The right compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) can make the difference between a warm, welcoming room and a home that looks like a cheap discount store. A number of my green conscious clients complain their CFL’s make a stark unattractive light. They miss the warmth of incandescent (Edison) light bulbs. (I admit that I exaggerated a little – no one looks green, but the wrong CFL’s will make you look a bit pale and sickly.)
The remedy to this is “warm white” or “soft white” CFL’s with a color temperature between 2700 K to 3000 K, which approximates the warm light of 2400K incandescent light bulbs.
“Bright white” CFL’s have a color temperature of 3500 K. These are best for situations where you need bright light – such as craft work. Please note that CFL’s labeled “sunlight” or “daylight” are cool white fluorescent and only suitable for precision work areas.
Unfortunately light bulb manufacturers do not offer color temperature or Kelvin information on their packaging. You will either have to trust the “warm white” or “soft white” labels or go online and double check the color temperature ratings of specific bulbs. Sparsam™ CFL’s (available only at IKEA stores) provide the warm light of incandescent bulbs.
Hint: I find that I need more wattage than the conversion factor listed on the label. If you want to get 75 watts of illumination you will do better with an 18 watt CFL than a 15 Watt CFL.
Update: Warm Lighting is Now Widely Available – If You Know What to Look For
Light bulb manufacturers have listened to consumers and warm CFL bulbs are easy to find.
The newer LED light bulbs are more energy efficient than CFLs, and after years of development can be found in a warm formulation. (Unaltered, LED bulbs have a distinctly cool blue light.)
Light bulbs now have standardized information labels similar to nutrition labels. These list: lux, lumens and lifespan. There is also a horizontal scale line that tells you how warm or cool the bulbs light is, in degrees Kelvin. You want to choose light bulbs where the arrow on the scale is near the left end of the scale – 2700 degrees Kelvin.This is the warm CFL or LED you want to buy.
Another hint: CFL’s contain mercury, so dispose of them at special recycling places, or see if your retailer will accept them for safe disposal.
Take a look around your home and see if you have lighting in the right places and if your light bulbs give you the warmth that makes your space inviting, relaxing and user-friendly.