Using CFLs with Lamp Shades
Lamp shades may not last longer with CFLs, but they do hide the source, our expert points out.
As a lamp shade retailer, I assumed fluorescent bulbs would lengthen the life of lamp shades, which normally last 8-10 years, because they are cooler than incandescents. A few customers have told me differently. Do you have any statistics on this?
I did my research but could not find any specific studies that compared the life of a lamp shade using a CFL to one using an incandescent source. I did find some really weird studies, though, and lost about half a day perusing them. But I digress. The bottom line is that 80 percent of the power consumed by incandescents is converted into heat instead of light. On average, CFLs produce 90 percent light and 10 percent heat. Heat and ultraviolet light make shades crispy over time, so it is logical to assume that they will last much longer with CFLs. Of course, the real enemy is natural light, which has the highest UV content of all light sources. For this reason, shades that are placed in the picture window will fade in a short amount of time, just like the fabric on the furniture. Here’s what I know: Lamp shades, especially those with diffusers at the top for table lamps and at the bottom for hanging lamps, are a perfect way to do stealth energy-efficient lighting. If you use a CFL with a 2,700K color temperature that is also dimmable using an electronic ballast, no one will know it is fluorescent. If they can’t see a bulb that looks like a Softy ice cream cone, they assume it is an incandescent source. The moment someone sees a fluorescent lamp, they instantly hate it because of all the nasty versions we grew up with. This question did bring up a terrifying childhood memory for me. My parents kept the plastic covers on all their lamp shades and had plastic slipcovers made for all their furniture. This scarred me for life. I still have a deep-seated fear of Ziploc bags.
Randall Whitehead lighting designer
Randall Whitehead, IALD

Randall Whitehead, IALD, is a professional lighting designer and author. His books include "Residential Lighting, A Practical Guide." Whitehead has worked on projects worldwide, appeared on the Discovery Channel, HGTV and CNN, and he is regular guest on Martha Stewart Living Radio. Visit his website for more information on books, upcoming seminars and the latest lighting trends.

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