated into the housing. Incidentally, it is worth paying attention to quality when selecting energy-saving lamps. The German consumer organisation Stiftung Warentest found that only brand lamps produced good results (May/2008 issue).
Tip: Because the light emitted by energy-saving and fluorescent lamps does not have a full colour spectrum, it should always be combined in the home with brilliant halogen light. Energy-saving and fluorescent lamps are perfectly suitable for indirect, diffuse room lighting – e.g. for ceiling floods, large shaded luminaires or luminaires designed to provide mood lighting (for example on a windowsill).
Goodbye, good old incandescent lamp: the days of the 'prototype' of all electrical light sources – still in use in millions of homes – are numbered. Because it gives off more heat than light, the incandescent lamp will cease to be sold in Europe as of 2012. That was announced by the European Union (EU) in December 2008. The first to go will be the 100 W incandescent lamp; it will be removed from the market in 2009.
Tip: Don't mourn its passing – save energy! Incandescent lamps can simply be replaced by energy saving lamps with the same E27 or E14 screw base. And where brilliant light with optimum colour rendering is needed, a brand new solution is available: mains voltage halogen lamps with incandescent lamp base.