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How Do I Choose the Right LED Lightbulb?

We’ve all been there – standing in the lightbulb aisle of our local hardware store, utterly overwhelmed by the number of different types of LED lightbulbs available. There are so many different sizes, shapes, and functions that it is tempting to give up and buy the first one you see. Thankfully, we are here to help with our step-by-step guide on choosing the right LED lightbulb.

Before reading on, we’d like to remind you that the Save on Energy Energy Affordability program – offers LED bulbs for free to those who qualify.

Why Buy LED Lightbulbs?

Before discussing how to choose the right LED bulb, let’s discuss why you should buy LEDs instead of the cheaper, traditional, incandescent and CFL bulbs.

Firstly, LED lightbulbs are the most energy-efficient lightbulbs on the market today. LEDs consume significantly less energy than both incandescent and Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs). This efficiency is partly due to its design. CFLs and incandescent release between 80 and 90% of their energy as heat, while LEDs emit no heat.

Secondly, while LED lightbulbs cost more upfront than CFLs and incandescent bulbs, they are the more cost-effective option. Based on two hours a day of usage, at an electricity rate of 15 cents per kWh, LEDs have an annual energy cost of $1.32, compared to $6.34 for incandescent bulbs and $1.59 for CFLs.

Finally, LEDs have a rated life of up to 50,000 hours, which is around 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs and 8-10 times longer than the typical CFL.

Therefore, by purchasing LEDs instead of other types of bulbs, you will save yourself money and help protect the environment at the same time.

The Base of the LED

The first step to choosing the right LED lightbulb is to select the correct base. Purchasing an LED with the wrong base will mean it will not fit into the required lamp or fixture. 

To determine which one you need, check the lightbulb base you are replacing and match it to one of the three main types of LED bases: 


Edison

These LED bases are the most common type. They are named after American inventor Thomas Edison. Their labels show E, followed by the base’s width in millimetres—for example, E12, E17, and E26.


Bi-Pin

Bi-pin LEDs have multiple prongs sticking out of the base. This type of base is denoted by the letter G, followed by a number representing the distance in millimetres between each pin.

Also, some models contain letters representing the number of pins. In these cases, “S” stands for single-pin, “D” stands for double-pin, “T” for a triple, and “Q” for quadruple.


Bayonet

Bayonet bases are similar to Edisons but have notches on either side to lock the bulb into place.

Which Type of LED Should I Buy?

After selecting the correct base, the next step in choosing the right LED lightbulb is to choose the correct type. Below are some of the most common LED bulb types that you can purchase for different areas of your home.


A-Shape Bulbs

Choose the right LED bulb by selecting A-line bulbs

A-shape bulbs are standard LEDs that replace your conventional incandescent bulbs. They are the most common type of LED bulbs and are used, for example, in lamps.


Reflector Bulbs

Choose the right LED bulb by selecting reflector bulbs

Reflector bulbs are commonly known as spotlight or floodlight bulbs. They are used to create a wide or narrow beam angle, such as in kitchen lights.


Chandelier Bulbs

Chandelier bulb

Chandelier LED bulbs look somewhat similar to candles and are a popular choice for decorative lighting.


Globe Bulbs

Choose the right LED bulb by selecting globe bulbs

Globe bulbs are spherical bulbs used in wall sconces (lights fixed to walls) and decorative lights strings.


LED Filament Bulbs

Choose the right LED bulb by selecting LED filament bulbs

LED filament bulbs are LEDs designed to give a classic, retro look. The look of vintage incandescent lighting is recreated through thin bars. However, LED filaments last much longer than traditional incandescents.

Brightness

Bight LED bulb

After selecting the correct base and type of LED lightbulbs for your needs, the next step to choosing the right LED lightbulb is to think about the brightness of the bulbs. At this point, it is essential to understand the difference between watts and lumens

Watts refers to the amount of energy required to power the bulb, while lumens refer to the light output. Since LED lightbulbs are much more efficient than older incandescent bulbs, a 60 watt LED will be significantly brighter than a 60-watt incandescent. Therefore, when choosing how bright you want your LED bulb to be, look at the lumens, not the wattage

However, there are many different LEDs with different amounts of lumens. How do you know how many lumens you need? This is a more difficult question than you may imagine. 

To determine how many lumens you need in any given room, the first thing to do is calculate the square footage by multiplying the length by the width. For example, if the room is 8 ft long and 8ft wide, the room is 64 square ft. 

Foot Candles

Next, you have to understand foot candles. A foot candle tells you how bright a light source is when you are standing one foot away. The higher the number, the brighter a bulb is from one foot out. You will want a higher foot candle for a kitchen, for example, than a hallway, so that you can see everything while cooking. 

