The importance of illumination
Have you ever noticed how sitting outside on a sunny day can change your mood? Science has proven that light has the power to affect our emotions. During the winter months when there is less sunlight, individuals are more prone to experiencing symptoms of depression, lack of energy and increased need for sleep. Knowing this, it's not hard to accept that how we use light has a big impact on our lives, and by extension, on the look and feel of our homes.
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The Science of Artificial Light
Located over 93 million miles from the earth, the sun is our primary heat and light source. Prior to the introduction of primitive lamps in 13,000 BC, it was our only light source. For thousands of years, light was a luxury. Babylonian and Egyptian palaces were lit by flickering candle light and very few people outside of royalty had the opportunity to light their homes.
It wasn't until Thomas Edison turned the theory of the incandescent lamp into a practical form and successfully marketed it in the late 1870s that artificial light became affordable enough that it entered our homes and found a place in our backyards.
Types of Light Bulbs
There are five basic types of light bulbs that are used in the home:
These traditional light bulbs work when an electric current flows through the filament, which is sealed by the familiar bulbous glass frame, creating light (and a lot of heat) in the process. They are cheap but have a low efficiency level and a short lifespan.
- Compact fluorescent lights
CFLs work by lighting sealed gas within a specially coated tube. Known for their distinctive spiral shape, these energy-saving light bulbs are more expensive to buy than incandescent bulbs, but their useable life is 10 to 20 times longer than incandescent bulbs and they produce equally bright light at a lower wattage. If every American home replaced just one light bulb with a CFL, it would prevent pollution equivalent to removing one million cars from the road.
- Light-emitting diode
LEDs produce light when energy flows from one prong to another. With the ability to adjust energy levels, LED lights can produce a rainbow of colors, making them ideal for your next set of Christmas lights. They last longer and save more energy than even CFLs, but they can be quite expensive.
Halogen lights are a form of incandescent lighting that replaces inert and noble gases inside the bulb with halogen gases. They have a small filament that lasts longer than an incandescent bulb but still isn't as long-lasting as either the CFL or LED. While halogen lights create more heat and therefore a brighter light than traditional incandescent light, the use of infrared reflective coating makes them energy efficient. This coating radiates energy back onto the filament, which in turn results in the light using up to 40 percent less energy than standard light bulbs.