Choosing the right lighting for your needs may seem intimidating. With all the information available and the different types on the market, here are the basics you need to know when purchasing a light bulb.
LED CFL or Incandescent
The first step is in purchasing a light bulb is to choose the right type. Here are a few things to know about the three most common lamp types.
Incandescent offers a warm glow in appearance. It is often used in decorative lighting intended for ambiance more than for general lighting due to its lack of high lumen output capabilities. It is the least energy efficient of the three types, but it is a favorite because of the attractive appearance and warm color temperature.
CFL stands for compact fluorescent light. Designed to be more efficient an application to a wider range of fixture types based on the shape, CFL is an improvement over traditional troffer-style tube lighting. This type of lighting can be used for either ambient or general lighting needs because it offers a better lumen out than incandescent lamps. This is the most common lamp type used in most residential areas because its affordable, high performing, and offers long-lasting operation.
LED, or light-emitting diodes, are quickly becoming a popular choice for several reasons. They offer the best in terms of wattage to lumen output, color temperature, longevity, and heat production. They are also money saving and energy saving which makes them a popular choice for the concerned consumer.
Another important aspect of purchasing a light bulb is the lumen. If you choose an option that offers too many lumens for the space, it will be overpowering and too bright. If you do not choose a high enough lumen count, the space may appear dimly lit or shadowy in areas. Here are a few things to know about lumens.
Know your space. If you are looking for a bulb for a table lamp to provide task lighting or a bulb for an accent light in the bathroom, it is important to know the space you are trying to light. If you are looking for a dimmer light source for ambiance stay below 1000 lumens whereas anything used for general or task lighting should be above 1000 as a guideline.
Do not confuse lumens with the light appearance. Most of what we perceive as light appearance is a result of the color temperature of the bulb and not the lumen. Lumen is essentially brightness related to visibility. If you want a dimmer light, choose a lower lumen. If you want better visibility without being too harsh, choose a higher lumen in a warmer rather than cooler color temperature.
The matter of color temperature is often confused with lumen. Let’s clear that up!
Color temperature is measured on the Kelvin scale ranging from 2700K (incandescent) to 7000K (LED). It is important to note that each bulb type offers a range within this scale with incandescent being the most limited and LED being the vastest in options. When choosing the color temperature, you should consider the tasks you will perform in the area to get the best fit. For example, you may want a warmer color temperature in the bedroom and a cooler temperature in the home office.
Warmer: Warmer light is closer to the yellow end of the spectrum. It offers an inviting warmth that is easy on the eyes and creates a relaxing ambiance for accent lighting. All three types of light bulbs are available at this end of the Kelvin scale. A warmer temperature is not ideal for task or general lighting because it may seem dimmer to the eyes and limit visibility for things like reading or cooking.
Cooler: A cooler light is less yellow and closer to a white or even blueish white at the higher end of the scale. Cool light more closely mimics daylight which makes a higher color temperature in the cool range ideal for task and general lighting because it helps with focus and visibility.
The final matter to consider is the wattage. The wattage is how many amps of power are pulled to create the specified lumen output of the solution. This factor matters because wattage determines how efficient the solution is in terms of energy being consumed. The goal is to choose the highest lumen you need with the lowest possible wattage to get the best energy efficient solution. For instance, an LED bulb can produce up to 3000 lumens on a lower wattage of power ranging from 10-20 watts whereas an incandescent bulb can produce the same lumen output yet consumes an average of 60 watts to do the same job.