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Shining some light on bulbs

doityourself

Deciding which kind of light best suits your environment is only the first step. Next comes the multitude of bulb options available in electrical shops in Cambodia

It seemed like there were some things in life that were constant: bad TV, death, taxes and lightbulbs. When have you had to think much about lightbulbs? Big number equals bright, small number equals not so bright.

But looking through the selection of bulbs at an electrical store here might make you a bit anxious due to the almost endless choices. There are many things to look for: voltage, plug style, wattage, color, size and the way they produce light.

First of all - 12 volt or 240 volt? Twelve-volt bulbs are for houses powered by car batteries. If you plug in a 12V bulb to your outlet, it will explode violently. Use 240V only!

When choosing the correct wattage, you want to make sure that you'll have enough light to read comfortably by. The more lights you have, the lower wattage you will need per light. If you have a lot of indirect lighting, you should use a lamp or overhead light for reading. Bulbs in the 25 watt to 40 watt range work for soft lighting, and 100W bulbs are very bright. If you're using fluorescent bulbs, there will be a comparative wattage on the box showing how bright the light is relative to an incandescent bulb.

Light ratings
Lightbulb emissions are usually rated as cool or warm. Cooler colours are in the blue-green range, and warm colors are yellow-orange. Cooler colours are better for work areas where you need to see more distinctly. Warm-coloured light causes things to be softer in appearance. Many kitchens and bathrooms use cool-coloured lights, while living rooms and bedrooms will use warm lights.

The most recognisable plug style is the screw-in type. The metal screw is one side of the circuit and the metal tip is the other. Please, no jokes on how these work.

Another style available here is the push-and-twist design, similar to car and motorcycle tail lights. These have two metal buttons on the base, which is where the circuit is made. The metal piece that holds the bulb to the base isn't part of the electrical circuit; it has a small pin on each side that slides into the notches of the outlet to hold it in place.

Halogens and some fluorescents attach light fixtures with small pins. There are many sizes and pin types, so you need to take the old bulb with you to size up with the new one. Sometimes the pins can be very stubborn when you pull them out.

An inside view
The original style of lightbulbs, the Edison type, use a filament of metal that can't move as much electricity as the rest of the circuit, so it heats up and starts to glow. Of course, all of the heat is a waste of energy, which is why there is such a push to switch to Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) that fit in many traditional screw-style outlets.

Halogen bulbs are simply incandescent bulbs with halogen gas inside. They glow very bright and very hot, which is why they are made with such thick glass. They work well as spotlights and are used in photography, but in a tropical climate they should be used sparingly in a home.

A fluorescent bulb contains a gas that produces invisible ultraviolet light (UV) when the gas is excited by electricity. The UV light hits the white coating inside the fluorescent bulb, and the coating changes it into light you can see. Because fluorescent bulbs don't use heat to create light, they are far more energy-efficient than regular incandescent bulbs. If you use a dimmer switch, you'll need to get a dimmable CFL bulb.

Another type on its way is the light-emitting diode, or LED, which are the most efficient lights made. The light on your phone or keychain is probably an LED.

Joe Rey-Barreau, a professor in architecture and interior design at the University of Kentucky, explains: "Light-emitting diodes resemble a very small computer chip - a sandwich of two very thin layers of glass with a chemical in between, that when charged with electricity emits powerful illumination and saves energy. They're extremely long-lasting, with 50 to 100 times more light and 50,000 to 100,000 more hours." They also come in many colours.

PP General Electrical (No 288 Monivong Blvd) and City Lighting (No 19DE Street 271) both have an ample selection of lights to choose from.
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If you have any questions about keeping your house in order, email Jet at diy@phnompenhpost.com.

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