When did lightbulbs get so complicated?
Lighting is a often unrecognized design element that can add warmth and vibrancy to your home. But choose the wrong lightbulb and your space can seem cold, sterile and drab.
Below, we give you light bulb 101 to help choose the perfect bulb for your abode.
Lumens are the unit of measurement for the amount of light emitted from a light bulb. More lumens means brighter light, fewer lumens means dimmer light.
Kelvin is Key
Light color or light appearance is measured on the Kelvin temperature scale. Lower Kelvin numbers means more yellow light; the higher the Kelvin number the whiter or bluer light.
The most misunderstood light bulb vocabulary word, watts tell you the amount of energy a bulb uses, not how bright the light bulb shine. The lower the watts, the lower the electric bill.
Name That Bulb
With so many light bulb options on the shelf, you need the basics on what elements each light bulb offers.
Incandescent are the traditional light bulbs that produce a warm, glowing light. Less energy efficient that other bulbs, lighting companies are now producing incandescent hybrid bulbs that offer a warm glow with better energy efficiency.
Compact Fluorescent Bulbs, or CFLs, use much less energy and last longer than incandescent bulbs. Many CLF bulbs contain a trace amount of mercury so careful disposal is recommended.
LED bulbs are as efficient as CFLs and last even longer. In the past, LED bulbs gave a harsh, unforgiving light. Today, many LED lights offer a warmer glow with beautiful, true light.
Halogen bulbs offer a sharp, white light. This bulb burns at a high temperature so you should wear gloves when installing. The smallest residue of oil from a human hand can rub off on the bulb, creating an atmosphere where the bulb warms too quickly causing the bulb to explode.
Ever choose a paint color that looks amazing in the store but horrible on your wall? Lighting could be part of the problem. Color accuracy, or CRI, tells you how accurate a given light is. With a scale of zero to 100 percent, the higher the CRI the more accurate the color reading. Anything above 80 is considered excellent.
Room By Room
With all of the light bulb choices, you will probably need several options for different areas of your home. While most designers hate fluorescent lighting and love the old-school incandescent warmth, you may decide cost and efficiency factor in your decision.
Bedroom and Living Room
For bedrooms, living rooms and dens, try a warm white with a 2,500 to 3,000 Kelvin rating and a CRI color accuracy rating of 80 or higher. Look for lumens from 2,000 to 4,000 total. (Remember, overhead lighting and ambient lighting from lamps, if placed in one room, can create your projected lumen goal per room.)
Kitchen and Workspace
Look for lumens that range from 5,000 to 10,000, with under cabinet task lighting in the mix. This is a room that needs less yellow lighting and more accuracy, so the Kelvin number can top 3,000.
You want high color accuracy, a CRI of 80 or higher and a higher (whiter) Kelvin number for optimal lighting in a bath. Each vanity needs at least 1,500 lumens for lighting that works for applying makeup and other day-to-day tasks.