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Albert Mikhailov
Albert Mikhailov

Lighting Buying Guide


Both LED and fluorescent lighting are more efficient than incandescent: LEDs consume up to 90% less energy and fluorescents consume up to 75% less. Fluorescents are made of glass tubes and can shatter if dropped, whereas LEDs are more durable. Also, fluorescents contain trace amounts of mercury, and states are increasingly adopting special recycling rules.




lighting buying guide



A reference to retrofit options essentially means using an LED bulb in a standard light fixture. This means that some LED upgrades are as simple as buying an LED bulb and screwing it into a socket like you would any other light bulb.


Light bulbs. Everyone uses them. And there are plenty of options when it comes to what kinds of light bulbs to use in your home or apartment. Read this guide to learn how to choose the right light bulbs for your home.


Daylight light shows off colors and details, and is great for reading, craft rooms and workshops, and accent lighting. Fun fact: Popular in workplaces, Daylight bulbs are thought to increase productivity.


In other words, the age of the LED is here, and you only need travel so far as your local lighting aisle to see the change. With all of the new options out there (not to mention the disappearance of some important old ones), finding the perfect bulb can seem pretty daunting. New lights that promise to last 20 years and save you hundreds of dollars might sound good in theory, but how do you know which one is the right one for you? How do you know the bulb you're buying is going to be bright enough? What about color temperature? Color... rendering?


Before LEDs exploded into the lighting scene, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs to you and me) were seen by many as the heir apparent to incandescent lighting. Despite the fact that CFLs use between one-fifth and one-third the energy of incandescents, and typically save one to five times their purchase price over the course of their lifetime, many people weren't thrilled at the idea of switching over.


EISA didn't ban incandescents outright, but it's true that bulbs unable to keep up with the rising standards will be phased out (the majority of incandescents have already met this fate). However, the door is still wide open for non-traditional incandescents to take their place, and we're already seeing some manufacturers rise to the challenge with high-efficiency incandescent bulbs that manage to meet the new standards. Key among these high-efficiency bulbs is yet another lighting option you'll want to consider.


If you're buying a bulb these days, you'll be left in the dark if you don't know what a lumen is. The actual definition gets a bit complicated, involving things like steradians and candela, but don't worry, because all that you really need to know is that lumens are units of brightness. The more lumens a bulb boasts, the brighter it will be. So, how does this information help you?


Generally speaking, incandescents sit at the bottom of the scale with their yellow light, while CFLs and LEDs have long been thought to tend toward the high, bluish end of the spectrum. This has been a steady complaint about new lighting alternatives, as many people prefer the warm, familiar, low color temperature of incandescents. Manufacturers are listening, though, and in this case they heard consumers loud and clear, with more and more low-color-temperature CFL and LED options hitting the shelves. Don't believe me? Take another look at those two paper lamps in the picture above, because they're both CFL bulbs -- from the same manufacturer, no less.


These days, bulb shoppers will find so many color temperature options that some lighting companies have cleverly begun color-coding their packaging: blue for high-color-temperature bulbs, yellow for low-color-temperature ones and white for bulbs that fall in between. With so many choices available, the notion that the phase-out of incandescents is taking warm, cozy lighting with it is a complete myth at this point.


In general, anything over 80 is probably decent enough for your home, but we're starting to see CRI scores creeping up into the nineties on some very affordable bulbs. The GE Reveal BR30 floodlight LED won our Editors' Choice distinction for its emphasis on color rendering. There's even a $5 LED from Ikea that scores in the upper 80s. If accurate color rendering is important to you, look for lights like these. And if you're buying bulbs on the high (blue) or low (yellow) end of the spectrum, take any and all CRI claims with a grain of salt.


So far, we've covered the light bulb basics (and then some), but if you really want to get picky about your home lighting, or if you just want to delve a little deeper into the subject, there's a lot more to take into consideration.


