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A Buyer’s Guide to Buying LED Light Bulbs

Buying LED Light Bulbs

Thinking about switching to LEDs?

Good call. LED bulbs offer numerous advantages over traditional bulbs (aka incandescent bulbs). Here’s what you need to know about LEDs.

What is LED Lighting?

LED is an acronym for ‘Light Emitting Diode’. Technically speaking, LED bulbs are not bulbs but rather tiny semiconductors (or diodes) that have electrons which flow to create photons (or simply put, the light we see). Photons produce almost zero heat. LED bulbs also last much longer and require far less energy to produce the same amount of brightness as incandescent bulbs.

LED Lighting

LED Lighting: Key Points to Know

  • Efficiency: In comparison to incandescent bulbs, LED light bulbs are more durable, last longer, and far more energy efficient
  • Cool, not hot: Since LEDs convert electricity to light, you don’t have to worry about heat build-up
  • Dimming: LED light bulbs have dimming capabilities, but for the best results, you should use a compatible dimmer (i.e. a dimmer designed specifically for LEDs). While LEDs may work with old dimmers, you may encounter some performance-related issues, like flickering
  • Mercury free: LEDs do not contain mercury, making them absolutely safe
  • Design: LEDs are available in a wide range of designs, meaning you can easily find ones that perfectly match your preferences

Buying LED Light Bulbs: The Complete Story

Switching to LEDs is a move that has many advantages. But there are a few things you should consider, like picking the right colour temperature and using a compatible dimmer.

Efficiency of LED Lighting

When it comes to efficiency, LED technology is a winner hands-down. LEDs are as much as five times more efficient than incandescent bulbs, producing the same amount of light using just about 20% of electricity.

LEDs Come in a Range of Colour Temperature

With LEDs, you have access to a wide range of colour temperature, which is measured in degrees of Kelvin (K) on a scale from 1,000 – 10,000. The smaller the Kelvin reading of a light bulb, the warmer and more yellow the light is. Bulbs with a higher Kelvin reading emit bluer and cooler light.

It is up to you to decide which light colour you prefer. That said, here are some general guidelines to go by:

  • “Cool white” or “natural white” LED light bulbs are excellent for ambient lighting
  • These bulbs also work pretty well in kitchens
  • “Daylight” bulbs (that is, those which emit more natural light) are a great option for bedside reading lamps, bathrooms, and home offices

LEDs vs Fluorescent Lighting

Both fluorescent and LED boast better energy efficiency compared to incandescent, but LEDs are more energy efficient than fluorescents. The latter uses up to 75% less energy than incandescent, while LEDs use up to 90% less. LEDs are also more durable than fluorescents. Additionally, LEDs—unlike fluorescents—don’t contain mercury.

Best Uses for LED Lighting

Well, you can (and should) use LED lighting everywhere. From living room chandeliers to kitchen island pendants, LED light bulbs provide effective illumination in any space.

Since LEDs provide excellent directionality, they are a particularly good fit for:

  • Cove lighting
  • Task lamps
  • Reading lamps
  • Under-cabinet lighting
  • Walkway and stairs lighting
  • Art lighting (Because LEDs don’t emit UV radiation unlike fluorescents and incandescent, they are a safe option for artwork)
  • Hard-to-reach places (That’s because LEDs require low maintenance and have longer life spans than fluorescents and incandescent)

How Cool Lighting and Warm Lighting work with LEDs?

When someone asks, “Is this a cool white or warm white?” it refers to the LED color temperature in relation to the Kelvin color temperature scale. While 2700K gives a warm, almost golden-colored light, 7000K emits a very cool light that can appear blue-glowed. The 3000K color temperature is a soft warm white, the 3500K or 4000K color temperature is bright warm white, and once you go beyond that, you get bright cool white.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the CRI?

The color rendering index (CRI) is a measure of how much an LED bulb resembles natural light when rendering colors. Generally, one with a CRI of 80-90 percent is considered decent, although most experts recommend option for LED light bulbs that CRI rating of 90 or above. With LED light bulbs that have CRI rating of less than 90, you may not get the best lighting quality. Prolonged exposure to these bulbs may even cause headache and eye strain.  

When assessing LEDs, it's important to be aware of the watts and colour temperature in addition to the CRI. It is also crucial to recognize the distinction between integrated versus retrofit options. With integrated LED lights, diodes are built into the fixture whether it's on a panel, strip or disc, so there is no regular socket for bulbs. Retrofitting on the other hand involves switching out an ordinary light bulb for an LED one, and it involves nothing more than simply screwing the LED bulb into the standard socket.

What is the lifespan of LED light bulbs?

LEDs are renowned for their long lifespan, with most choices boasting at least 20,000 hours of use. Many manufacturers offer 30,000 - 50,000 hours as the standard range, while some have extended even further to 90,000! This provides you with an array of options that can suit your needs. A fixture activated for only a few hours every day may continue to shine for more than twenty years; however, fixtures kept going continuously will dim quicker. When they reach towards the end of their life cycle LEDs tend to lessen in luster rather than shut down immediately—it is typically assumed that the LED has expired when it hits 70% brightness.

Are LEDs dimmable?

The answer is yes. All LEDs are dimmable. That said, dimming is not always simple because much depends on the driver being used to control dimming.

You should LED-specific drivers for LED lights bulbs. If you use compatible drivers, you will likely encounter no problem when you dim your LED light bulbs. On the other hand, using old dimmers with LED light bulbs is not the best strategy. While many LED light bulbs do work with old dimmers, you can encounter issues like flickering.