As we age, low-vision awareness and proper lighting becomes top of mind. Some health professionals estimate that by the time we reach age 65, we require approximately three times more lighting than someone in their 20s or 30s in order to see properly and distinguish colors. Lighting for low vision is an important detail of everyday living.
As part of aging-in-place planning, we know that proper task lighting, appropriate night lighting, and strategic exterior lighting is important for safety and comfort. However, today’s dilemma is the task of buying a light bulb! Gone are the days when going to the store to purchase a light bulb meant returning home with a four-pack of 60-watt bulbs. The lighting aisle of today’s hardware store is cluttered with words like “lumens,” “CFLs,” “omni-directional.” What does all that mean when it comes to buying light bulbs?
How to buy a light bulb!
1. Do you choose incandescent, halogen, compact fluorescent (CFLs), or LEDs?
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 is responsible for the phasing out of most incandescent bulbs from the market. Some special-use bulbs such as appliance bulbs and other specialty incandescent bulbs remain on the shelves. However, most choices include halogens, CFLs, and LEDs. Halogens are the least expensive and LEDs are the most expensive.
2. What if my lamp requires a 60-watt bulb?
A quick rule of thumb for lighting needs:
100 watts = 1600 lumens
75 watts = 1100 lumens
60 watts = 800 lumens
40 watts = 450 lumens
3. My light bulb has a “color”! What does that mean?
In the world of new bulbs, color is measured in Kelvins and the degree of color determines the type of lighting that is provided.
For instance, a 2700 Kelvin bulb will produce a yellow light and is similar to the warm tones of yesteryear’s incandescent bulbs. A warm tone or yellow light may be suitable for the bedroom or dining area.
A warm, amber light is recommended for the bedroom so that sleep patterns are not disturbed.
A 5500 Kelvin bulb will produce a blue light and is similar to the cool tones of lighting in the work place, doctor’s office, and other professional settings. A cool tone or blue light may be better suited for reading.
A cool, blue light is recommended for the day time in order to mimic natural sunlight. Additionally, some experts believe that the cool, blue tones are better filtered through older eyes that have cataracts or other vision-impairing conditions.
Also, some bulbs may be rated on the Color Rendering Index (CRI). The best color distinction in bright sunlight receives a score of 100 CRI. A good, indoor rating would receive 80 CRI or 90 CRI.
4. My LED light bulb is “omni-directional”, what does that mean?
Earlier LED bulbs had a very limited range of lighting. Today’s generation of LED bulbs tout “omni-directional” lighting. Simply put, this light bulb should be adequate in your chair side lamp.
5. Other lighting suggestions for aging parents:
- In addition to the use of proper lighting, it’s recommended that older adults have ample access to natural light through windows and skylights. Sheer window coverings can help minimize glare.
- Keep walls painted a light color so that available lighting is reflected throughout the room.
- Incorporate plenty of task lighting in the kitchen, bathroom, hallways and reading areas.
Who knew that buying a light bulb would require a cheat sheet or a buying guide? For additional information, we’ve included a link to Consumer Report’s Light Bulb Buying Guide!