Different rooms have different foot candle requirements, as shown by the table below:

RoomFoot Candles
Workspace or garage80-100
Kitchen work areas70-80
Bathroom70-80
Home office60-80
Dining room30-40 
Kitchen30-40
Dining room30-40 
Living room10-20
Bedroom10-20
Hallway5-10

To calculate the number of lumens required for a room, you multiply the room’s square footage by the foot candle requirements. So, for example, a 100 square foot living room will need lightbulbs totalling 1000-2000 lumens:

  • 100 sq. ft. X 10-20 foot candles = 1,000 to 2,000 lumens

However, bear in mind that personal preference is also a factor here. If you like a particularly bright room, you will need more lumens.

Colour Temperature

The next step in choosing the right LED bulb is selecting the correct colour. For this, you have to refer to the Kelvin scale

The Kelvin scale refers to the colour temperature and runs from 1,000 to 10,000. Lower degrees Kelvin register a warmer, yellow-white light, while higher degrees register a colder, white light. Typically, household LED bulbs fall between 2,500K and 65000K. 

LED bulb colour comparison

Certain colour temperatures go better in individual rooms in the house. Use the following table as a reference to which colour of bulb to use in each room.

RoomDescriptionKelvins
BedroomLighting in the bedroom should give off a relaxing vibe. Avoid blue light, which can negatively affect sleep. Go for extra-warm white or warm white LED bulbs.
2,700-3,000
Home OfficeIn a home office, you want to select a colour that will maximize productivity. Choose cool-white lights that will mimic daylight. Doing so will produce serotonin in the body, which will increase productivity.
3,000-6,000
Living RoomThe living room is usually a space to relax and unwind. Like the bedroom, avoid blue light, and go for calm extra-warm white or white bulbs.
2,500-3000
Dining RoomAs in the bedroom and the living room, light in the dining room should give off a relaxing vibe. Select extra-warm white or warm white LED bulbs.
2,500-3,000
KitchenYou likely start your morning in the kitchen, meaning that cold white or daylight colours will help you wake up. Also, such colours will help you concentrate when cooking.4,000-6,500
BathroomChoosing white or cool white colours in the bathroom will help wake you up in the morning and make it easier to see yourself in the mirror. 3,000-5,000

If the number of kelvins sounds complicated, be reassured – most LED packaging tells you the colour of the bulb inside.

Layer Lighting

Layered lighting

It is also possible to layer lighting to compliment your home style and colours. A good lighting plan combines four types of light: ambienttask, accent and decorative lighting. 

LED Features

Dimmer Switches

Once you have selected the base, type, brightness, and colour temperature of your LEDs, the next step to choosing the right LED lightbulb is to consider dimmer switches. 

While most LEDs are dimmable, many are not compatible with incandescent dimmer switches. Therefore, it may be necessary to change your dimmer at home for an LED-compatible version. 

Colour Rendering Index

The Colour Rendering Index (CRI) is used to measure how light affects the colour’s appearance. The scale runs from 0 to 100, and bulbs with a higher number render objects clear, bight, and as close to how they would look in a natural, outdoor setting as possible. Therefore, you want to have a bulb rated as high on the CRI as possible.

Most LED lights rank at around 80 or 90 on the CRI, meaning that they give off bright, natural light. However, some are rated lower than this, so it is always best to check.

Location Information

LED bulbs contain information on where you should use them. You must follow this information closely. 

  • Dry location bulbs are for dry, indoor areas. Do not use them in areas where water or moisture is present. 
  • For bathrooms, which are indoor but where moisture is present, use damp location bulbs
  • Wet location bulbs can come in contact with water outside but cannot be submerged. 

Lifespan

All LED bulbs contain an estimate of how many hours they will run for on the packaging. LED bulbs last anything from 15,000 to 50,000 hours, a difference of years of use. Therefore, it is essential to check the estimated lifespan of the bulb before buying.

Certification

Finally, remember to look for the ENERGY STAR certification when purchasing LED lightbulbs. ENERGY STAR products meet strict quality and efficiency standards and are certified by independent third parties. When buying ENERGY STAR lightbulbs, you know you are getting the highest quality and efficiency. 

Conclusion: Choose The Right LED Bulb by following Our Guide

In conclusion, while LED lightbulbs are the smart choice for the environment and your wallet, it can be challenging to know which ones to choose. By following the steps described in this article, you can be confident that you are buying the bulb you need.

As a final reminder, the Energy Affordability program , which we deliver on behalf of Save On Energy, offers LED bulbs for free to those who qualify.

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