LED Lighting Buying Guide
LED Buyer Guide Overview
Lightbulbs have undergone something of a revolution in the last decade. Ever since Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), the days of incandescent light bulbs have been numbered. Customers now have a wider choice of available lighting that is more energy-efficient, environmentally friendly, and cheaper! The standards of lighting have changed, and the era of LED lighting is upon us. But, with the broader choice comes more uncertainty. What kind of LED bulbs do you really need? How many lumens? What even are lumens anyway? Don't worry - we've got you covered in our LED buyers guide!
First thing's first - what are lumens? Lumens are a measurement of light. People often thought "watts" measured light, as that's how incandescent bulbs were labelled, but instead, watts are how you measure the amount of energy needed to power a bulb. LED bulbs are far more energy-efficient than incandescent lights, so the number of lumens given out by a 10 watt LED light may well be equivalent to the same lumens put out by a 100 watt conventional incandescent lightbulb.
LEDs vs Fluorescent Lighting
LED and Fluorescent lighting are both more efficient than traditional incandescent lighting, but at the end of the day are quite different. LED lights use tiny light-emitting diodes (hence the name LED), while fluorescent lighting uses glass tubes and can easily shatter if dropped. As a result, LED lights are more durable. According to Ylighting, LED lighting also has a five times longer lifespan and is more frequently dimmable. Fluorescent lamps also contain traces of mercury and are not as easily recyclable in some states.
How Many Lumens Will Be Enough?
This is a tricky question. Thanks to generations of incandescent bulbs, we're used to thinking of our lighting in watts. The more lumens, the more light. However, in their LED buyers guide, CNET provided a handy cheatsheet of the number of lumens you should go for depending on the wattage of the bulb you're replacing. For example, if you need to replace a 40W bulb, 450 lumens should cover it. For 60W, you need 800 lumens. For a 75W bulb, think 1100 lumens, and finally, for a 100W bulb, 1600 lumens.
Another thing you might want to consider if you're buying LED lighting is color temperature. While measured on the Kelvin scale, heat has nothing to do with it. Instead, it's about the measure of color the light produces, which is yellow on the low end, blueish on the higher end and white in the middle. Think of it as a flame. This all depends on preference, but here's the cool thing about LED lights. You can often change the color temperature on an LED light if you happen to buy a smart light. You can't do this with any other bulb.
CRI (Color Rendering Index)
The CRI judges how accurately a bulb can illuminate colors. If you're looking at a bulb that sits in the middle of the color spectrum, the CRI might matter because it'll let you know how accurately the bulb can imitate white or natural light. The score is measured on a scale from 1 to 100, and if you're looking for natural lighting, you definitely want something on the higher end of the scale.
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How to Identify Whether Your LED Bulb Is Energy Efficient?
LED bulbs typically last five times longer than their incandescent counterparts. For example, an 800 lumen light bulb only needs about 6-8 watts of power. For the same amount of brightness, an incandescent light needs 60 watts. By comparison, a halogen light would need 45 watts, while fluorescent lights would need 13-15 watts.
Other Factors You Should Consider
One thing to note with LED lights is that they cost more than incandescent lights. However, the higher costs shouldn't deter you as you'll more than make back the money thanks to how energy efficient they are and how long they last.
Shape of LED Bulbs
LED light bulbs come in a wide variety of shapes. The kind of bulbs you require typically depends on two things: need and aesthetic. A-shape bulbs are the most common kind, but reflector lights are also quite common, especially in recessed lighting. Filament bulbs have also become quite popular for their aesthetic, making them familiar in high-end homeware shops.
Directional vs Omnidirectional
Suppose you're buying an LED bulb for your recessed lighting fixtures. In that case, you probably want a directional bulb, as it shines light in a single direction and is often aimed as a reflective surface as part of a complete lighting plan to optimize light. However, if you want a single, traditional bulb for your lamp, go with an omnidirectional bulb, which shines light in all directions just like a conventional light bulb.
Dimmable or not
One of the significant advantages of LED bulbs is that you can adjust your lighting at will. For example, if you want to establish a mood, you can dim the bulb down, but you can turn it up if you need more light. Most LED lights are dimmable but make sure to check the packaging before you make a purchase. If the light can be dimmed, it'll be marked as "dimmable."
One of the most fashionable LED bulbs is the old-fashioned coiled bulbs, or the "Edison" bulbs, which look charmingly retro. They may look incandescent, but they're not. They're LED lights. So if you happen to like the old-fashioned look of incandescent light, many options are available to you.
What About Smart Lighting?
If you want to make the most of your LED lighting, think about smart lights. There are tons of things you can do with a smart light that would be impossible with a conventional lighting system.
Automate Your Lights
Do you have problems waking up in the morning? With a smart lighting automation, you can set your lights to turn on every morning at the same time to coax you out of a good night's sleep gently. Are you going to be away for a few days? You can control your home's lighting via a smart home app to make it look like your home when you're not.
Smart Home Voice Control
Most smart home lighting options are compatible with the most popular virtual voice assistants, such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and more. Just make sure when you're buying a smart light or a smart light hub that it's compatible with your preferred program. The information should be clearly labeled on the product.
Are you interested in experimenting with your lighting? To establish a mood or theme with smart lighting, you can often download whatever color scheme you want to your smart home bulb. The options are limitless!
Why LEDs Cost More
Of course, when you opt for LED lighting, you'll have to spend more money upfront. However, the costs are minimal when you look at the big picture. Not only will you save money upfront with lower energy costs, but each LED light lasts years and years. You'll rarely have to worry about light bulbs burning out or last-minute trips to the hardware store. LED lights are built to last!