How do you choose the best light bulbs for outdoor lighting in cold weather? We discuss how cold weather affects light bulbs, what the best attributes are for an outdoor bulb in extreme temperatures, whether or not LED’s are good for outside use and how you should go about choosing your next set of cold weather light bulbs.
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Yes, it does. In fact, many people have to replace their light bulbs for outdoor lighting after just a few months of winter use.
Cold temperatures and below freezing weather in the winter months put all outdoor lighting to the test, especially the finely produced light bulb and lamp. Metals and plastics over time become brittle and can shrink and crack as they cool. The same is true for the filament in a halogen light bulb and the connections that hold it together, which can break with extreme cold or even just exposure to below freezing temperatures.
It’s not just the cold but the warming by day if in direct sunlight even in winter, to quickly sink back to low temperatures once the sun is gone, adds wear and tear to lighting and light bulbs.
Suffice it to say, some bulbs are not designed and engineered primarily for use outdoors through winter months. So if you live in a part of the country that experiences cold weather for most or all of the year, it might be best to purchase bulbs specifically designed and tested for use during winter months so they will last through more than one season.
You expect your cold weather light bulbs to immediately create light and last a long time if at all possible, and these two key factors are challenged in extreme temperatures with some technologies.
Some bulbs get brighter faster than others, and this can save you time before the big game or outdoor event. CFL, fluorescent, metal halide and sodium are very slow indeed especially compared to LED.
More efficient bulbs such as LED reduce the power needed to generate light, which is why they are now used in most outdoor lighting applications. Compared to halogen and incandescant, LED has a fractionally smaller change in temperature and therefore reduced stresses on the bulb when turned on and off. This means that in colder weather there is even less of a change, keeping the LED running in a less stressful working environment and therefore lasting longer.
Quality exterior bulbs are engineered for outdoor use withstanding high degrees of temperature change, humidity and the natural elements. The best light bulbs for cold weather have special coatings on glass that resist frosting in colder climates or thicker insulation to protect internal components from extreme cold.
Halogen light bulbs are not the best choice for cold weather. They produce a good quality light that is comparable to an incandescent bulb but they burn hot, too hot if exposed to below freezing temperatures and especially direct sun. The filament inside the bulb can become brittle and break.
Mercury Vapor is another type of bulb not made for cold weather use, though some mercury light bulbs are sold as “outdoor lights.” High heat output makes them an energy waster in winter months too; the high temperature vaporizes the mercury inside to create light but also creates a lot of heat.
Incandescent light bulbs, standard household and business lighting is not the best choice for cold weather use. They are okay in summer months but can be inefficient when exposed to below freezing temperatures because they emit a lot of heat as well as produce light. The filament inside the bulb will break if it gets too cold making them unreliable through winter months.
Fluorescent light bulbs are more energy efficient than incandescent and halogen lights but they have their drawbacks too. Fluorescents use a gas plasma to create the light inside the bulb so there is heat output, which means it will not be as bright if exposed to extreme cold or direct sunlight during winter months because of the drop in internal temperature. The cold will also shorten the life of a fluorescent light bulb.
Halogen Quartz Lamps are good for cold weather use because they produce a lot of heat and can be very bright. They come in different shapes, sizes and wattages but all burn hot enough to stay lit even if the surrounding air or conditions dip below freezing temperatures. The quartz tube is made from special glass that resists expansion at extremely low temperatures.
HID lights, both Metal Halide and High Pressure Sodium are a good choice for outdoor lighting in cold weather because they produce little heat but lots of light making them efficient regardless of the temperature outside. They have high wattage bulbs that burn brightly even if it’s extremely cold out or there is snow on the ground. The metal halide lamps have a quartz bulb and an arc tube containing special salts to protect it from the cold.
The best outdoor bulb is LED.
LED lights are another good choice for outdoor lighting in winter months because they produce little heat, no UV rays or IR light that can fade fabrics and carpets over time. They also come with various temperature ratings depending on their use. They are also shockproof and can withstand extreme cold temperatures.
So just why are the best outdoor led light bulbs really good in the cold?
LEDs or light emitting diodes, are a very viable choice for outdoor lighting and bulbs. LED bulbs can last longer than other types of lighting both inside the house or out, giving them another advantage over incandescent, halogen quartz lamps and metal halide/high pressure sodium lights that burn up more quickly when exposed to below freezing conditions.
The best LED lights for winter will have a high light output or lumen value, which means the bulb is well insulated and made of thick materials that keep internal components from being exposed to extreme temperatures.
