How to Choose the Best LED Light Bulbs
LED light bulbs are an energy-saving alternative to traditional incandescent bulbs. They can be used in most common light fixtures, including accent lighting, track lighting, lamps and outdoor spotlights. This guide will walk you through the basics of LED light bulbs.
What are LED Bulbs?
LED bulbs get their name from the way they are constructed: the bulbs contain a light-emitting diode (LED), and they work by emitting light when a current passes through it.
LEDs have an exceptionally long lifespan. They can last up to three times longer than compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs, and 13 times longer than traditional incandescent varieties. A typical LED that burns three hours a day can last about 13 years before it needs changing.
They're usually made of durable plastic and are low maintenance since they have no filament or moving parts. LEDs are also available in glass finishes at the same cost, which do have a filament. These are great for interior design accents and various decor applications for a vintage look.
LEDs generate almost no heat or UV rays, which can help reduce air conditioning costs and help keep fabrics and furnishings from fading.
They have 80 percent higher energy efficiency than incandescent bulbs and 40 percent higher efficiency than CFL bulbs. This can lower your energy bills and lead to long-term savings.
LED bulbs come in many shapes, sizes and base sizes, including spot lights, flood lights, A-line and more. Some of the most common shapes:
Standard Light Bulbs
Also known as "general purpose" bulbs, these disperse light at a wide angle throughout a room. They are ideal for reading lamps, hallways and most other common fixtures including semi-flush and flush-mount lighting.
Can Light Bulbs
Can Light Bulbs
Traditionally BRs (Bulged Reflectors), these are a great fit for recessed and downlights.
Flood Light Bulbs
These are usually PAR (Parabolic Aluminized Reflector) bulbs, designed to emit a strong yet narrow beam of light. They are mainly used for exterior applications.
Globe Light Bulbs
These emit light in every direction, making them ideal for bathroom vanities and pendant lights.
Candle Light Bulbs
Also known as candle bulbs or chandelier LED bulbs, these emulate the shape of a candle flame and work best in accent lighting. Use them in wall sconces and decorative fixtures.
Tube Light Bulbs
Also known as linear light bulbs, these are designed for more professional applications like office buildings, kitchens and work spaces. This functional style is available in varying lengths, diameters, colors and temperatures.
Track Light Bulbs
These are often used for directional lighting, or to highlight something specific (artwork, a work area, kitchen spaces, etc).
Vintage Light Bulbs
These bulbs are all about aesthetics and ambience. They are best suited for decorative fixtures and should be paired with accents that match the design theme.
LED Color Temperatures
LED bulbs come in a range of colors. There are also various shades of white available: soft white (warm comfortable light), bright white (cool, refreshing light) and daylight (bright light mainly used for security purposes).
The term "color temperature" is often used as a way to describe how warm or cool the light appears. The color of light an incandescent bulb gives off is represented by a score of 100 on the Color Rendering Index (CRI). An LED or CFL bulb with a score of 80 or higher is considered good. An LED or CFL with a score of 90 or higher is considered very good. Typically, LED bulbs score near 85 on the scale.
*Tip: Dimmable LED bulbs come in a variety of shapes and styles, so check the packaging if that’s a feature you prefer.
Soft White Light Bulbs
Bright White Light Bulbs
Daylight Light Bulbs
LED Bulb Energy Efficiency
Traditional incandescent bulbs measure brightness in Watts. Since LED bulbs use far less energy than incandescent or CFL bulbs, their brightness is rated in Lumens. For example, a traditional 60-Watt light bulb emits over 800 Lumens. An LED equivalent may only measure 8.5 Watts, but it will still emit 800 Lumens and provide the same brightness levels.
- Lumens = the amount of light the bulb gives off
- Wattage = the amount of energy a bulb uses
To choose the most energy-efficient light bulb, check the lumens per watt ratio on the bulb’s packaging. The greater the lumens-to-watts ratio, the more energy efficiency the bulb provides.
Features of LED Bulbs
- Dimmable: If your bulb is dimmable, the light output ranges from 20%-80%. Since dimmers are prone to flickering, make sure yours is compatible with the bulb technology.
- Enclosed Fixture Rating: When buying a bulb for an enclosed fixture (such as a flush-mount lighting), we recommend using a bulb with an enclosed fixture rating to maximize the lifespan.
- Smart Bulbs: Connect your bulb via Bluetooth to control your lights within a certain range or sync via Wi-Fi to control from anywhere. Some options require a hub (like the Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa) that also controls several other smart products within your home.
- ENERGY STAR: If a bulb is an ENERGY STAR-certified LED bulb, it has been tested for color quality, light output and efficacy.