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Lighting for Property Managers: Time for a Change?

by Christina Crow-Dufault 2 October, 2012 11:15

For decades, choosing a light bulb was a fairly simple task. We didn’t have all these choices we now have today. Wattage meant brightness and we didn’t have to worry about dimmer compatibility.  

Yes, there is a lot of new products and information out there now, but that’s okay. Change is good.

These new products can help us save energy, money and the planet through innovative, lower-wattage, long-life products that don’t produce nearly as much pollution during the manufacturing process as older types of lighting. 

Products such as CFLs and LEDs will help to reduce your energy bills, labor costs and even HVAC related costs. And as a Property Manager -of one location or many- that can make all the difference.

Phased-out bulbs, new efficiency standards, updated packaging labels and LED improvements over the last few years have presented some challenges, but they have also opened up a number of opportunities.

Whether you’re upgrading for the first time from incandescent to CFLs or you’re making the move to LEDs, here are some things you should keep in mind. 

The Good and the Bad of the Bulbs

For medium base bulbs, generally you have three options when moving away from incandescents. Halogen Incandescents, CFLs and LEDs all come with pros and cons. And depending on the space you need to light, one may be a better fit than the other.

Halogen Incandescents

These are A-style bulbs that are 25-30% more efficient than incandescents and meet the new standards as outlined in EISA of 2007.  These bulbs reach full brightness instantly and are fully dimmable. They are also cool to the touch.  On the outside they look just like an incandescent, but inside is actually a small halogen capsule instead of a filament like traditional incandescent bulbs. 

The down-side of Halogen Incandescents is simple. The energy savings are not as high as switching to CFLs or LEDs, but you will see 20-30% improvement in savings.  Your cost is a little more than an incandescent but, but still a very affordable option.

Halogen Incandescents suited for rarely used fixtures such as the basement or closet where energy savings are not as important as quality and brightness of light. Also, they may be easily used with dimmers and outdoor fixtures such as a front door sconce.


Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) have been around for years.  If it’s been a while since you’ve tried a CFL, we think you should give them another shot.  CFLs use 75% less energy and can last 7-10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. They come in a wide range of color temperatures (2700K-6500K) –offering many choices when lighting different spaces. 

They do take some time to reach full brightness therefore; we recommend not using them in locations where you need instant brightness such as a closet or stairwell. Additionally CFLs may be slow to start in very cold temperatures.  Turning them off and on frequently can reduce the life of the bulb. And not all CFLs are dimmable. Some dimmable CFLs may only dim down to 20-40% of their light output.  So, make sure you know which type you need. Lastly, dimmable CFLs tend to be priced higher than their non-dimming counterpart.

It is also important to note that CFLs contain mercury.  The amount is very small and for this reason, they should be recycled.  For some, this is too much hassle. Really, it comes down to: Do the energy-saving benefits and longer life outweigh the small risk of breakage and task of recycling.

CFLs are best suited for areas where the lights are on for longer periods of time. These may include common areas or hallways. 


LEDs are the newest bulbs to hit the lighting category and up until a few ago they weren’t available for home or business use.  Nowadays, you’re seeing businesses changing over and even homeowners replacing out their incandescents and CFLs for efficient, long-life LEDs- with great results.  They are a little more efficient than CFLs, in terms of energy usage and can last from 25,000-50,000 hours.  And depending on your usage, they could last 15-30 years!  -significantly reducing maintenance costs in hard to reach locations at your properties.

LEDs will brighten instantly and similar to CFLs, some will be dimmable and some will not. However, most new LEDs on the market are dimmable with dimming down to 5-10% of the lamp’s light output. And LEDs can be used outdoors. In fact, they thrive in the cold weather. They still need to be protected from the elements and moisture, but not in a completely enclosed fixture. 

The most common down-side to LEDs is their cost.  They do come at a higher price tag than the other bulbs mentioned but are typically purchased given their longevity and energy savings. The good news: prices are starting to come down.

LEDs are perfect for a number of different areas in your managed properties. Installing LEDs in hard to reach areas can help reduce labor costs as well as save energy. Since they are instant on, LEDs can be used almost anywhere from recessed cans and track lighting to table lamps and wall sconces.

Lighting Facts, Lumens & Kelvin scale

When it comes to managing different types of properties, recognizing under lit space or even an over lit space can help alleviate security concerns, create better task lighting and also reduce energy costs. 

Brightness is measured in lumens.  This is one of those changes that have come about in recent years.  Previously, we’d look at wattage to know the brightness of a bulb, when in fact; wattage actually refers to the energy used. Most light bulb packaging clearly explains these values though the Lighting Facts Label. As of January 2012, the new Lighting Facts label is required for most light bulbs.  

The Lighting Facts Label includes brightness, color temperature on a Kelvin scale, energy use and lifetime claims. CFLs are also noted as containing mercury. 


There is a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Lighting Facts label and a Department of Energy (DOE) Lighting Facts Label. The FTC label is directed towards consumers, applies to all medium screw base bulbs and is mandatory to most bulb packaging.  The DOE label applies to all Solid State Lighting (SSL) and is a voluntary label that allows retail buyers and lighting professionals to evaluate SSL product performance.  

When it comes to understanding lumens of A-style lamps it’s helpful to know the approximate lumens to the wattage that you’re familiar with. For example, when replacing 40 watt incandescents, look for at least 450 lumens, 60 watt incandescent, at least 800 lumens, 75 watt incandescent at least 1,100 lumens and for 100 watt or higher, you’ll want at least 1,600 lumens.  Also, when changing our incandescent or Halogen Reflector and PAR lamps, your best bet is to look for atleast ten times the watts of the bulb you’re replacing.

This Philips Airflux PAR38 LED is a perfect example. The manufacturer states this lamp will use only 18 watts of energy, yet produce as much light output as a 90 watt halogen PAR38. If you look over at the product specifications, you’ll notice that the lumens are 900-ten times the watts of the bulbs being replaced.

Color Temperature is measured on the Kelvin scale.  Cooler colors will have a higher color temperature and warmer colors will have a lower color temperature.  This is another change from some that maybe haven’t moved past incandescent bulbs.  Incandescent light is a warm white light and usually around 2700K. With CFLs and LEDs you can choose from a wide range of color temperatures.  A residential setting would most likely use a warm white or 2700K color as opposed to an office setting that would likely use a cool white or 4100K color temperature.

In a Nutshell

Types of light bulbs, new labeling and the other choices mentioned above really only scratch the surface on some of the decisions to be made for lighting your properties. Other considerations include CRI, size restrictions of the fixtures when using CFLs and LEDs, Dimmer/Occupancy Sensor compatibility, open or enclosed fixtures and more…

If you’re unsure of what light is right for the properties you manage, please give us a call, start a Live Chat or e-mail your dedicated Sales Representative for assistance.

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