Q: Please tell me which energy-saving lightbulbs to buy. We've tried many different ones, but they either don't give enough light to read by or make the room too yellow. How do we buy a CFL bulb that equals a 100-watt incandescent? Maureen Wood, via e-mail
A: You're not alone! I've had several letters asking this question. The world of compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) is confusing because wattages and packaging information seem to vary among manufacturers. Here are some fast facts to help you choose the right bulbs for your home -- and the planet.
The colour of light
Compact fluorescents are now available in a variety of colours to suit different applications. The colour is determined by the kelvin temperature (see chart below). A lower kelvin temperature means the light will be warmer, or slightly yellowish, while higher kelvin temperatures mean a cooler colour of light that's slightly bluish.
Wattage the amount of energy used by a bulb
Lumen the amount of light emitted by a bulb
Kelvin the temperature of a colour
Warm light light with a yellowish cast
Cool light light with a bluish cast
Compact fluorescent stats
• CFLs use 75 per cent less electricity than incandescent bulbs.
• The long lifespan of compact fluorescents -- five to 13 years -- means they enter the waste stream less often.
• CFLs cost more upfront than incandescents, but you'll recoup the funds since they last longer and you save on your electricity bill.
• CFLs have come quite a long way since the first flickering bluelight twister bulbs introduced a few years ago. Now you can buy a compact fluorescent for almost any lighting application, including recessed fixtures, lamps, trilights, chandeliers and outdoor fixtures.
What watt is what?
CFL bulb standard incandescent
9-11 W CFL bulb = 40 W Standard incandescent
13-15 CFL bulb = W 60 W Standard incandescent
18-22 W CFL bulb = 75 W Standard incandescent
23-29 W CFL bulb = 100 W Standard incandescent
38-42 W CFL bulb = 150 W Standard incandescent
CFLs & mercury
CFLs contain low levels of mercury. So when they do burn out, it's important to dispose of them properly; don't throw them in the trash. Check with your municipality for information on recycling. Or bring them to your local IKEA store. The Swedish furniture giant -- always a champion of environmental causes -- now offers free recycling.
Halogens: another bright idea
Many people -- especially designers -- still feel that the light emitted by CFLs isn't up to par. Another sticking point: there are only a few CFLs on the market that are compatible with dimmer switches. Halogen bulbs that are designed to fit standard sockets, like General Electric Edison, General Electric Reveal Halogen and Philips Halogená, are good alternatives. I'm a big fan of halogens. They're up to 10 per cent brighter than incandescents and last up to three times longer -- not quite the lifespan of CFLs, but still better than incandescents. They provide crisp, bright light -- whites appear whiter and colours more vibrant -- and they're dimmable, too.
Q: I love neutral colours, and I know lots of big-name designers do, too. But why do their rooms look fabulous while mine just look boring? Janice Wong, Winnipeg
A: When the pros opt out of using the bolder sections of the colour wheel, they amp up the other design elements in their bag of tricks. Here are five ways they -- and you -- can create neutral rooms that are inspired rather than insipid.
1 The right neutrals Just because a room is neutral doesn't mean there's no colour. Consider trading in muddy taupes and tans for today's fresher neutrals, which are crisper and more grey based. The best neutral rooms combine several different shades.
2 Shapely furniture In a monochromatic room, the shapes of your furniture and accessories are of utmost importance. Furnish your room with pieces featuring various leg styles, and combine straight and curvy profiles.
3 A bold gesture Whether you do it with artwork (the giant abstract in the room at left), lighting or accessories a neutral room needs at least one statement piece.
4 Mood lighting Creative lighting design is the best way to show off subtle variations in colour and texture. Customize the mood according to the occasion by combining every different source of lighting: natural light,
recessed and other overhead fixtures set on dimmers, uplighting, artwork lighting, accent lamps and candles.
5 Texture embellishment Delight the eye and your sense of touch by combining three or more textures in a room: shiny metals, silk, nubby linen or wool, plush velvet or faux fur, soft carpet and buttery smooth leather. Create texture by adding pleats or tucks to draperies or slipcovers, or add fringe or beaded trim to cushions.
Q: My husband and I recently had our oak floors refinished. Now that they look so beautiful, how do we care for them and keep that shiny new look? Carrie Nordstrom, via e-mail
A: I have newly finished maple floors in my Toronto home and keep them looking great with my Dyson DC14 vacuum, followed by cleaning with Bona Swedish Formula hardwood floor cleaner and a microfibre mop (buy them at local hardwood flooring retailers or online at bona.com). Bona works wonders and is environmentally friendly. To protect the floor from scratches, I bought a bunch of felt pads and put them on the bottom of every furniture leg that touches the floor. Oh yes, and no more high heels or hard-sole shoes indoors. Treat yourself and your husband to soft-sole loafers -- both have more style and support than fluffy
slippers but are just as gentle on wood floors.