LED Household Bulbs 101- Learn Before you Buy

I was recently shocked when I was in the grocery store and saw household LED bulbs for sale. Every time I go to Costco and Home Depot, they have more and more LED household bulbs in the shelves. Where are we going to find them next? It’s exciting to see the cost of LEDs dropping and become more affordable to consumers, but it can be completely overwhelming to look at the packaging and make an educated purchase. Who wants to want wait in those return lines because the bulbs they bought weren’t bright enough or it didn’t last long enough. We assume that those big box stores sell quality, right? Well, here is a brief tutorial on what to look for when buying your next led bulb.

– Watts and Lumens: It is a fact that less expensive bulbs are less efficient. They take 35% more energy to achieve the same amount of lumen output. Look for at least 90 lumens per watt to be truly efficient.
o For example: a high quality/ highly efficient 9 watt LED bulb should produce 810 lumens. But if you have a 9 watt bulb that produces only 500 lumens, then it would take a lot more wattage to produce the same amount of light which means that it is ultimately less efficient. Sure, the bulb might cost $5 less than the higher lumen bulb, but it will cost you significantly more in electricity in the long run. Anyone can produce a LED bulb, but if it takes as much energy as an incandescent bulb, what good are they?
*Note: If you can’t find the lumens on the package, it’s a dead giveaway that the bulb is not going to be bright enough. It costs more to make it brighter, it’s a matter of buying the product that is going to best suit your needs.

– Kelvin Temp (aka ‘color temp): We consumers say all of the time “LEDs are too blue”. It is true that when LEDs first came to market, the ‘color temp’ was around 6500k which gives off a blue hue (see ‘What Color Temp Do You Prefer’ blog). Technology now allows for a variation of color temps that range from the familiar ‘blue color temp’ to a much warmer color temp (approx 3500k). It’s not to say that you need to commit to one color temp or the other. We have found that many customers prefer the higher 6500k in the kitchen because it brings out the vibrancy of food and textures. Yet they tend to put the lower/ warmer color temp in the living room. It’s really all a preference. It tends to be a hard transition (although well worth it) to go with anything other than a warmer color temp because that is what we are all used to in the standard incandescent bulbs.

– Light Spray: This really depends on your fixture and how far you need the light to spread. It’s important to know that the bigger the light sprays, the less bright it will seem. In comparison, the narrower the light spray, the brighter it will seem since it is more of a condensed light. Both serve a unique purpose depending on the fixture and the application.

– Manufacturer Warranty: True quality products are backed by a strong warrantee. There is value in a 3 yr warrantee vs. a 90 day warrantee.

– Bulb Top and Bulb Base: Know what type of bulb you are replacing by looking on the packaging of a spare bulb or the base of the replacement bulb. Terms such as Par, MR, BR, refer to the size and shape of the top of the bulb. Terms such as E26,GU 10, GU 5.3, E12 refer to the base type and size. There are many variations, but these are some of the most common.

– Dimmable vs. Non Dimmable: This is pretty self explanatory but just know that dimmable bulbs are more expensive because it takes more components to add this feature. So don’t spend the extra money for dimmable if you don’t need it.

It is true that LEDs are coming down in price, but be wary… You get what you pay for. Now that you know what to look for on the package, you’ll be more satisfied in your educated purchase. If you are still unsure of what type of bulb you need, feel free to contact us for assistance.