Column: A Luddite sees the light


By Pam Pommer

Guest Columnist


I don’t think I’m a Luddite.

I have a smart TV, which I hooked up myself. I’ve connected my own modem, router and cable boxes, along with all my computer peripherals. But I am a bit behind the curve with smartphones. So far, I just use it as a phone to make calls. No texting and limited data.

But the older I get, the more I find myself yearning for the good old simple days of yore. Back then, you’d buy a TV and plug it in. Same with a phone. And the only viruses we had to worry about were the ones that we humans could get.

When I decided to buy new lights for my kitchen, I never imagined I was embarking on yet another odyssey into modern technology. Besides two semi-flush ceiling lights, I wanted a pendant light above the sink.

A friend offered to install the lights, which saved me a great deal of money. I used incandescent bulbs in the new fixtures but soon became worried about the pendant light. The 25-watt bulb looked great, but the shade got so hot and its proximity to the valance had me worrying about a fire hazard.

A CFL bulb was out of the question due to its cold, “blue” light, so I checked out LED bulbs. A clerk at Menards tried to help me, but I became very confused and frustrated when he started talking about lumens and color temperature. Seriously? I said I just wanted an LED bulb equivalent to a 25-watt incandescent.

As he was a millennial, I informed him that in the “old days” we just looked at the wattage and didn’t have to think about lumens and “color temperature.” He immediately refuted that claim and showed me a package for a 40-watt incandescent bulb. There on the label were those dreaded “new” words. He stated that the Federal Trade Commission started requiring manufacturers to include lumens on packaging back in 2011. Whatever! And my “old days” go back a lot further than 2011. I walked out in a huff, determined to switch over to candle light.

The next day I trotted off to Home Depot. Although their display was easier for me to understand, I slowly started to learn that it was a lot more complicated than I wanted it to be. I finally realized that a watt was the amount of energy needed to send out light, not an indication of its brightness, (even though that was the association in our minds.) In the new world of LED bulbs, we should be looking at lumens, which measure the output of light.

Being LEDs use less energy, an LED bulb that uses 40 watts of energy will be much brighter than a 40-watt incandescent bulb. So even if the LED package states that it “replaces” a 40-watt bulb, the label will show that it only uses about 6 watts of energy and has 450 lumens.

And if all that isn’t confusing enough, there is also “color temperature” to consider. That rating can be expressed in Kelvins, or plain English.

  • Warm white = 2700K (typical incandescent light bulb)
  • Neutral white = 3000K (slightly less warm)
  • Very cool white = 6000K+ (daylight)

Being I wanted a very soft light over the sink, I looked for a “20W compatible LED bulb” but couldn’t find one. I considered a dimmable bulb, but I didn’t want to pay an electrician to install a dimmer switch.

Then I saw something that was a game changer: a Philips SceneSwitch bulb that was labeled a “60w replacement.” It goes from full brightness (800 lumens/2700K) to medium (320/2500K) and low (80/2200K) each time you flip the switch on and off in less than six seconds. Whatever level you settle on, the bulb remembers it going forward, until you change it to another level. (It also works in lamps and can be changed by twisting the lamp switch.)

The lowest setting was exactly what I was looking for. And for about $8, I consider this bulb a marvelous creation and a heck of a deal.

Ain’t technology grand?

Pam Pommer, a graduate of Lincoln Senior High School, works and lives in Bloomington, where she enjoys gardening and spending time with her shelties. She can be contacted at [email protected]


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