The Loh Life is writer/performer Sandra Tsing Loh's weekly take on life, family, and pop culture in early 21st century Southern California.
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Dim Bulbs, Part Three: 12-Step Program





Sandra Tsing Loh shops for light bulbs.

I had a meltdown at Von's the other day.

 I was trying to buy some light bulbs.

 Have you tried to buy any lately?  

Selecting bulbs that won't burn your house down seems to require a graduate degree from Cornell in electromagnetism. 

Failing that, I went home and googled a wikiHow essay.

 From no less august a source than the Washington Post, I found this article: "How to navigate the increasingly confusing light bulb aisle." 

Experts interviewed include John Strainic, GE's consumer lighting general manager, and David Brooks, proprietor of Just Bulbs in New York. 

Brooks addresses a question that has long been-vaguely-haunting me.

Which is: Why don't our dimmers work with those spirally new CFLs?  

Or Compact Fluorescent Lamps?  Apparently they use so little energy, with their clever phosphor coating, Mercury vapor and Argon technology, "old-model dimmers can't even sense that there is a bulb there to dim."           

So in that case, just buy regular bulbs - but the experts say you shouldn't shop by wattage any more, but lumens.  Aha!  It's kind of a new thing, like converting from Fahrenheit to Celsius.

 Wattage is energy, lumens is brightness. For example, a 100-watt incandescent has about 1,600 lumens, whereas a 40-watt incandescent has about 450 lumens.

 If you forget, you can check out the handy charts at energystar.com.  

In your free time.  I am not kidding.

Further, light bulbs come in a variety of shades.  

You'll be horrified to learn, as I was, that each color has a temperature rating measured in degrees Kelvin.

 The lower the Kelvin number the more yellow the light, the higher the Kelvin, the bluer.

 White light is usually around 3,500 to 4,100.  Kelvin.

Brooks suggests buying different bulbs with different Kelvin numbers. . . to see how you like them.  "Every shade of white is good for a different reason," he says.  

Modern spaces look better in whiter light, traditional rooms in yellower.  

A whiter, higher Kelvin light, is more popular in the South, a yellower, lower-Kelvin light in the North. 

Ideally we would all just use LEDs throughout the house.

 They can last 15 years and,  have "the truest color and brightness."

 Because those bulbs cost $65 each, however, we may opt to use LED bulbs only in hard-to-reach fixtures in stairwells and "double-story great rooms."  

A combination of CFLs and halogen incandescents can work in kitchens, hallways and bathrooms.                                                                                                       

In the end, experts recommend not buying too many of any one bulb because, as they say, "the technology is just changing so quickly.

It makes me think of the joke, "How many Jewish moms does it take to screw in a light bulb?"

"Ach!  I'll just sit here in the dark."  Feeling rather dim.  But it's a bluish dim!