What Light Sources Will Fade Artwork and Fabrics?
Randall Whitehead, IALD, compares the UV levels produced by various types of light bulbs.
 
Traditional incandescent lamps can damage art over time. Consider a high-CRI LED source instead.
Some light sources are known to accelerate the fading of fabrics and artwork. Is this an issue with the new ESL bulbs?
You're right, different light sources accelerate fading at different rates. It depends on the amount of ultraviolet (UV) light each particular light source produces. The worst culprit is natural daylight, followed at a distant second by incandescent and finally fluorescent. ESL (electron stimulated luminescence) bulbs are still close cousins to fluorescents in the way that they create light. These bulbs produce close to the same amount of UV as other fluorescent bulbs. Their main advantage over other fluorescents is that they contain no mercury. Fluorescent bulbs produce a small amount of UV, and until LEDs came on the market, they were the best bet. Only LEDs, which produce no ultraviolet light, completely protect fabrics and art from fading. Even if you are using LED sources, however, most rooms have windows that allow natural light in during the day. This will cause fabrics and art to fade over time. Closing the window shades during the day will help protect your possessions, but it will make the space feel a bit depressing. I recommended watching a John Hughes film. It always makes me feel better.
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 www.randallwhitehead.com for more information on books, upcoming seminars and the latest lighting trends.

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