How to Choose the Right Light Bulb For Your Home

With so many types of light bulbs to choose from, how do you know which ones are right for you? There’s more than watts involved in the decision! Use this guide to help illuminate your knowledge of today’s light bulbs.

What’s in a light bulb?

Incandescent bulbs produce light through electricity causing the hot tungsten filament inside to glow. More heat than light is made. Lasting 750-1000 hours.

Since these bulbs proved to be less energy efficient they’ve been replaced on the market with alternatives.

Halogen bulbs are a more efficient version of a standard incandescent bulb.  They contain halogen gas and a tungsten filament and offer longer operating life – 2500 hours – higher luminous efficacy (efficiency), and uses less energy than a standard incandescent bulb

Fluorescent bulbs contain low pressure, mercury vapour atoms that need to be ionized to begin the process of fluorescence. Once an electric current stimulates the mercury vapour inside it will produce UV light which causes the phosphor material coating on the inside of the bulb to glow. Can last 10,000 hours.

LED stands for light-emitting diode. An electric current is passed through a semi-conductor. Very efficient at turning electricity into light, an LED bulb can last up to 50,000.

Xenon light bulbs come in low voltage options and light with inert xenon gas. They emit less heat than halogen bulbs and last longer, it produces a cooler colour temperature than a standard incandescent bulb.

What’s the difference between a watt and a lumen?

Lumens measure brightness, how much light comes from a light bulb. Watts measure how much electricity a bulb needs to be powered. A 100W light bulb may look brighter than a 25W bulb but it’s the number of lumens that indicate brightness.

  • To replace a 100-watt incandescent bulb, look for a bulb that gives you around 1600 lumens. For something dimmer, choose less lumens, for brighter light, choose more lumens.
  • 75W bulb = around 1100 lumens LED
  • 60W bulb = around 800 lumens LED
  • 40W bulb = around 450 lumens LED

The Color Rendering Index (CRI)

This the second important number on the package. The Colour Rendering Index helps us describe the colour characteristics of light.

On a scale of 1 to 100, the CRI indicates how accurate a given light source is at rendering colour – compared to the sun or incandescent lighting, so the higher the number the better. For example, 100 CRI mimics natural light and is perfect for reading skin tones and clothing colour.

  • Incandescent and Halogen bulbs have a CRI above 95.
  • Cool, white fluorescent lamps have a CRI of 62, although some rate as high as 80.
  • Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and LEDs usually have ratings in the 80s but the technology is improving every day.

A CRI of 50-70 is fair, 70-80 is good and 80-90 is considered excellent.

Colour temperature (Kelvins)

Colour temperature refers to a bulb’s colour rating, which is measured on the Kelvin scale (K).

The term “soft white” can be confusing, white light falls into 3 general categories–warm, neutral and cool measured in Kelvins. Warm light makes a space feel cozier; cooler light makes areas appear more spacious. On a Kelvin scale, warm colours, like orange and yellow fall lower than cool, blue or white light which sit higher. It breaks down something like this:

  • 1500K Candlelight
  • 2200K – 2700K very warm, soft, yellow and orange colour: Incandescent, LED
  • 3000K slightly whiter than 2700K but still a very soft, warm light: Halogen, LED
  • 3500K neutral, this light is good for office and general household lighting: LED, CFL, Fluorescent tube
  • 4100K Cool white gives whiter light and seems brighter. Good for use in workshops and food preparation: CFL, fluorescent tube, LED
  • 5100K-6500K Daylight, natural, sunshine, it has a bluish colour: CFL, Fluorescent tube, LED

Which light bulb is best?

For economy

Compact fluorescent lights (CFL) lasts 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs and uses 75% less energy, to cut your lighting energy bill down.

For endurance

LED bulbs use 1/6th of the energy of an incandescent bulb and can last 25% longer (20 years or more). Most LED models can work on a dimmer switch and are as bright as incandescent lighting. They cost more upfront but save you in the long run.

For living

LED bulbs offer you the most for your money. LEDs commonly come in warm white, soft white and bright white reproducing soft hues like incandescent lighting and bright whites that looks closer to daylight. There are smart LED bulbs you can control from your smartphone and many now have colour changing properties so you can adjust your bulb to any colour in the rainbow based on your mood or activity.

Lighting goals

The goal, through lighting, is to make your home comfortable, safe, functional and energy efficient. Often it takes a combination of lighting to achieve this goal. Layered lighting includes: ambient, task and accent lighting.

Ambient lighting

This is generally the main source of lighting in a room. It offers a comfortable, relaxed, even level of brightness without glare or shadows. Ceiling fixtures, wall-mounted fixtures, recessed lighting or track lighting can provide ambient lighting.

Task lighting

For specific detailed tasks, this lighting can help you read, groom, cook, etc. A pendant light over the kitchen sink, or under-cabinet lighting, task lighting allows you to see without glare from the lamp or the surfaces and eliminates shadows.

Accent lighting

Enforces design by drawing the eye to key things like colour, shapes, texture, artwork and architectural features. This is a great way to add drama to a room. Focused track lights, recessed spots or wall-mounted fixtures can supply dramatic accent lighting.

To keep current on lighting, we often source lighting for clients at Union Lighting and Furnishings in Toronto to see the latest featured in the market.

What’s next?

The next big thing in illumination? Bulb-free lighting. Now, that’ll be something to reflect on!