As for the bulb itself, the typical shape that you're probably used to is an A19 bulb. Increase that number to A21 or A23, and you've got the same shape, but bigger. Bulbs made to resemble flames are F-shaped, which is easy enough to remember, as are globes, which go by the letter G. If it's a floodlight you want, you'll want to look for "BR" (bulging reflector) or "PAR" (parabolic aluminized reflector). Those bulbs are designed to throw all their light in one direction only, which makes them useful for spot lighting, overhead lighting and the headlights in your car.


While some LEDs go out of their way to mimic the familiar look of incandescent lighting, others take a different approach. After all, those classic bulb shapes were designed to optimize incandescent light output, just like the twisty shape of CFL light bulbs is designed to optimize fluorescent light output. Why shouldn't we do the same for LEDs?


Some lights have hardware built into the bulb itself that can block the downward projection of light (BR and PAR bulbs do it intentionally, reflecting that light back upward). These bulbs are fine for something like a recessed light fixture, where they hang upside down and shine straight out, but if you're buying one for a bedside reading lamp, where downward light is key, it might be disappointingly dim. If you aren't sure exactly what you'll need from your bulb in terms of light direction, the safe bet might be to go with a bulb that shines in all directions. The term that you'll want to look for is "omnidirectional."


A majority of modern lighting options now include compatibility with in-wall dimmer switches, and that's a good thing for anyone who likes the light down low. If this sounds like you, then you'll want to double check that your bulb's packaging says the word "dimmable" before you make a purchase.


We also test out the dimmable range of each bulb we review -- some can dim down lower than others before cutting out to black, and some won't quite shine at full brightness with the switch dialed all the way back up. You're probably nitpicking at that point, but hey, sometimes mood lighting matters.


If you're buying new bulbs, then it absolutely makes sense to stop and ask yourself if it's worth upgrading to smart lights. Thanks to the popularity of AI assistants like Alexa, it's a particularly good time to buy in. With millions of people adding dedicated voice controls into their home, upgrading to smart lights has become an increasingly attractive next step. That level of demand has led to a boom in options -- many of them more affordable than you might think.


The most obvious way to get started with smart lighting is with the bulbs themselves. You've got plenty of intelligent options from brands both big and small, and to find the one that's best for you, you're going to need to understand what sets them apart.


One last note: don't forget to consider smartening things up at the switch, instead. It's an especially smart solution if you have several bulbs wired to one switch, and the bonus upside is that, unlike with smart bulbs, your automations will work even when the switch is turned off. And if you need help figuring out which switch to go with, well, wouldn't you know it, we've got a buying guide for that, too.


There are a few basic features that you'll definitely want to keep an eye out for as you're shopping around. The first is smart scheduling, which lets you use an app to set your lights to turn on or off at specific times. With smart scheduling, you can program your lights to wake you up in the morning, or maybe to simulate occupancy while you're away on vacation. It's really a core part of connected lighting's appeal, so just about anything you consider should offer it.


Shop around, and you'll also find a growing number of third-party integrations that open the door for intriguing new smart bulb functionality. LEDs like Lifx offer direct integrations with the Nest Learning Thermostat capable of tying your smart lighting in with smart climate control. Insteon's LEDs are fully supported by Microsoft, which means you can control them using Windows Live Tiles, or simply by talking to Cortana.


Virtual voice assistants are a growing fixture in our lives, and in our homes now, too, thanks to products like the Amazon Echo smart speaker. More and more, people are looking for new ways to put these voice-activated helpers to use -- and smart lighting is a pretty perfect fit.


You've already got a lot of options here, especially with Amazon's Alexa, whose catalog of smart home skills seems to be growing the fastest. Smart lighting names like Lutron, Lifx, Philips Hue, TP-Link, Haiku and more already boast Alexa compatibility, along with lighting-friendly smart home platforms like Wink, SmartThings and Insteon. No matter what kind of bulb you're looking for, the odds are very good that you'll be able to find at least one that works with Alexa.


The appeal of voice-activated smart lighting is pretty obvious. Remote control of your home's lights by way of a smartphone app or a physical remote is one thing, but being able to dim the lights up and down with a simple voice command takes the convenience factor to a whole new level -- and it's particularly helpful for people with physical disabilities or other mobility issues. 041b061a72


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