Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Old Lamps, New Bulbs

A Bradley & Hubbard Rayo Hurricane Lamp...
Old lamps add texture to a room.  But even after they have been checked out and approved for use by a lamp repair person, many of them were built for the more"dim" incandescent bulbs of 40, even 25 watts.

Now, the growing availability of energy efficient lighting has made it possible to promote these old lamps to primary lighting sources for a room.  The twisty, compact fluorescent lights were the first generation of these new bulbs that allowed the equivalent of 75 or 100 "watts" of light at a power draw of well under 25w.  And for those who have anathema to overhead lighting and use a lot of lamps (one in each corner, of course), not only is the lower wattage appreciated,  but the significantly longer life is as well.

The new LED (light emitting diodes) lights have gone even further, and have just recently become bright enough, cheap enough (although still not cheap), silent enough, and warm enough to become the default lighting option for many houses.  They don't have the mercury used by the CFL lights, turn on instantly, and are dimmable.  (Some may still appreciate the gradually brightening CFL bulbs in bathroom fixtures for first thing in the morning, but that is a different issue.)

...With a  Samsung "75W" LED.

Old lamps were built for lower power draws, so a 12 watt bulb is perfect.

Another advantage of the LED bulbs over the CFLs is the physical shape of the bulb.

This old tin lamp required a bulb that supported a shade, which the Phillips LED could do.

The "shape" and color temperature of the light emitted from LED bulbs can be different from incandescents and CFLs, and even from different manufactures and designs of other LED bulbs.  One technique is to buy one or two at a time, try each bulb in different lamps to see which work best where, and then buy more slowly as you find the right homes for each.  While this can take a bit of time for each bulb and lamp, given how long LED bulbs should last, it only needs to be done once a decade or less.

Buy them slowly and find the best spot for each: A Samsung "75W" LED on the far left; a Starpower "100w" indoor flood in the middle; and an earlier GE LED on the right 

One LED bulb that "focused " light too brightly upward on many fixtures worked perfectly in this hurricane style lamp.

Old lamps can be saved from landfills; less electricity is consumed by a house.

LEDs provide different color temperatures.  While the yellow light of incandescent bulbs can be successfully copied, perhaps downstairs lights will get slightly bluer as we can choose from more options.  
 As with all technology, expect the price to drop by 30% or more year over year on these LED bulbs.


Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Love, love, love these old hurricane lamps! May maternal grandmother had them in almost every room of here restored 200+ year old fieldstone farmhouse outside Philadelphia. Must see if good ol' Mom has a few that she might want to pass on to my family's household.

Best Regards,

Heinz-Ulrich von B.

Jacob Phelps said...

you have many beautiful lamps, Muffy! I personally love my Fenton lamps. They have been in my family for decades.

WRJ said...

I have never, ever encountered a CFL bulb that emits a pleasant color/tone/whatever of light. Walking into a room lit by them often gives the impression of being in a reptile's terrarium or a fishtank. So it's nice to hear that LED may be a viable alternative, though I am, for now, not convinced to move on from the new increased-efficiency incandescents I use since the cost and overall consumption savings, while real, are de minimis (for me).

Bernie said...

I'm skeptical of the technology. The first compact fluorescent bulbs were supposed to last ten years or more. That didn't work out. The LEDs are suppose to be more energy efficient than the Fluorescent but if you look at the label it's only a watt or two difference and the LEDs costs much more than the fluorescents. The LEDs are supposed to last a decade but I've heard that before. Give me back my incandescents.

Bitsy said...

Thank you for this post. We have been using the compact fluorescents where appropriate, but as you point out they are not optimal for all situations or lamps. We will definitely try out some of the alternatives you suggest.

May I add that you have some beautiful lamps.

WendyBee said...

What a great post on an important subject. I have a bunch of old lamps, and have been finding the best of the newest bulbs for each one. I love to update older things rather than throwing something out and starting over completely. It helps to have someone share what they've found to work best for them.

Paul Connors said...

One thing that fluorescents did have a negative impact on was Photography. With them, photos shot indoors without a Fluorescent filter exhibited a ghastly green cast with film. This was also the case with digital cameras unless one applied the in-camera filter.

