Home lighting is extremely important, especially if you’re now working from home. Light bulbs that emit blue light waves create serotonin, which can make you more alert. These bulbs are generally a bright white color. Bulbs that produce a soft, warm white produce melatonin, which can relax you after a long day at the home office.
Choosing the best light bulbs for your home can be difficult, but taking care of your home lighting fixtures is essential. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, more than 51,000 home fires are caused by electrical issues and resulted in more than 500 deaths, 1,400 injuries, and $1.3 billion in property damage.
That’s why we reached out to Alex Radulet of Exon Electric Inc. Alex has helped to keep homes safe and bright for more than 17 years, and below, he gave us the 411 on which light bulbs you should consider for your home and how to prevent an electrical home fire.
The latest trend – LED lights in the home
“Everyone is going towards LED lighting,” says Alex. “It’s more energy efficient, more durable, and you don’t have to deal with replacing bulbs every couple of weeks.”
Homeowners are now choosing LED home lighting projects, from chandeliers to outdoor lighting to recess and landscape lighting. That’s because LEDs have better light quality and also help to lower monthly electrical bills since they are energy efficient light bulbs.
Though LED lighting can be more expensive than incandescent light bulbs due to its longevity (more on that below!), more homeowners enjoy the different spectrum of lighting it provides. This includes color temperatures, such as the previously mentioned warm and cool whites.
When choosing your LED energy-efficient light bulb, check the Kelvin and Lumens numbers on the box. The higher these numbers, the brighter the white LED bulbs become.
Before buying a specific LED light system, you should make sure it has all you need. It’s important to note that not all LED bulbs are dimmable or “smart” bulbs, so make sure to select the bulbs you need, whether they are Wi-Fi enabled or compatible with dimmers.
Types of home lighting to avoid
While halogen bulbs are the brightest, many have heat issues. They can become too hot and damage fixtures, which can lead to a home fire.
Homeowners might also want to avoid compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. While these are energy efficient, Alex’s research found that the mercury gas inside them can be harmful to homeowners if the bulb breaks.
“Bottom line, LEDs are the most efficient and safest light bulbs right now,” says Alex.
Are LED light bulbs worth the money?
Though homeowners need to make the decision themselves, LED light bulbs do last quite a long time.
“Ninety percent of them have 50,000 hours of life expectancy,” says Alex.
This estimate is based three or four hours of daily use, though some LED light bulbs may last longer than others.
But just how reliable are LED light bulbs? Overall, 50,000 hours of light can last approximately 13 to 15 years. (Yes, you read that right.)
Of course, you’ll need to clean your fixtures, which can help to prolong the life of your light bulbs and fixtures themselves.
Wait. I need to clean my light fixtures?
“A light fixture should be inspected and cleaned, like any other piece of furniture in the house,” says Alex.
Dust collects in the sockets of the light fixtures where the bulb screws in. The more dust and debris that gets in there, the more likely there is to be a problem.
“The bulb not having a secure contact with the socket can create an arc of electricity,” warns Alex. “It’s pretty much a spark that happens a million times per second, which can create a fire.”
The best way to clean the sockets is to unplug the fixture, unscrew the bulb, and use a simple duster or a little vacuum to suck out the debris. Then, dust the outside of the fixture. Though this is simple, it’s important to make sure you’re safe when performing any task that involves electricity.
“I tell customers, ‘Just turn off the light switch, but if you are not comfortable, just go to the electrical panel and throw off the circuit breaker. That way, you’ll know there is no power there.'”
While cleaning the fixtures, also inspect them for any cracks or melting in the sockets.
“If you are using the wrong bulbs or higher wattage than the light fixture is rated for, or if you are using halogen bulbs – you can damage the light fixture,” says Alex. “I’ve seen a fire start from this.”
What about outdoor light fixtures?
Outdoor fixtures are exposed to different ranges of temperatures and precipitation, so Alex recommends a fixture that is completely enclosed to prevent exposure to the elements. When it comes to light bulbs, though –
“Again, use LED bulbs. They’re good and reliable with temperature fluctuations.”
When do I know it’s time to replace my light fixture?
There are quite a few warning signs that homeowners should be on the lookout for.
- Flickering lights
- Light bulbs not reaching the brightest setting
- Weird smells near a fixture or socket
- Cracked or otherwise damaged wires
If you notice any of these, call a qualified electrician to investigate.
Many of these warning signs also double for the home’s electrical panel.
“Listen for strange noises – if the breakers are humming a lot – or if you detect a burning smell. That can tell you that something is wrong in there,” warns Alex. “There are a lot of homes, especially around Chicago, with electrical panels being declared or flagged obsolete. They can also be a fire risk.”
Lowering the risk of a home fire
Alex also receives frequent calls about smoke alarms. These should be replaced per manufacturer specification, usually every 10 years, but they may need to be replaced sooner if a homeowner has improper insulation in the attic.
“The lack of insulation creates condensation in the conduits, and it drips down onto the smoke alarms,” says Alex.
The best thing homeowners can do – other than have proper insulation – is to check their smoke alarms once a month. (The vipHomeLink app sends you reminders every month!)
“All you have to do is unscrew your smoke alarm, look on the back of it, and see if there are any signs of wear, like rust,” says Alex. “Then push the test button.”
If the smoke alarm doesn’t go off, check the batteries. If that doesn’t work or you notice any rust, replace the whole unit.
Learn more about electrical home projects and safety in DIY Home Electrical Projects You Can Tackle (and When to Call in the Home Pros).
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