When looking for an energy efficient alternative for dimmable lighting applications, you have many different options.However, one of the biggest sources of confusion is the difference between hot and cold cathode dimmable fluorescent light bulbs. To determine which one is right for you, just ask yourself a few questions.
How low do you need to dim your lights?
Dimmable hot cathode light bulbs can reliably dim down to 20% of their light output, whereas cold cathode bulbs reliably dim down to 5% of their light output. If you need to dim the lights very low, such as in a movie theatre, then cold cathode bulbs are best for you. If you don’t need to dim that low, then either option will suit your needs.
How much light output do you need when the lights are fully turned on?
Dimmable hot cathode bulbs provide up to 2,000 lumens, and dimmable cold cathode bulbs provide up to 750 lumens*. If you are dimming your lights to a very low light output, such as in movie theatres, then cold cathode light bulbs will give you all the light you need. However, if your application needs more than 750 lumens, such as some hotels and restaurants, then hot cathode light bulbs are better for your application.
*Lumen rating for cold cathode light bulbs based on cold cathode bulbs used as incandescent light bulb replacements.
Does sacrificing life matter to you?
Dimmable hot cathode light bulbs that are consistently lit to a dimming state will experience a decrease in product life. Cold cathode light bulbs will not experience shorter life no matter how often or low they are dimmed because their cathode design is more durable.
Do you want your energy efficient light bulbs to look like your incandescent bulbs?
Dimmable hot and cold cathode bulbs are available in a variety of familiar shapes and sizes, including the standard A shape, reflectors, globes, and candles. If your light bulbs are part of an overall design scheme, such as in a restaurant, you might prefer the familiar look of covered fluorescent light bulbs. Note that covered fluorescent light bulbs take longer to warm up to full brightness, and the hot cathode covered dimmable light bulbs have a shorter life than bare spiral hot cathode bulbs. If your light bulbs are hidden by fixtures or the style of bulb is not important, then you should also consider bare spiral dimmable bulbs.
Are your light bulbs in hard-to-reach areas?
If your light bulbs are in hard-to-reach areas, such as a ballroom chandelier, then the long life (up to 25,000 hours) of cold cathode light bulbs is a better option for you because it helps reduce expensive maintenance costs and relieves you of the hassle of changing light bulbs in difficult locations. If you can easily change your light bulbs, then either option will work for you.
Do you need your light bulbs to warm up to full brightness quickly?
Bare spiral hot cathode fluorescent light bulbs reach full brightness much quicker than covered hot and cold cathode light bulbs (unless your covered CFL light bulbs have instant warm technology). Bare spiral fluorescent light bulbs reach full brightness in an average of one minute or less, whereas covered fluorescent light bulbs take an average of three minutes or less to reach full brightness. (Warm-up times are for Energy Star qualified bulbs; other fluorescent bulbs may vary.)
By answering these simple questions, you will be sure to find the right dimmable fluorescent light bulb to suit your needs.