Choosing the Right LED Bulbs

screen-shot-2017-02-24-at-10-28-07-amI recently decided it was time to improve the lighting in my home. I had a mixture of burnt-out and working compact fluorescent bulbs, LED bulbs, as well as, a few remaining old school incandescent bulbs in my fixtures. I still hadn’t updated any of my light switches since the home was built in 1997 and none had dimmer switches, which I had planned to install for years. Flash back to last weekend when I had some time to commit to this seemingly small DIY project. In hindsight, the easiest part of the whole electrical/light buying process was my decision to purchase LED lighting. After doing a little research online I determined that although LED lights are more expensive than CFL, they are way more energy efficient, generate almost no heat or UV rays, last longer (which is great for hard to reach fixtures as they would now rarely require changing) and turn on to full brightness instantly. Trying to save time, I ran to the closest grocery store to purchase the bulbs. Once I got to the store, however, things got complicated as it became clear I had not done enough research. I was faced with decisions like choosing the right colour temperature, wattage, Lumens and bulb style. I was also mistaken in thinking that all LED lights are created equally and are compatible with all dimmer switches. I was wrong. And when I finished changing the light bulbs and tried the dimmer switch for the first time the lights started to flicker and hum. An internet search and look at the light bulb box easily highlighted that I had mistakenly purchased non-dimmable LED’s.   So back to the store I went. Although this time I was armed with the knowledge I needed to make the right purchase for my new light switches and my family’s lighting needs.

Although I am not an expert in lighting here is some information I’ve compiled from online sources to help you make your best LED lighting decisions and to avoid some of the pitfalls I encountered by not researching beforehand:

Buy dimmable LED light bulbs if you are using, or plan to use, a dimmer switch

Some LED bulbs offer dimmability. They are slightly more expensive, but worth it if you decide at a later date to upgrade your switches to dimmers. Check the packaging ensure you choose the right bulb that is compatible with your dimmer. Otherwise, like me, you might waste your money and time purchasing light bulbs that will buzz, flicker or just fail to work. Two reputable manufacturers of CFL/LED dimmers are Leviton and Lutron; both provide online lists of bulbs they’ve verified will work with their dimmers.

 Shop for Lumens, not Watts

Although Watts measure how much energy the light bulb draws, when purchasing incandescent light bulbs in the past most people referred to the watts to know what to expect in terms of brightness. It seemed pretty easy to determine how much light to expect when comparing a 60-watt incandescent bulb to a 100-watt incandescent bulb. When purchasing LED lights it is difficult to convert incandescent watts to LED watts. Therefore, it is recommended to use Lumen (the amount of light the bulb gives off) instead of Watts when determining the brightness and number of lights required to illuminate your room.

To replace a 150-watt incandescent bulb, look for an LED rated at 2600 lumens (25 to 28 LED watts) Here’s a helpful comparison chart I found online that may be useful:

Incandescent LED Lumens
25 watts 3-4 watts 250
40 4-5 450
60 6-8 800
75 9-13 1,100
100 16-20 1,600
125 21-23 2,000
150 25-28 2,600

 

Get the light colour you want

LED bulbs come in a range of colours and there are now more options than the harsh white light from older LEDs. You can find various shades of white, from soft/warm white (yellow-tinted similar to incandescent/fire), bright white/natural, and daylight (bright light that mimics daylight). Check a bulb’s package for its light colour (shown by its temperature on the Kelvin Scale) and think about which light colour will work best in each room. Lower Kelvin numbers mean warmer-coloured light. The higher the Kelvin number, the bluer and brighter the light. For example: Yellow light/soft/warm-whites typically are from 2600-3500 Kelvin (K). White/Natural Whites are typically from 3600-4500K. Blue/Day/Daylight white lights typically range from 5000-6500K.) A few other tidbits I learned online about light colour you might want to consider: Older eyes often react better in cooler colour temperatures. Women often prefer warmer colours than men. Task lighting is better if cooler. Cooler whites can raise attention/awareness. Warmer whites can soften environments and make for a more relaxed space. Warmer whites a more likely to mask the true colour of objects, adding a yellow tint.

The light colour you prefer is an aesthetic choice and is different depending on your needs.  However here is a general guide that matches some of my preferences for lighting in each room of my home. In Bedrooms where I want the atmosphere to calm and induce sleep I prefer a warm white light (2600-3500 Kelvin (K)). I thought it was important for my Living Room to have a mix of light sources in order to adapt to different occasions like entertaining guests or relaxing so I chose a combination of warm white (2600-3500K) and natural white (3600-4500K) lighting. Alternatively, when lighting my Home Office I wanted to maximize my ability to be productive, stay focused, alert and energized and therefore, chose lighting that mimics daylight (3600-4500K). Lighting in any Kitchen can be a little more complicated depending on its layout. However, since I start my mornings in the kitchen and it is basically treated as a workspace for cooking/homework/entertaining I chose daylight emitting bulbs (5000-6500K) over the kitchen counters with a dimmable option. Similarly I wanted a balance between overly bright and drowsy dim over my dining room table and opted for a warm/natural dimmable light (2600-3500K). This allows for the perfect brightness and ambience depending on the time of day and the occasion. In my bathrooms I chose brighter lighting options that also mimics daylight (3600-4500K).

Bulb Base Type and Bulb Shape

Finally, you’ll need to make sure you get the right bulb that fits the base of your fixture and ensure you match the bulb shape to your fixture. Most common household fixtures have Edison standard (“screw-in”) bases. LED bulbs also come in a number of unfamiliar shapes, diameters and lengths including spiral bulbs, different types of globes, spotlights, floodlights and some shaped like candle flames. Prior to purchase know your bulb base configuration.

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