LEDs produce more heat than other types of bulbs so should not be used in enclosed fixtures or lamps that cannot dissipate the heat away from the electronics inside.
The cold weather can cause the insulation inside the bulb to break down and start letting out heat from within which will generate an internal short circuit. This reduces the life expectancy of your LED light bulb exponentially.
So we’ve learnt that LED is the primary choice for standard applications around work and home. You may even notice LED is being used in street and highway lighting and all kinds of outdoor applications.
However, LED still needs to be used properly to last. Here are some attributes to consider for the best LED bulbs for extreme temperatures.
The light output is always an important consideration of course, but it’s even more important in cold weather because the light intensity will decrease when bulbs are exposed to either extreme heat or cold.
Cold weather LED light bulbs should have a higher lumen value, above 70 lumens per watt is best for extremely hot and very cold temperatures. The output should also be consistent from one LED lamp to another of the same make and model.
Lumens are the amount of light emitted by a bulb, which is measured in footcandles or lux depending on where it’s being used. A higher lumen value means more light will be produced under extreme conditions so you won’t have to worry about burning out your LED lights whether it’s hot summers or extremely cold winters.
The wattage is the power consumed to create the light and not to confused with the light output as older technologies of incandescent did, associating watts with output. This is no longer the case with LED.
LED is a solid state lighting technology. No fragile burning filament to protect from the elements and the stresses of movement. The LED chip is mounted on a printed circuit board so it cannot be easily damaged. LED is actually a semiconductor that emits light when an electric current passes through it, which makes them shockproof and more durable than incandescent or halogen bulbs.
Having an outdoor light that is on from dusk to dawn can be very helpful to avoid the light being left on all day wasting energy and unnecessarily stressing the light source.
In some cases, this might even be mandated by local laws so check with your municipality before buying and installing any outdoor light bulb types for winter cold weather applications. It’s also best if the lights have a photocell or mechanical mechanism that will automatically turn them on when it gets dark and turn them off when the sun rises.
The best outdoor LED light bulbs for winter are bright, long-lasting LEDs with a high lumen value that produce heat to dissipate quickly without getting damaged by extreme temperatures in cold weather.
It’s important to make sure they have an automatic on/off feature so they turn on when it gets dark and off when the sun comes up so you can always have a streetlight that’s bright enough to see by, even in winter cold weather.
When choosing the best outdoor bulb for your home you should look at not only how much illumination will be produced but also where it will go.
For example, floodlights produce wide spread light with less intense beam angles while spotlights are designed for more directional higher intensity lighting that reaches further or penetrates through obstacles. This is important to consider especially in cold weather when it may be very bright outside but the sun goes down earlier and you need a different type of outdoor light bulb for your specific application.
In the end, it all comes down to what you want from a light bulb and how much you are willing to spend on replacement bulbs that will work in extreme temperatures without burning out too quickly or being damaged by cold weather.
If this sounds confusing don’t worry because we have put together a list of the best outdoor light bulbs for cold weather that you can use to get started.
– Philips 15667 BR30 LED Floodlight – Best Brightness and Lumen Output in Extreme Conditions
– Sylvania 44559 Motion Sensor Security Spotlight – Robust Design With Long Lifespan
These older technologies are on their way to obsolescence. However, some are still used so here are several features of an outdoor bulb designed for cold weather use:
The filament material should have close tolerances and tight connections so it does not break or crack as the metal contracts and expands. – The glass outer envelope should be thick to absorb heat from the filament during use or in storage so it doesn’t contract too rapidly when cold outside, causing damage over time.
An outdoor light bulb should have a coating on both base and tip of its glass envelope that can generate an insulating barrier to protect the filament from rapid temperature changes during use.
The bulb design itself should have a long neck so it can dissipate heat up and away from the delicate filament, again for protection in storage or when used outside. – Look for an outdoor light bulb that has been engineered specifically with cold weather performance in mind because not all bulbs are.
, the owner of Orange Lighting qualified and worked as an interior designer in 1993 before specialising in lighting working on high profile projects based in London. Since starting Orange Lighting Ltd in 2003 he has been sharing his knowledge and unique teaching style mostly to his designer clients, offering practical real life advice born from running a busy consultancy and lighting supply business. Launching in 2020, his blog has evolved into Quick & Easy Lighting, curating some 25 years design experience into making the lighting choice and design process achievable and easy to understand for all.
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