The LED bulb has taken the world by storm due to its energy efficiency and high-quality. Traditional incandescent bulbs are lucky to last a few months or years, while LED bulbs can last 20 years or longer. There is a slight learning curve on how to pick the best-LED bulb for your various fixtures, along with other terms you need to know. So before you go shopping, read our handy guide that will show you everything you need to know.
Shop for Lumens, Not Watts
The old way of shopping for light bulbs depended on the number of watts which ended up correlating to its brightness level. However, contrary to popular views, a watt doesn't actually determine brightness, but the energy level it draws in. Therefore watts are a terrible predictor for LEDs on how bright the bulb will be since the whole point is for them to use less energy.
A great example would be an LED bulb being 8-12 watts. The comparable watt level to an incandescent bulb is 40-60 watts! It's simply not a good estimator for LED bulbs. The math is never consistent and there's no uniform way of converting incandescent watts to LED watts.
Instead, there is a different form of measurement used called lumens.
Lumen is the number you should be looking for when shopping for LED bulbs. It's a measurement of brightness provided by the bulb. The packaging on LED bulbs offers the rates for lumens and watts for easy replacements.
A quick watt and lumen conversion chart:
Decide Your Color Temperature
When LED lights first came out, they were all a very harsh, bright white color. Luckily today there are plenty of more warmer options on the market. The 'Light Appearance' label refers to the temperature and it's measured as Kelvins (K). For similar warm lighting as that of incandescent bulbs, choose a bulb that's between 2,700-3,000 K. These are great for table lamps or living room fixtures where you want a warm, cozy, and inviting light.
3500-4500 K bulbs are ideal for spaces like kitchens, closets, and offices workspaces where you want a cooler white lighting.
Places such as laundry rooms or workshops you can opt for an even brighter temperature that resembles natural daylight. (Picture the blue sky at noon). Look for bulbs that are around 5,000 K.
Match the Bulb Shape to Your Fixture
LED's come in a variety of shapes that you might not even know existed. A popular and useful shape is the standard, which fits many fixtures. There are also spiral bulbs, cones, globes, spotlights, floodlights and even candle flame shaped bulbs available.
Ceiling Fixtures - Standard or Candle bulbs
Wall Sconces - Standard, Candle, Globe bulbs
Table/Floor Lamps - Standard bulb
Accent Lighting - MR16, Spot bulbs
If you have questions, you can refer to this helpful shape guide by Energy Star. It will show you more shapes which work best in specific fixtures around your home.
Heat/Energy Impact for Enclosed Fixtures
LED's are dramatically cooler than their incandescent little brothers, however, it doesn't mean they don't produce any heat. LED bulbs still get hot. Certain fixtures cannot comply with the new LED bulbs. They need to be able to have a way to dissipate the heat they produce. Therefore if a bulb is placed in an enclosed space, the heat cannot find itself out and will send it back to the bulb, resulting in a much shorter lifespan.
After you've thought about where you'd like to put LED lights, take into consideration if your fixture is closed or semi-closed. You will most likely have to buy a specialty LED bulb that's approved for enclosed spaces. It's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to indoor lighting. Plus, you don't want to invest money into great LED bulbs only to have them burn out way before their time is up.
If you love using dimmer switches around your home, you'll want to shop carefully. LEDs often have a problem of being compatible with older dimmers. Some simply don't respond or flicker a little when prompted to dim. Certain LEDs have been tested and approved to work for dimmer switches so be mindful to read the packaging prior to purchasing. Another option is installing newer dimmer switches around your home that are guaranteed to work with LED bulbs.
Which Household Fixtures Can't Use an LED Bulb?
Word of advice, don't ever put an LED bulb inside of an oven, the heat will kill the bulb in no time at all. There are special LED appliance bulbs but they're specifically made for refrigerators and freezers. Plus, an appliance bulb really won't save you much money anyway since they turn off when you close the door and only last a few seconds at a time.
Also, some LED bulbs can interfere with remote control garage door openers. Some garage door manufacturers have lists of compatible LED bulbs on their sites but should be bought with caution.
Count the Savings
LED bulbs save you a ton of money. The financial benefit lasts long term since LEDs cost much less to operate and needs replacing very infrequently.
- Costs $1 a year to run vs roughly $5 for an incandescent
- Cuts spending on electricity 75-80%
- Burns 25,000 hours vs. 1,000 hours (incandescent)
Converting your traditional bulbs to LEDs is an investment as the cost of an LED runs about $10-30 each compared to $1 for a traditional incandescent bulb. The investment is clearly worth it though, you'll have extra time money to spend on your favorite hobbies and destinations rather than replacing light bulbs every few months.
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