The Light Bulb Buyer's Guide

Use this guide to help you select the best light bulbs.

This guide will shed light on what lumens are, how the temperature of light is measured and why that matters to you, and what type of bulbs will save you energy and money for years to come.

 

Lumens: A New Way to Shop for Light

In the past, we bought light bulbs based on how much energy, or watts, they use. Wouldn't it make more sense to buy lights based on how much light they provide?

When you're shopping for light bulbs, you can choose your next light bulb for the brightness you want by comparing lumens instead of watts. A lumen is a measure of the amount of brightness of a light bulb -- the higher the number of lumens, the brighter the light bulb.

If you're replacing an inefficient 100W bulb, look for an energy-saving bulb that puts out about 1600 lumens. To replace a 60W equivalent, look for a bulb with about 800 lumens.

So when you're looking for a new bulb, look for lumens -- or how bright the bulb is. Now that's a pretty bright idea!

"Lumens: A New Way to Shop for Light” Energy.gov. Retrieved 23 Dec. 2015 from
http://www.energy.gov/energysaver/tips-shopping-lighting

 

How Many Lumens Do You Need?

Lumens is the new Watt. For example, if you are replacing a 60W bulb and want a similar amount of light, then you need to get at least 800 lumens in order to match the brightness of the old bulb. Consult the chart here to find the lumen matching the Wattage you currently enjoy. 

 

Choosing The Right Color Bulb

Are you looking for cold or warm light? The temperature of light is measured in terms of kelvin. Very orange light has a low number of kelvin, a candle is about 1,500K. Daylight is much colder, often above 5,000K. For household light bulbs, most people prefer ‘warm white,” which is the warm, slightly yellow glow of an old incandescent or halogen bulb. These bulbs are 2,700K. Kitchens and bathrooms can usually have less yellow light, and bulbs that are natural white (3,000K) or cool white (4,100K).

 

Understanding the Label

The Federal Trade Commission requires the Lighting Facts label on all light bulb packages to help consumers easily compare energy-efficient bulbs. 

THE LABEL INCLUDES

• Brightness (in lumens)

• Estimated Yearly Energy Cost

• Lifespan

• Light appearance (from warm to cool on the Kelvin scale)

• Energy Used

Like the helpful nutrition label on food products, the Lighting Facts label helps you to understand exactly what you are buying and to buy the light bulbs that are right for you.

"The Lighting Facts Label.” Energy.gov. Retrieved 23 Dec. 2015 from
http://www.energy.gov/energysaver/tips-shopping-lighting

 

Other Considerations

What fitting do you need? 

Before you head to the store, make sure you know the size of the base you want to use the light in and the voltage. I have two different bases to shop for, the candelabra E12 and medium E26. The “E” stands for Edison, who invented the screw base light bulb. It seems simple, but it would be frustrating if you bought the wrong bulb.

What shape bulb are you looking for? 

This question is really about the direction of the light. LED bulbs produce directional light, which is different from CFL and incandescent bulbs that throw light in all directions. LED bulbs with an ENERGY STAR rating are designed to light similar to traditional bulbs so look for this certification if you want to mirror the direction of the lighting you currently have. A ceiling pendent could be used with an arbitrary, stick or spiral shape, but you might prefer globes with lamps so light comes from the top and bottom.

How can you get the get the best return on your investment? 

LEDs have energy-saving advantages over incandescent and CFL bulbs, but they still cost upward of $10 each. You will get the greatest return on investment by replacing the bulbs you use most frequently or those that are difficult to replace. LED bulbs last for 15 years or longer.  A $12 LED bulb that meets ENERGY STAR requirements and is left on for three hours a day will pay for itself in roughly two years. To ensure you are buying the best quality bulb, only purchase those with ENERGY STAR certification. These bulbs have a three-year guarantee and meet important performance standards. 

 

All About Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) Video Series

A compact fluorescent bulb will pay for itself in a little more than two years. Also, compact fluorescent bulbs last is 10 times longer than a standard incandescent bulb. This means you will be saving on energy for years to come and won't have to change bulbs as often.

These Right Choice videos, hosted by Doug Root of Atlanta Lighting, explain the value of CFLs and how to get the most value from them.
A video still of Doug Root holding a light bulb.

What is a CFL?

Learn how CFLs differ from standard light bulbs.
Play time: 01:11

A video still showing the variety of bulbs available

Look at All of Your Choices

As with standard light bulbs, there are different types of CFLs. Learn about them in this video.
Play time: 01:54

A video still of Doug Root pointing to the lightbulb specifications on the packaging

What to Look For in a CFL

In this video, Doug describes how to find the CFL that best meets your needs.
Play time: 01:28