Adios, 100-Watt Bulb


As of January 1, 2012, the 100-watt bulbs we are familiar with will no longer be sold. Manufacture is slowing down and many stores are just selling out what they have. In coming years, lower wattages will be phased out as well. In their place are more expensive, longer-lasting compact fluorescent lights (CFLs).

Are CFLs the ecological answer?
Hmm. Read about some of the drawbacks here--and that doesn't include the quality of light we need as artists

On the one hand, these lower-wattage bulbs mean that we’ll use less electricity. On the other, they contain mercury and other toxic components. So win some and lose some, ecologically speaking.

But I am speaking here as an artist. I am used to living with and working under the warm glow of incandescent. In the studio it's 200-watt bulbs set into bowl reflectors; along with 100-watts for ambient lighting. I use the 100's in my home. In preparation for the ban, I've just bought several hundred 100-watt bulbs. (Yes, I’m hoarding.)
It’s important to know that 200-watt bulbs are not being phased out, but they're not being produced in huge quanties; also, specialty bulbs, such as those used in appliances, photography and stage lighting, will not be phased out. At least not for now.
I posted a comment on Facebook to see what other artists are doing in the face of the ban and got some interesting responses:

 . David Kidd: “One of the problems that I have faced with CFLs is the time required for them to warm up. It seems to take at least thirty minutes to reach a steady color temp. They grow warmer the longer they are left on. This trait may have changed with the newer bulbs. It's been a while since I tried using them.

 . Melissa Potter: “Most lamps with adjustable light output don't work with fluorescent bulbs.” (Kiss your dimmers goodbye.)

 . Dawn Korman: “There are new studies showing that the CFLs may be causing migraines, dizziness, and other neurological problems.”

On the positive side, Carol Diehl had this to say: "Compact fluorescents are not like the old fluorescents. You can buy them full-spectrum and whatever else. I am very particular (surprise!) and don't have a problem using them in my house. If they have mercury, think about the fact that one will last forever. She suggested this link from the Mother Nature Network for more positive information.

Maggie Boys agrees with Diehl: "There's huge variety in CFLs--in color characteristics, the time it takes them to warm up, and other qualities. Except for those people who get migraines from the tiny flicker, most issues can be handled by doing some research (i.e., trial and error) into brands and types of CFLs. Definitely stick to highest quality. Sadly, there were some really terrible ones on the market early on that taught us to hate them all."

When I called Just Bulbs, a specialty store here in Manhattan, to ask about comparable light quality in CFLs, one of the staffers—they are all knowledgeable about an astonishing range of light bulbs—said, “CFLs will give you any color temperature you can dream of,” and suggested that we hoarders are just being “old fogies.” OK, maybe he’s correct in his assertion that CFLs can give us the light we need for our homes, but is he thinking about making and viewing artwork? I don’t know. And I suspect that finding the right CFL is something we’d have to do in a specialty store such as Just Bulbs or in the bulb department of a light fixtures store run by a very knowledgeable owner. Otherwise the number of choices is overwhelming and the result may be be less than satisfactory. And apparently the price will give you sticker shock.
Other artists are trying types of lighting:
. Rene Lynch: "We use halogen floods. They last a long time and are bright warm, and clear. Balanced with the cool fluorescents, it's close to true daylight."
. Sara Mast: "I can't see in my studio with the compact fluorescents (love my incandescents, as you do!), and just the other day spent $60 on three 150-watt Verilux bulbs that are natural spectrum 'designer' bulbs. I may end up trying to buy those in bulk because they are so much better than the CFs."

. Elaine Mari: "I'm going to check out LEDs. They are available in various tints and are a lot less lethal environmentally than compact fluorescents."

Here you see a Kelvin color temperature chart (from Light Energy Source.com).The lower the Kelvin, the warmer the light; the higher, the cooler.  In terms of studio lighting, I mentioned that I use 200-watt bults. Matthew Langley does, too, and here's what he says: "I get about 4 -5 months out of them and they cost about $6 each. As a plus the light is 5600K (and in the winter the studio stays warm)."

