At Home with Tech

Figure out which consumer tech you need, the right gear to buy and how to use your new gadgets.

Tag: Philips

Which Bulb Should You Buy for a Porch Light?

If you’re not sure which light bulb you should be using in your outside porch light, you’re not alone. Here’s the story of my journey to a solution…

My house has an porch-light fixture above my front door. The long, cylindrical fixture’s bottom is technically open to the outside elements, but the bulb is protected.

You can spot the bulb if you look deep into the fixture after you ring my doorbell. If I take my time getting to the door, and if you’re a tech geek like me, you might wonder what kind of light bulb I use. Funny you should ask…

Every six months or so for the past ten years, the bulb has burnt out, and I have to replace it. Each time, I’ve found myself faced with the dread of not exactly knowing which one I should be using. And that has usually led me to a moment of self-reflection and uncertainty about my place in the universe.

Because I’ve come this far in life, and I can’t quite figure out what it takes to screw in the proper light bulb. It blew out again last week. So I decided it was finally time to figure this out…

How Many Words Does it Take to Screw In a Light Bulb?
First off, it’s not like I’ve been entirely oblivious in my past attempts to choose the correct bulb. Previously, I’ve used GE outdoor incandescent postlights with bent tips. I’ve assumed that because they’ve carried the name ‘postlight’ they’re designed to weather the outside elements as long as they’re protected from rain. They’ve operated just fine, even though they must get a little damp now and again.
(I hope I’ve not been tempting fate.)

Unfortunately, I can’t find these GE bulbs anymore on Amazon. Plus, they’ve always been difficult to unscrew, because my fixture is so long and I can barely get my fingers in far enough to get a grip on the bulb. So, I’ve always wanted to find a bulb that’s a little taller.

And did I really mention the word ‘incandescent” earlier? What an embarrassment.
Yes, you’re right… I should have found an LED replacement by now.

Amazon Stumbles
So I went back to Amazon and began searching for ‘LED Postlight’ and ‘Porch Light’ bulbs.

Strangely, nothing popped up that talked about outside use or all weather construction.

Frustrated with my inability to use Amazon for immediate gratification on a Saturday morning, I invited my fourth grader to go with me on a light-bulb adventure to our local The Home Depot. And we drove off…

The Value of One-to-One Human Interaction
You can easily find hundreds of conflicting product opinions online for just about anything you’re looking for. Call me old-fashioned, but I still value the opportunity to walk into The Home Depot, find someone wearing an orange smock and ask my question. Over the years, I’ve usually received great advice at The Home Depot. And this time was no different…

I found my expert hovering in the lighting section and told him my story. I held up my burnt-out incandescent bulb and waited for his response.

He stared into space for just a moment and then directed me to a ‘Philips F15 Postlight dimmable LED’ that costs $4.47.

Illuminating
The packaging displayed a picture of a glowing outside lamp post. The fine print said “Do not use where directly exposed to water. Only install in operating environments between -4 degrees and +113 degrees Fahrenheit.”

I figured I was covered…

So, I bought the 7-watt LED, and my son and I drove home. When I installed it, the bulb was much easier to grip, and it powered up just fine. So, what more is there to talk about…?

Well, I wondered why I couldn’t find this Philips LED on Amazon. So jumped back online and typed in “Philips F15 Postlight.”

And there it was…
Philips LED Dimmable F15 Soft White Light Bulb

But the description didn’t promote it as a ’Postlight.’
And the technical details listed “Indoor use only.”

Still, there was that same photo on the packaging with the outdoor light post.

And in the user reviews, several talked about successfully using this bulb as their porch light.

The Fine Print
So what should we make of all of this?

I’m detecting a certain industry ‘hedge’ when it comes to screwing in light bulbs outdoors. No, my Philips LED doesn’t have a “use at your own risk outside” warning label. In fact, on the base of the bulb, the fine print said, “suitable for damp locations.”

