Lamping & Technical Definitions


In the world of lighting, a “lamp” actually refers to a light bulb.  A table or floor lamp as many of us think of them are actually “portable light fixtures” or portables.  All references to lamping on this page reference light bulbs in particular. There have been many changes to lamping technology due to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which included several provisions about light bulbs, starting with the phase out of the 100-watt light bulb in 2012 and continuing with the 75-watt & 60-watt light bulbs in 2013 & 2014.  This isn’t all bad news.  Lamping technology has remained virtually unchanged since its inception and widespread adoption in the 1920s and 1930s.  These new rules have made way for more efficient light technology to emerge that preserves the look and feel of the incandescent light we all love while also saving us money on our utility costs.  Also, many lamps were not affected by the federal regulations, including all standard “chandelier” type light bulbs.

Important Lamping Terms:

CRI – Color Rendering Index
The CRI of a light source, a number from 1-100, indicates how accurately a color is revealed when illuminated by a light source. Natural daylight has a CRI of 100.  Typical roadway lights that have an orange glow (also known as High Pressure Sodium lamps) have a CRI of around 25, meaning that color are muddled and indistinct.  Most halogen and incandescent lamps have a CRI of close to 100, which makes them ideal for use in decorative light fixtures in your home.

Color Temperature
Every lamp has a specific color temperature that is projected from the lamp when it is energized.  Cool color temperatures in lamps translate as a blue-toned light.  Warm color temperatures appear as yellow/orange-tinted light.  Color temperatures are measured in degrees Kelvin.  The most common color temperatures in lamps range from 1,700K (a match flame) through 6,500K (a daylight, overcast sky) although the actual scale of temperatures is much bigger.  In residential applications, most lamps will range from 2,700K (warm white) to 4,100K (cool white).  A standard incandescent lamp is 2,700K.

Watts are the measure of power input to the light source.  Watts refer to energy consumed to illuminate a lamp only.  Wattage ratings do not measure light output.

Lumens are the measurement of light output of a lamp.  For example, a standard incandescent lamp might consume 100 watts of energy and it emits 1,750 lumens of light output.

Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are new electronically based light sources.  LEDs do not have a filament that glows like an incandescent lamp nor do they have a mercury-based gas that illuminates under power as in all fluorescent forms of lighting.  Rather, LEDs are a type of light with more in common to your TV screen and computer monitor than traditional light bulbs.  LEDs require a driver (to convert household current to the voltage needed by the particular LED it is matched with) and a heat sink (to dissipate the heat and avoid damage to the electronic circuit boards).  LED technology is growing and advancing at an extremely rapid state.  LEDs consume far less energy than their incandescent counterparts and will last much longer, but there is a trade-off in up front costs and the potential for failure of the sensitive electronic components.