So, today I’m hoping we can do a little crowdsourcing:
. Have you made the switch to CFLs in your home?
. Have you switched in your studio?
. Do you like what you see? If so, what’s the brand? (And if not, tell us that brand, too.)
. Have you experienced some of the physical effects suggested by Dawn?
. What else can you add to the discussion?

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mel prest said...

Some time ago I switched from using a multitude of halogen clamp lights with reflectors in studio to long fluorescent tube bulbs. They are full-spectrum and colder light than the halogen were. However, they are clear and steady like daylight, don't give off heat and don't change color as they age (like my halogen bulbs used to do). I have to say I'll never go back to the old way. And the bulbs are cheap-- less than $12 for each 4 foot tube. I buy them locally in San Francisco at City Lights (not the bookstore). http://citylightssf.com/

Aron said...

Thanks, Joanne for such insightful post! Here in Southern California, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power even provides you with a couple of complementary (if they charged me, I can't remember) CF bulbs (that come in a reusable bag!) when you first move here.

I do not know what brand they are, they only have a LADWP label on them. Those ones are 2700K (way too yellow for me). As for the newer ones I bought, they are Feit Electric 23W but I am not sure what color temperature they are. The company website is rather unclear and I keep finding contradictory information everywhere else. They are white, a little on the blue side. The combination of the above mentioned bulbs in a single room is quite unpleasant.

I barely paint at night because I don't care for these bulbs. In all fairness, I cannot afford a studio at the moment and my lighting setup at home is not appropriate for working at night anyway. Maybe I will try different shades (and more sources of light too!) in the near future.

I have been systemically and, quite frankly, unconsciously phasing out old fashioned light bulbs over the last few years on the account of saving money, but I have never really thought about it in terms of art making. It has been a few transitional years for sure for a long time I could not even worry about it because I had no time to paint!

When I paint at home, I do it mostly during the day. It is, after all, very sunny over here!. I have meant to get better lightning for my little art corner in the house but things keep getting in the way. Having this useful piece of information will now help me decide which direction to take.

As for the CF bulbs causing any physical problems, I have not experienced any whatsoever. I don't think they could get any more annoying that the 60 cycle hum you get from fluorescent lights, though. YMMV

And you can buy dimmable CFL bulbs, for those concerned about the issue.

Linda Starr said...

I switched in the garage where I glaze to daylight fluorescents and they are better than the old fluorescents which were in there, in my south facing studio I have 100 watt and they are not enough in winter will be adding more, in my office I have fluorescent and they are terrible, to be fair the light fixture was an inexpensive one. I also read that to dispose of fluroescent bulbs they should be taken to a special place and if they break they are toxic to your home environment and person. Our government is making more and more laws to our and the environmental detriment. I'll be stocking up too.

Leslie said...

I've never had migraine trouble from CFLs. We've switched over at home entirely and my major complaint is that they don't last as long as billed in my 100+ year old house (with newer wiring but overdriven supply). My wonderful local hardware store will take dead bulbs back from us so we don't have to deal with disposal. That's significant since CFLs shouldn't just go in a landfill.

In the studio I use a mix of specialty daylight corrected OTT lights and daylight temp CFLs. Am definitely thinking about adding some LED fixtures to the mix but one can't just change bulbs with those - need a new receptacle.

Tina Mammoser said...

I'm fearing this changeover too but in the studio I fortunately only have fluorescents and spot bulbs. I have a 'normal' pair of fluorescents on the ceiling and then a pair of moveable full-spectrum strips which I just love! It's the only light I've found near enough to daylight to allow me to paint in winter when it's murky at about 3pm.

I also have a standing lamp with 2 spot bulbs that I use during events to light up paintings on other walls. Fortunately I can still find regular bulbs for these, but actually prefer halogens. The light is brighter and clearer to me. A halogen and a blue daylight bulb mixed seem to make a good attempt at actual daylight colour.

We do have eco-bulbs at home and they drive me crazy. Not only do they buzz at a high pitch (that no one else seems able to hear but me) but the light is never bright enough. If I want to paint at home I end up with 4 lights aimed at my tabletop. Awful.

Richard Bottwin said...

At this point I vote with Rene. Halogen floods (capsule bulbs) give the best studio light in my opinion. it's a cleaner whiter light than incandescents (and closer to gallery lighting) and they are marginally more efficient than incandescents - you get a little more light per watt. The only problem is that they get hotter than regular bulbs (which is not so bad in winter).

Lori Buff said...

We have CFL's in almost every light fixture and lamp in the house and we are happy with them. I've not noticed the long warm-up, flicker or anything like that. Many of them are filtered by a lamp shade or glass bowl so the light is different than what it would be from a bare bulb. I have a combination of lights in my studio but mostly rely on natural light from the sun.

Ben Stansfield said...

I made the switch a few years ago to CFL's. I use 23W 5000K(elvin) bulbs from Philips and Sylvania in a few kinds of floor lamps, as well as the same colour 4' long fluorescent tube in the over head fixture.
I tried a few daylight bulbs, at 6500K, much too cool for me. Of course, paintings are different colours in different light, and even though I don't paint under natural light, and probably the paintings are hung under incandescent, I don't get many unpleasant surprises using the 5000K bulbs.
I used the 'skin test' to see whether I like the colour of the bulbs (looking at the skin on my hand under the light, and seeing if it presents with an unhealthy or unpleasant colour).
At first I was torn, leaving my regular bulbs, but do find an improvement with these particular CFL's. That being said, I have not found a warm CFL I like in my living room (the 3000K range. ick). I don't know if it's the flicker (which I am normally sensitive to, and get headaches from), or the fact that the light doesn't come from a smaller, almost point-source like an incandescent, but I have trouble reading or watching tv using CFL's.
Hearing about your 200 watt reflectors has me feeling a little envious now, though....

also, some of the CFL's buzz quite loudly.

Lisa Kerpoe said...

Interesting post. I've been using CFLs for about 10 years now and love them. I feel that the light is brighter (yes, they do take a bit of time to get to full light, so you have to allow for that) and I only have to change light bulbs every 7-8 years.

I never liked incandescent in my studio - even the "true daylight" version. I use a standard fluorescent fixture in my studio with the 5500k bulbs. Sorry, don't know the brand.

Anonymous said...

I used to paint under 300W halogen tubular bulb outdoor fixtures because I loved their ability to cover a 4' x 6' painting with even uniform light without hot spots. I hated the heat, UV and bugs they attracted, as well as the high energy use. Last year I found wonderful LED marine floodlights in similar fixtures that do the same job with 3900K light, no UV, excellent color rendition, almost no heat and 1/6 the power consumption. Not inexpensive, but at 50,000 hr. rated life, and the reduced power cost, it works out just fine. I've settled on the 50W which equals my old 300W halogen. If there's enough interest I can wholesale them. The 50W is $350, and they are also available in 10W, 30W and 80W (lights up distant planets)

Joanne Mattera said...

I hate to sound like a rube, but a 50W LED is $350??

helen said...

how to choose.

how to choose for your studio:
Color Temperature - Measured in Kelvins or K. 5000K will give you a nice white light.
Brightness - For a medium sized room, a total of 7000-8000 lumens is plenty. With a compact fluorescent bulb (not incandescent), that is usually about 110-125 Watts.
CRI Rating - The higher the better. Anything over 80 CRI is good.


Franklin said...

We tried "full-spectrum" CFLs and they were dim and as green as broccoli. We have an SAD sufferer in the house, so this is not merely an aesthetic issue, and I am already enraged about the aesthetic issue.

Anonymous said...