So what’s the problem?

Well, Philips still seemingly prefers that you use its ‘postlight’ indoors.

But lamp posts live outside. And so does my porch light.

This Philips LED model number is #9290011822.
I’ll let you know how it goes…

Is It Time to Stockpile Light Bulbs?

Behold! The new award-winning LED bulb from Philips. This 21st century tech may save the world. But there’s a catch.

How many Americans does it take to screw in a light bulb?

The 133 year-old answer used to be – 1.
And that was Thomas Edison.

Not any more.
Now, the number seems to be more like 4,815,162,342.

Edison was Wrong
Thanks to The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 signed by President Bush, incandescent bulbs aren’t cutting it anymore and need to get 25% more efficient or else. As we approach Earth Day you might say that’s a good thing.

The problem is the law creates a mandatory phase out of many incandescent bulbs, beginning with the 100-watt bulb this October. The kill dates for other bulbs all the way down to 40 watts continues through 2014.

Now, the targeted bulbs can get a reprieve if manufacturers can improve their efficiency numbers, so maybe there’s no cause for alarm.

Maybe.

As far as I’m concerned, this is all pretty complicated, and I’m feeling a bit in the dark on what’s really going on. I just want the lights to work.

I’m not yet ready to hoard light bulbs in preparation for the new green Dark Age to come, but I’m not glowing either.

The $10 million Light Bulb
One bright spot in this dim tale is the news that our government also wants light bulb manufacturers to innovate. Just fixing the old filament model isn’t enough.

Also in 2007, the DOE announced their $10 million Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prize (L Prize) competition to spur the development of a 60 watt equivalent LED bulb with strict standards to replace incandescents.
Philips Lighting North America was the only entrant, and after much nail biting, (drum roll please) Philips took the prize last August with their new
L Prize LED bulb.

And this weekend, the wait for consumers to illuminate their bright and efficient future is over.  The L Bulb goes on sale this Sunday at retailers like Home Depot.
You might want to be the first in line, because I bet there’s going to be a stampede to snap up this new bulb of the future.

It will sip only 10 watts, last for 20 years and offer a natural, dimmable light.
Plus, there’s no mercury in it like those icky compact fluorescent bulbs.

Don’t get me started on the promise of expensive CFLs and how burned I felt after I bought into all of that hype a decade ago. (Anyone else?)

And the price tag for the new darling L Bulb?
$50

Cancel the trip to Home Depot.

I don’t care how efficient or how long lasting the bulb is.
How can $50 compete with your warm and cozy $1 incandescent?

Philips says discounts will bring prices down through sales via utility companies.

I’ll be patiently waiting.

Look, I totally understand that as a country we have to become more energy efficient.

Our old light bulb tech is bleeding energy. I get it.
So our government takes a tough stand for the greater good and eliminates a lot of standard light bulbs, as we know it.
You now need new tech to light your home or you’ll be breaking out that box of candles from your closet.
Then the government hosts a little $10 million contest. And only one player enters. And then the one winning entry costs $50.
Do you see a little problem here?

I’m just a little unsettled about how I’m going to be turning on the lights next year.

Waiting for the Light Bulb to Go Off in the DOE’s Head
The whole thing seems half-baked.
(Not that LED bulb tech isn’t cool. Wired Magazine did a great cover story on it last September.)
The timing of this tech sea change is simply too quick. Get us a bulb that can serve as an energy efficient replacement bulb that people will actually buy.

If Uncle Sam could put a man on the moon in the ‘60s, I think he can do a little more on Earth today to help keep the lights on at an affordable cost.

New tech is supposed to make your life easier. Not force you to go broke, because an update to a hundred year old technology isn’t ready for prime time.

Plus, there’s no argument here that says you can just “do without.”
This is not a nice-to-have item at home.

We’re talking about light so you can see at night.
Remember, that cool nineteenth century invention?

Aren’t you a little bit worried?

%d bloggers like this: