Warming Up to Cool Light

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Farhad Manjoo writes in Slate today about the holy grail in indoor lighting: an energy-efficient bulb that’s dimmable and produces nice warm light. It comes from a company called Switch, and it all sounds very nice. But I found this parenthetical pretty interesting:

(The 60- and 75-watt-alternative bulbs are also available in neutral white, which Sharenow says is a popular color in many different places around the world—people in Japan, India, and other Asian countries can’t stand the yellow light we find comforting, Sharenow says.)

Obviously people don’t like bulbs that flicker, can’t be dimmed, and don’t come on immediately. But the recent freakout over the end of incandescent bulbs has been at least equally driven by an insistence that a less yellowy light than Thomas Edison bequeathed to us is simply intolerable. This is, and always has been, nuts. It’s a product of habit, not a law of human optics. The warm incandescent bulbs we use today are closer to candlelight than to sunlight, and I’ll bet that every single person in America would very quickly get accustomed to a more neutral color in light bulbs if they’d just use them for a while and allow their old habits to die out.

In any case, if the Switch folks are on the level, they’ve got an LED bulb that doesn’t flicker, comes on immediately, can be dimmed, and is available in old-school “warm” white or a more neutral white. So now you’ll have your choice. But the neutral bulb puts out more light per watt, and it’s almost certainly a better light source for anyone willing to give it a chance.

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