Ask the Electrician: How to Choose the Right Light Bulb for Every Occasion
Buying a light bulb is a little more complicated than it used to be. Before, wattage was pretty much all you needed to know. One 60-watt bulb looked just like any other. Today, you can get a 9-watt LED bulb that puts off the same light as a 100-watt incandescent bulb.
With all the different types of bulbs available today, how do you know which one you need without asking an electrician? Well, here’s how you choose the perfect light bulb for every occasion.
Check Bulb Size and Shape
The first thing you need to do is determine what bulb will fit in the fixture. Every light bulb has two measurements: one for the base and one for the globe. When you picture a “standard” light bulb, you’re imagining an A19 globe on an E26 base (this is the size used in most U.S. homes). The letter represents the style and the number represents size.
Once you know which size light bulb you’re looking for, you can start shopping for more aesthetic features.
How Much Light Do You Need?
Lighting sets the mood. If you choose a bulb that’s too bright for the space, it could overload your eyes. Choose a bulb that’s too dim, and you can’t see what you’re doing.
In the past, you could match brightness by looking at the wattage. But with new energy-efficient bulbs, wattage doesn’t necessarily equal brightness. Now, it’s much better to look for lumens to determine brightness.
If you want to match the brightness of your old bulbs:
A 100-watt incandescent bulb produces about 1,600 lumens.
A 74-watt incandescent bulb produces about 1,100 lumens.
A 60-watt incandescent bulb produces about 800 lumens.
A 40-watt incandescent bulb produces about 450 lumens.
Even if a new LED bulb says 9-watts, it could still produce the brightness of a 100-watt incandescent light. Check the lumens if you want to match brightness.
While it might not matter for brightness, wattage still plays a key role in choosing the right bulb. Don’t choose a bulb that requires more wattage than your fixture can handle. If a lamp is only rated to 40 watts, don’t exceed that limit. Otherwise, you could risk a fire.
Pick the Right Color
Many manufacturers use terms like “soft” or “warm” to describe the color of the light produced, but these terms aren’t standard. What might be soft to one company could be bright to another. The color a light bulb emits is based on the amount of heat produced, so the most accurate way to determine color is by temperature.
Bulb heat is measured in Kelvin (K). Here’s how you can tell which color a bulb will produce:
Warm, yellow light: 2,700-2,800K
Slightly yellow, warm light: 3,000-3,200K
Neutral, bright white: 3,500-4,000K
Slightly blue, bright white: 5,000-6,500K
If you’re looking for a more versatile option, some smart LED lights can change color based on your preferences. These bulbs work via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, dedicated control, or installed light switch. Consult your electrician If you’re interested in installing color-changing bulbs and light switches.
Do You Have a Dimmer?
Dimmable light bulbs don’t work in every fixture. They need special wall switches to adjust the brightness. Check the packaging before purchasing light bulbs. If it says “dimmable” or “3-way,” they’re designed for use in only dimmable applications.
Dimmers are one of our favorite electrical upgrades to add some luxury to your life. If you don’t have them already, contact an electrician to get some installed and really set the mood in your home.
Choose the Right Light Bulb, but Call an Electrician for Hard to Reach Fixtures
Now that you understand all the confusing letters and numbers associated with different light bulbs, you’ll be able to choose the perfect one for every application. Just determine the size you need, choose your preferred brightness and color, and you’ll be ready to light up your house (or not if you have dimmer switches). And if you can't reach that light fixture, just call your friendly local electrician! We'd be glad to help.
IES Home Electrical Services is a McKinney-based electrical company dedicated to providing area homeowners with the best quality of work and unparalleled customer service, backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Proudly serving McKinney, Frisco, Prosper, Celina, Gunter, Anna, Aubrey, Bonham, Crossroads, Melissa, Sherman, Farmersville, Little Elm, Princeton, Prosper, Van Alstyne, Hackberry, and Denison.
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