Shopping for LED light bulbs can be a dizzying experience. Aside from the bevy of
bulb shapes to choose from; there are terms you may have heard before,
such as lumens and Kelvin, but don’t exactly know what they mean and why they matter.
On top of that, there’s a seemingly endless array of light types and colors, such as
daylight, warm white and so on. When you just need to replace a couple
light bulbs, the selection can be overwhelming.
If you’re thinking of making the switch to LED light bulbs, here’s what you
should know about LED bulbs and selecting the best replacements for your space.
How LED Bulbs Differ From Incandescent Bulbs
Light output versus heat waste. “LED” stands for “light-emitting diode.”
While we won’t get into the nitty-gritty about how they work, LEDs are
vastly different from incandescent bulbs in terms of the light output
compared to the heat produced by the bulb. Taylor Jantz-Sell, an Energy Star
lighting program manager at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
says that LED technology converts 95 percent of the energy to light and
only 5 percent is wasted as heat.
Incandescent bulbs are pretty much the opposite. They convert only 10 percent
of the energy into light, while 90 percent is wasted as heat.
You can definitely feel the difference especially in small spaces like your
bathroom vanity. Do you ever stand at the mirror to shave or put on your
make-up and realize that you are starting to sweat? That is the
incandescent light bulb at work.
Heat produced by LED lights is absorbed into an integral “heat sink,”
which prevents the bulb from overheating. Incandescents just throw off all
The excess heat directly into the room. This residual light bulb heat can place added stress on air conditioning systems during the summer.
Flexibility in light direction.
Light produced by an LED is directional or focused, whereas incandescent bulbs throw light in all directions.
Directional light makes the LED more efficient because the light can be
focused for specific applications. Like spotlights in a security system or
small lights directed to showcase your favorite painting. (LED bulbs are safer for your art work too)
LED bulbs are also embedded in light fixtures.
The light produced by the fixture doesn’t get lost or wasted inside of the light fixture housing, as it does with many omnidirectional incandescents and even CFLs compact fluorescent lamps (the spiral, swirly bulbs).
LED Ratings….the confusing part
As with anything else you buy, don’t expect all LED lightbulbs to be of the
same quality. An easy way to figure out which ones are higher quality and
meet certain standards is to look for the Energy Star label.
Energy Star is a voluntary program established by the EPA to help
consumers save money and protect the environment by identifying
products that have excellent energy efficiency.
You’ve probably seen an Energy Star sticker on appliances or other
products you’ve purchased. Well, LED lightbulbs and fixtures are also
labeled after being put through rigorous testing and certified by
independent third parties. Only LED bulbs that meet certain standards,
which will be reviewed below, receive the rating. So, selecting products
without the rating means you run the risk of ending up with lower-quality
bulbs or fixtures.
Many folks don’t need specialized strip lighting but need to replace
standard screw-base bulbs in ordinary table lamps. So make sure that the
type of LED bulb you are purchasing matches the use of the bulb it is
meant to replace. For example, having high beam security lights outside or
low beam landscape lighting, be sure to match the intensity of the
previous halogen bulbs. You can ask your light expert at the home
improvement store to help you out if you have questions.
LEDs are flexible in that they can be used in specific, focused areas as
well as for multidirectional ambient lighting.
Light Color and Temperature
You’ve likely heard or noticed that the old incandescent
lightbulb casts a yellowish light. This incandescent yellow glow is also
referred to as “warm white” or “soft white.” While it’s what most of us grew up with, when compared to cooler light colors, incandescent light can appear dingy. What might be surprising is that cooler tones of light are actually more natural, as daylight is cool and bright.
This image shows the
differences between the different light colors in the same room setting.
But to understand light color, you need to first understand a couple of
terms. The Correlated Color Temperature, or CCT, is the color of light
emitted by a bulb in terms of a “light appearance number” that correlates to a Kelvin (K) temperature scale. As you can see on the image, the lower the Kelvin number, the yellower the light; the higher the number, the bluer the light.