Tungsten bulbs required filters, too to prevent the blue cast.

The LEDs, with their warmer light may just be the cure for that.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful lamps!! I love antique lighting, I love the mix of styles, textures, material, shades, and colors all in one room. Each lamp saying something different. However, I do abhor the new light bulbs, I agree with WRJ. When we learned incandescents were going the way of the Dodo Bird, we started squirreling away a healthy stockpile of incandescent full-spectrum bulbs. I'm hoping this stock pile takes us well into our 80's. --Holly in PA

Preppy With A Twist said...

What a GREAT article!!! I love to use old lamps in my rooms. They have a charm and glow that can't be found elsewhere. I have to say though I'm struggling with the new format of your website. I miss the archives on the side as I would frequently revisit posts there. I haven't been able to find a link to them on your site, and was wondering if you could tell me where I can them? Thank you for this WONDERFUL blog!!!

Anonymous said...

Your lamps are lovely! However, I don't care for any of the new bulbs I've tried so far. The CFLs never lasted any longer than the incandescent bulbs, and I don't care for the color of either the CFL or LED. To me, they always make a room feel cold. I do appreciate the lower power draw, so hopefully the technology will improve!

Linda said...

Love the old lamps.....only have one authentic brass one...would like to buy some more....anyone know of a good source?

Lane said...

I've had luck with a brand called Cree, perhaps from Lowe's? You can choose the spectrum you prefer, and the price is quite reasonable. I have all sorts of old lamps, and, so far, no qualitative difference, even in my bedside lamp which belonged to my great granny. I have some CFL's still that need to burn out!

Anonymous said...

An interesting post for someone who is dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. I have several antique lamps from the early 19th century, including a magnificent pair of hand-blown Sandwich glass whale oil lamps. Pairs are hard to come by; mine was originally purchased by my great-aunt Twiddie’s grandparents in the 1840’s.

I’ve eaten whale steak and it tasted a little rank, so I imagine burning this oil produced a sooty and foul odor. Lamps must have needed constant cleaning. I will say Twiddie’s are flawless; I can’t fine a single chip or crack of any significance.

Finding good lighting these days, however, is quite difficult. Much of the expensive stuff is overly formal and not particularly well made, as many lamps on the retail market are manufactured in Mexico. It’s far better to convert an antique object, such as the Chocolatina tin pictured here. In fact the entire collection in this post is attractive.


Anonymous said...

I love CFLs, not just for the energy savings, but also because they don't heat up the surrounding area. I used to break a sweat while reading by a 75W incandescent lamp on a summer night, but no more.

Be mindful of the Kelvin scale when purchasing CFLs; the higher the "K" rating, the "cooler" the color will be in the room, and that can make you feel anxious or depressed. I buy bulbs in the 2,700K-3,000K range because warm, yellow light makes me feel relaxed and upbeat. However, I recommend using bulbs around 5,000K wherever you put on makeup or try on new clothes, because the light is closer to natural daylight.

Patsy said...

Gas lighting is preppier than electric.....

William said...

@ Anonymous 10:06AM

I was about to make the same comments. I think the concept of buying bulbs in "watts" will lead to a lot of confusion. Lumens and Kelvins will be the guide from here on out.

IKEA has wonderful LED bulbs with a nice warm color around $5 a pop. Not too shabby. They can even be ordered online and shipped in the event that no one here would dare to set foot in that abomination of a "furniture" store.

This is the future. The bulbs are relatively cheap, save you money, are attractive to the eye, and last for a decade. Outside of rendered whale blubber, what could be better?

Mayes Hall said...

As long as it is bright enough from which to read a book, I'll take whatever comes.

Anonymous said...


On your Baldwin buffet lamp, I think you have your shade installed incorrectly. The threaded plastic ring is designed to hold down the "European fitter" part of the shade to the base of the socket. This way it can't accidentally get knocked off. These are great lamps ( longer made), if you can find them on the secondary market. We have a pair on our sideboard. Cheers!