The price on the LED fixtures is high because they are not just bulbs but the entire marine grade exterior rated fixture designed for ocean service. They look similar to standard exterior industrial halogen fixutres, but much higher quality. I'm trying to convince the manufacturer that an interior fixture would be a hit for galleries, museums, and artists, but they want to see demonstrated demand before considering it. Turns out most of the cost is in the driver and emitter, and not the housing, so it may not reduce the cost that much...The Color rendition index is well over 80, and the quality of the light is a joy. Do the math over the 50,000 hours and reduced power bills,it eases the pain.

tackad said...

I don't think it's really dawned on anyone (especially the general public)yet, the many unforseen problems with filling millions of homes with many mercury-filled bulbs. Bulbs do get broken and bulbs will be impropperly disposed of. As for how long they last - are there any of you who remember vinyl siding ? how it was gonna last forever?
To end on a good note, the NYTimes had an excellent spread on lighting choices and options in the Home Section of it's Thursday, August 11th paper.
Maybe it's available on-line . . .

Anonymous said...

This may be overboard, but I'm a fan of 500W quartz work-lamps and for a "prettier" light I like the 500W photo floods. I'm assuming quartz lamping will stay around, however I'm not sure what's up after my stash of photo bulbs burn out. After working in bright day- light and bright quartz/photo lighting, my pieces look better in gallery lighting (not unlike my appearance in bar lighting vs. outdoor lunch sun). These hot lights are annoying in the summer, but are very useful in warming up studio that the cheap-a** landlord refuses to adequetly heat.

Anonymous said...

This is so sad. Every time I walk into a room with a CFL I immediately notice the sickly light coming from it, reminds me of a hospital or a pharmacy. Artists working in color will know their work looks good in certain light and bad in others, and I hate the quality of light these "superior" CFLS have. We just made the world uglier.

Christopher Quirk said...

Regarding the environmental aspects of CFLs, one thing to consider is that with coal as the primary source of our electricity, the mercury in the CFL bulbs is far less than the mercury released into the air at the plant to power the bulb over its lifetime. One problem, though, is that sometimes the bulbs do not last their full, stated lifetime, especially if they aren't placed upright (as in a lamp) or if they are inferior grade. I use clamp lamps at an angle towards the wall, and some bulbs don't last long. Re: color, personally, I find the hues/color temperatures of bulbs to be more like comparing timbres of musical instruments than an apples to apples degree comparison. An incandescent 2800K looks different to me than a CFL 2800K.

In any case, I think that the industry expects that LEDs will phase out CFLs in the coming years, as soon as they can find a way to get the price down. They are incredibly energy efficient.

Michelle said...

I love the 100W bulbs, too. But I think at some point we won't remember what we're missing. Rembrandt and Caravaggio and Monet didn't have 100 watt bulbs, and they seem to have done just fine. We will adjust.

However, I echo the safety concerns about the CFL bulbs. I have knocked over more than my fair share of lightstands, breaking the bulbs. My clumsiness could be dangerous (especially in a classroom) with the "new technology".

Paper Chipmunk said...

I'm glad to see someone covering this from an artist's point of view. I'm very upset about this and am hoarding bulbs too. The CFLs I've experienced are too dull and the color too sickly to read under, let alone do fine work under. They do trigger migraines for me.

I have halogen track lights in my studio for basic room lighting, and they're fine for that general purpose. But for actually working, I need the light of my incandescent lamps.

As for using halogens in lamp fixtures for work lighting, they get so hot that, light quality issues aside, I'm not sure that's entirely a safe option for someone like me in a cramped workspace with papers all over the place. I once saw a demonstration of how easily halogen bulbs ignite, and it left a deep impression. I wish I knew of a good substitute for our incandescents, but aside from hoarding, I just don't know what to do.

lucy mink said...

this is depressing! Bush is the reason, am I right on that for the fact that we now have to hoard, didn't he sign some bill right near his end about stopping the production eventually of the incancesdents. I am pro Choice!

Joanne Mattera said...

I blame Bush for everything. And his father, too.