Standard incandescents are around 2,700K, while 4,100K is a crisp, whiter
light, and 5,000K represents daylight. Unlike incandescents, LEDs are
available in a number of Kelvin options to fit a variety of homeowners’
lighting needs. Bulb manufacturers must provide this number on the
lighting facts label on the packaging.
What to Use and Where?
While light color choice is a personal preference, “cool white” and “natural
white” are good choices for general ambient light as well as for spaces
that require more focused work, like kitchens and desk areas. So you can
use these light colors in most areas of your home — living room, kitchen,
bedrooms, bathrooms and so on.
The light in the workspace shown here is clean and white and also
enhances the white palette of the interior. An incandescent would have
made this workspace look yellow and drab.
While cool white and natural white are a solid go-to for most uses, a bluer
“natural” or “daylight” bulb is recommended for dedicated reading lamps.
Besides lightbulbs, there are light fixtures that have LED bulbs built into
the housing for a single integrated unit. LEDs are suitable for cove lights,
pendants, recessed fixtures and under-cabinet accent lights.
LED for wine lovers
LEDs are appropriate for wine storage because they emit very little heat.
Too much heat can cause a temperature imbalance and affect the quality
of the wine. Before LEDs, this cellar would probably have been lit by
damaging incandescents or unattractive fluorescents. Fluorescents are also damaging to wine, as they emit UV light.
If you want to use dimmable LEDs, be prepared to try different bulbs if you
have an existing dimmer switch. Not every dimmable LED bulb works well
with every dimmer switch. Problems that might arise are buzzing or an
inability to be dimmed at low light levels. If you’re planning to install a new
dimmer switch, check the bulb company’s website first for recommended
dimmers for the particular bulb, so you can get an ideal combination. This
seems like a lot to go through for light bulbs, but with the cost of switching
to LEDs, it is worth it to get the most from your lighting choices.
How to Buy LEDs…the other confusing part
You may have noticed that LEDs don’t use a conventional wattage
system. Instead, they advertise the amount of light given off, in lumens,
versus the amount of energy required to produce the light. For example, a
75-watt incandescent needs a 1,100-lumen LED replacement to throw the
comparable quantity of light.
Here’s a handy chart showing the incandescent equivalents in LED.
Equivalent wattages and light output of Incandescent, CFL and LED bulbs
How Much Money Should You Expect to Save by Switching to LEDs?
LED bulbs cost more than standard incandescent bulbs. However, prices for LEDs have been steadily decreasing. The most common Energy Star replacement bulbs (A19 and 60-watt replacements) can be found at the time of this writing for about $10 at most big-box retailers.
Here are the Top 10 LED light bulb reviews.
The EPA calculates the payback time of a 100-watt LED equivalent
purchased at $38.12 (a 2013 price), used every day for three hours a day,
to be three years, based on average U.S. utility rates. (Seeing as LED bulb
costs have decreased, the payback is actually sooner.) Even better, a 60-
watt equivalent purchased at $6 has a one-year payback period.
The biggest perk is that LEDs last a long time, an eternity in comparison to
incandescents. LEDs don’t burn out or suddenly stop working like other
types of bulbs. Instead, they just decline or fade away. Otherwise known
as “lumen depreciation,” the amount of light produced decreases and the
color accuracy shifts. The LED’s lifetime is based on a prediction of when
the light output will decrease by 30 percent. The current average life span
of an Energy Star-certified LED bulb (or integrated light fixture) is an
astonishing 20 years with typical use. Wow!!
Energy Star calculates that switching just one bulb from incandescent to
Energy Star will reduce energy consumption between 70 to 90 percent
and save $30 to $80 on utility bills over the lifetime of the bulb.
Also, check out the Georgia Power’s Marketplace for LED light bulb specials.
When you bundle the savings of switching to LEDs, it really makes sense, even if you can only do a little at a time.
When you bundle the savings of switching to LEDs, it really makes sense,
even if you can only do a little at a time.
The next room on my list is the master bathroom. I’m so glad there is
finally an alternative to those hot vanity lights.
Thanks for Reading!
Jennifer Burgess, eXp Realty Middle Georgia
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