Large or small, decorative or functional, bright or dim — know your options when you’re deciding which lights to choose for your home

With today's energy-efficiency concerns, many homeowners are seeking new applications for compact-fluorescent light bulbs (or "lamps," as they're called by lighting professionals). Pendant light fixtures may not be the best application for these energy-saving products, but that doesn't mean your pendant fixture needs to be an energy hog.

Most mini-pendants operate with 50-watt or 35-watt halogen lamps — in most cases, these mini-sized units are just too small to accommodate any other options. While that may sound like a step down in brightness from the 60-watt to 100-watt incandescent light bulbs you might be used to buying, experts say that isn't the case.

"A halogen lamp is more efficient than a standard incandescent," says Dennis Geier, director of sales and marketing for the Alfa brand of Des Plaines, Ill.-based Juno Lighting. By "efficient," Geier means that halogen lamps translate more electricity into actual light — measured in lumens — than incandescent models, so less of that energy is wasted as heat. A 50-watt halogen lamp produces approximately 910 lumens, while a 60-watt incandescent lamp, by comparison, produces between 690 lumens and 850 lumens, Geier says.

Larger pendant fixtures, such as single units used over a kitchen table or sink, are more frequently designed with incandescent lamps in mind, and may be candidates for compact fluorescent alternatives — a 15-watt compact fluorescent lamp produces almost as much light as a 75-watt incandescent product. However, not everyone may appreciate the resulting aesthetics.

"Part of the design of the pendant is the bulb," says Marilyn Zelinsky-Syarto, author of Complete Lighting Design: A Practical Design Guide to Perfect Lighting (Quarry Books, 2006). "It's really up to the homeowners if they can tolerate the bulb's brightness as they work or sit at the island or countertop. Some people can tolerate it to save on energy, others have to have the decorative bulbs that are typical for pendants."

Also, if dimming capability is critical to your design, you may want to stick with incandescent products, at least for the near term. Dimmable compact fluorescents are beginning to enter the market, but their dimming range is limited compared to that of incandescent technology. And compact fluorescent lamps should not be used in outside fixtures, as their light output drops along with the temperatures.

CTW Features