Shopping for light bulbs never used to be complicated, and with changes in regulations and technology, making sound choices can seem overwhelming. An article on light bulbs in the October 2015 issue of Consumer Reports acknowledges this problem and provides a good overview of what’s new, what to look for, and how to read labels.
The article begins by stating what really matters is how much you want to spend and the brightness you require. By reading the packaging carefully, you can usually figure out the most important specifications.
Most bulb packages feature a “Lighting Facts” section that contains useful information, such as:
- Color temperature, measured in Kelvin (K). The warm incandescent lighting you’re used to hovers around 2700K, with 3000-4200K offering a whiter light, those above 5000K casting a bluish tone and 5000-6500k is said to replicate daylight.
- Energy usage, a direct wattage comparison you can check for various types of bulbs.
- Lumens, which indicates bulb brightness (1600 lumens gives off the same brightness as a 100-watt halogen bulb or 1250 lumens for an incandescent bulb).
- Life expectancy, which is where LED bulbs (literally) shine.
In addition, the package may also detail data about these features:
- Beam angle, which indicates if the bulb casts light in a single direction or is omnidirectional (perfect for lamps).
- Color Rendering Index (CRI), which tells how accurately colors appear under the light of the bulb. Halogen bulbs render colors the best.
- ENERGY STAR®, a rating used to indicate that the bulb meets stringent regulations. Some ENERGY STAR bulbs offer rebates from local utilities.
- Mercury content. LEDs don’t contain mercury but CFLs do and should be recycled appropriately.
Finally, it has been shown that exposure to any light at night can increase sleep problems, and that we’re particularly sensitive to blue light. Consider choosing LEDs with a color temperature around 2400-2700K if sleep problems are an issue for you.