Energy-efficient lighting dos and don’ts 

Many thanks to David Badger, of Brown’s Electrical Supply, for his presentation at our Oct. 7, 2009 Monthly Forum on the dos and don’ts of energy-efficient lighting. We had many folks unable to attend. REAP has posted the PowerPoint from his presentation below as well as two information sheets that cover the basics of energy-efficient lighting and what to look for on lighting bulb labels. David made some key points during his presentation. We can’t cover them all. But in the category of never, never do this, he said:

–       Do not use CFLs on a dimmer switch unless they are specifically rated as dimmable. This can be a fire hazard. The packaging should say whether they are rated to be on a dimmer switch.

–       Do not totally enclose CFL bulbs unless they are specifically rated to be enclosed. Otherwise they can overheat and burn out. Again, look for the information on the package.

–       Don’t put CFLs in recessed cans unless they are reflector bulbs. These are the bulbs that are cone shaped and have the silver coating on the back. This will keep the light and heat pointed down instead of wasting it inside the recessed area. It can also cause overheating if you use a bulb not specifically designed for recessed lighting application.

–       For outdoor lighting, find bulbs rated to start up in cold weather. Panasonic makes a bulb that has a minimum starting temperature of minus 22 degrees. Wow! Some bulbs are rated to go even colder, down to minus 40 degrees.

Do look for Energy Star-rated bulbs. This is a government-backed program. To get the rating, the bulbs have been indepedently tested on a number of factors including their longevity and that they start up quickly and don’t have that lag time before they come to full strength.

On LEDs, David said they’ve come a long way but are, in most cases, still not cost effective in terms of the amount of light you get compared to cost. They also can produce undesired lighting effects such as halo lighting, where it creates a dark hole in the center of where the light is shining. LEDs are, however, excellent in some applications such as under cabinets for lighting counters, for highlighting items in show cases such as in jewelry stores, and in high, hard to reach spots where people want to minimize the number of times they have to change a bulb.

David relayed lots of humorous personal stories with lighting and brought some fun to look at designs with him. One that drew lots of oohs and aahs was a combination CFL and LED. It had the traditional curlicue CFL, but then inside the curlicue on the base of the light were two small LEDs. With one click, you could have the full strength CFL. Click again and just the two LEDs would come on giving off a nightlight-like glow.  That was cool. If you have more questions, feel free to call me at 929-7770 or send an email to

More Information:

About CFLs
Reading the label

PowerPoint Presentation by David Badger

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