15 Tips for Choosing LED Bulbs for Your Home
LED (light emitting diode) lights use less energy, last longer, come in many different colors, and are now available in a variety of bulbs that can fit into the sockets already around your house. If you’ve been attracted by LED lighting before but haven’t switched yet, now’s the time. Here’s what you need to know about buying LEDs for your home.
Learn Your Lumens
Because LED light bulbs don’t use much electricity (they use a small electrical charge to produce energy along the visible spectrum, thanks to highly specific, reactive compounds), you can’t really use watts to judge their brightness. Instead, look at lumens, a more direct measure of brightness. Around 800 lumens is equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent bulb, while 1600 lumens is about as bright as a 100-watt incandescent bulb.
Plus: How to Add a Light
Understand Color Temperature
Manufactures use the Kelvin temperature scale to show the general shade of the “white” bulb—colors tend to fall between 2,700 and 6,500 Kelvin. A low Kelvin score means that bulbs are “warmer” and more yellow, like natural light, while a higher number means that light is “colder” and bluer. Pick the shade that fits the bulb’s purpose.
Watch for CRI
CRI stands for Color Rendering Index, a more direct way that manufacturers describe color accuracy for lights, with 100 being a perfect accuracy score. Not all manufacturers use CRI (many brands wouldn’t score well), but those that do tend to have high CRI scores in the 80s or 90s, a sign of quality LED lighting.
Make Sure Bulb Replacements Match Your Old Sockets
LED bulbs are made to fit into traditional sockets. However, remember to look at the sockets you want to switch to LED. Note their position and depth, and keep that in mind when shopping for LED replacement bulbs. Old or corroded sockets should be replaced.
Choose Bulbs with Smart Features
Warm Light is Homier
When in doubt on color temperature, go to the lower end of the Kelvin scale and choose bulbs that emit warmer light. These generally look more like incandescent bulbs and will help you stay away from harsh light that can be unpleasant in the evening. Here’s a guide for what temperature to consider for various rooms.
Plus: Home Lighting guide
Stay Away from Unnatural Blues and Reds
Choosing high-Kelvin lights can be smart for work areas (including the kitchen). However, actual blue and red lights may be fun to experiment with, but they don’t work well as long-term residential lighting.
Plus: Kitchen Lighting Tips
Photo: Lukasz Stefanski/Shutterstock
Use Colors for Accent Lights
Here’s where color-changing LEDs can be useful—an off-white bulb in accent lighting can help draw attention to décor and show off corners of your home in the best ways. Don’t go too bright, though!
LED String Lights for Parties
While smart LED bulbs can be programmed for many different things, they aren’t great party lights. For events or parties—especially outdoors—use LED string lights instead. LED strings are also useful if you’re running lights along shelves or under cabinets.
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Prepare for Dimmer Differences
Buy From a High-Quality Manufacturer
LED bulbs are famous for their long lives. In practice, they do last a long time, but not necessarily for years and years. Quality is still important, and poorly made LED lights for home will die just as soon as an incandescent bulb, if not faster. Choose high-quality, reliable manufacturers with good reviews, even if that means paying a little extra.
Be Wary of Enclosed LED Bulbs
Enclosed (when you screw on a translucent covering) or recessed lighting can be dangerous for LED bulbs. LEDs only produce a small amount of heat, but they are highly susceptible to heat damage, so heat needs to be channeled away with a heat sink, a metallic base designed to conduct heat away from the sensitive parts of the LED (learn more about it here). Enclosed bulbs can’t get rid of heat as easily, which can kill LED bulbs not designed for those situations.
Read LED Labels
Manufactures are beginning to adopt LED-specific labels with many of the standard specifications. Compare bulbs by referring to the information on these labels.
Stay Away from Extreme Temperatures
High temperatures can quickly fry an average LED bulb cluster, and freezing temps aren’t great for longevity, either. Stick to mild-temperature locations for LEDs, and use LED bulbs designed for the outdoors when necessary.
Plus: LED Safety Lighting
Plus: LED Safety Lighting
Be Careful of Using LEDs in the Garage
Note that LEDs don’t fair well in many garages. First, they can confuse older garage door openers and sensors. Second, the vibration caused by the garage door opening and closing can damage the diodes over time.