Choosing a Light Bulb

LED light options are presenting interior designers with a plethora of new lighting options. Image courtesy of http://www.armacostlighting.com/.

It is not uncommon for today’s consumer to be confused when it comes to choosing the right light bulb for their home.

ALA recently compiled a list of frequently asked questions, along with their answers, to help consumers pick the right bulb.

What types of bulbs are available?

There are three basic types:

1. Halogen incandescent
2. CFL (Compact Fluorescent)
3. LED (Light Emitting Diode)

The halogen incandescent is very similar to the traditional household incandescent bulb, except it is somewhat more efficient.

The compact fluorescent, or CFL, is more efficient still, but its use is expected to decline due to the growing popularity of LEDs.

Today, LEDs are the most efficient, longest lasting, and often the most suitable for home lighting. The new models look very similar to traditional bulbs, and the slightly higher up-front cost of these bulbs is mitigated by their extremely long life.

I am standing in the store looking at light bulbs; what do I need to look for?

Check the package for the following:

  • Lumens: How bright is the bulb?
  • Color: Is the light from the bulb a warm 2700K or a cool 4000K?
  • CRI: Does the bulb render colors beautifully? 80+ is good, 90+ is great!
  • Dimmable: Can I use this bulb with a dimmer switch? What type of dimmer is compatible?

Bulbs are now market in “lumens” rather than “watts.” Why the change?

Watts only measure the amount of power a bulb draws. Bulbs with the same wattage may put out very different amounts of light. Lumens tell you how much light a bulb actually emits.

Light bulbs seem to come in a choice of colors now; which color is best?

Check the “Lighting Facts” label on the bulb carton. The label is required for all bulbs sold at retail for residential use and provides operating information as well as color information about the light from the bulb. Color information is shown as “Light Appearance.” A bulb that provides “warm” light with a rating of 2700 to 3000K (K stands for Kelvins) will closely match the color of a standard incandescent bulb. Bulbs with higher Kelvin ratings, such as 4000 to 5000K, will appear blue-white or “cool” in color. See the bulb lit before buying it, if you can.

How is the efficiency of a light bulb measured and rated?

Efficiency (or efficacy) is the light output of the bulb (lumens) divided by its power input (watts), i.e. lumens per watt. The standard household bulb of a few years ago rated for 60 watts generated around 800 lumens and had an efficacy of about 13 lumens/watt. Today, an LED bulb rated for 800 lumens would draw about 8 watts, for an efficacy of 100 lumens/watt, making it significantly more efficient!

With all of this new information, choosing a light bulb for your home can seem overwhelming and complicated. A lighting professional at an ALA lighting showroom will be able to help you navigate the world of light bulbs and ensure the bulb you chose is the right one for you.

For additional FAQs on light bulbs, click here.

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