Shedding Some Comedic Light on Light Bulbs… You’re not alone, Stay Strong my Friends!
November 24 | By LED National
We have all been there, you’re standing in the daunting light bulbs section of your favorite home improvement store, scratching your head. This is how it has gone for me in that dreaded aisle.
What is the difference between 750 lumens and 815 lumens? Is this out of 1,000 with 1,000 being the highest? It must be! It’s like a grade, so it’s a solid C+/B- on brightness. Nope, that one over there says 1,300 Lumens. So, it must be out of 2,000 lumens? I’m confused.
As the resourceful person I am, I get out my smartphone to look this up when I get distracted. SOFT LIGHT!
I don’t need my phone! I see something familiar. This one says soft white, I’m pretty sure the CFL bulb that I brought from my lamp at home said the same thing on the packaging when I bought it. I’ve figured this out!
I look down to discover the bulb from home says XXVV** 15W 2700K???
What the &$%#& does this XXVV** 15W 2700K code mean? Okay, this LED bulb on the shelf says soft white and it says 2700K. I’ve cracked the code! It’s the same thing! I don’t need to search this, it’s a freaking light bulb, I’ve got this. #WINNING
Then, something catches my eye. 3000K???
You’ve got to be kidding me? There is another bulb on the shelf says soft white and it says 3000K. So, is 2700K soft white or is 3000K soft white? Seriously? What have I done to deserve this cruelty?
Then, I notice something else. REPLACEMENT???
Is my 15-Watt compact fluorescent (CFL) bulb that I brought here from the lamp at home the same as a 60 Watt incandescent? I’m buying light bulbs; this should not be this hard! I give up, I’ll buy the LED bulb that says 2700 and soft white. Over it!
I get home, put the new bulb into my favorite table lamp and it looks completely different from the rest of the room. It doesn’t match the others!
Noooooo! My favorite lamp has become the lighting outcast of the living room! I’m moving this to another room while I finish my wine.
If you’re laughing or shaking your head, (1) I am glad I made you laugh and/or validated your frustration, and (2) I’m going to shed a little light on this topic for you (pun intended). Let’s review the typical packaging for an LED bulb* that likely contains all the information below and get a little bit of (less confusing) information.
This is often expressed in lumens. We have all been there, holding bulbs that seemingly look identical, but the package for one says 750 Lumens and the other says 815 Lumens. The higher the lumens, the brighter the light.
For example, if you are outside on a sunny day in the direct sunlight, this would be equivalent to about 6,000-7,000 Lumens. This level of brightness is why you need sunglasses, in this situation, it is super bright! As a rule of thumb, if you want to light a living room that is 100 ft², then you want about 2000 lumens total, give or take about 200 lumens, depending on how bright you like it. Basically, take your square footage and multiply it times 20.
Lighting industry folks would like to give you a complex equation for the level of Lumens you need, but it doesn’t have to be that CONFUSING. If it’s not bright enough for you, buy higher bulbs with higher lumens or go buy an extra lamp for that corner table. If you know how expensive lamps can be, you’ll likely go for higher lumen bulbs unless you have an 800 ft² living room, in which case, you can afford the fancy extra lamp.
This might be expressed in kelvins which isn’t something most people are familiar with. Light color might be expressed in some ambiguous term like “soft white” or “bright white”. I’m going to provide an example based on my own experience.
I can look at two light bulbs that are both 800 lumens, and I will likely tell you one is brighter. Well, it turns out one isn’t. Let’s say one light bulb is 800 lumens/2700 kelvins (i.e. romance lighting) and another that is 800 lumens/5000 kelvins (i.e. mid-morning light), I would likely tell you the 800 lumens/5000 kelvins bulb is brighter. Why?
This is because we associate light color (kelvins) with brightness (lumens) because of our extensive experience with being outside and that thing called evolution. You can have a very well-lit room that is 2700 kelvins. Unfortunately, many establishments, AHEM… restaurants, don’t understand this. So, they use 2700 kelvins in poorly spaced fixtures which equals inadequate lumens. For me, this means either (1) trying to read the menu without squinting, so I don’t give away my bad vision or (2) deciding I don’t care and utilizing the flashlight on my smartphone, which is obnoxious.
The point is, you can have good brightness at any light color in the ideal spectrum, which I will save you the boredom of reading.
Estimated Energy Cost
The energy cost is $1.23/year? What does that mean?
This number is the savings on your electric bill vs. the relic CFL or incandescent. It does not estimate the heat offset. What’s that?
Traditional bulbs put off a lot of heat. If you live in a hot place like me (Texas) then you are all-too familiar with air-conditioning costs. LEDs put off very little heat. I can reach into my side table lamp right now, take the LED bulb out, and it won’t burn my hand. If I did that with a traditional bulb, I would be screaming and running to the sink to put my hand under cold water. Hot bulbs make your AC work harder, LED bulbs make it work less, and with my AC bill in Texas, I’ll take all the help I can get.
Long story short, you save more.
This is expressed in incandescent equivalent Watts. If you’re like me, you haven’t owned an incandescent bulb (i.e. a relic) in a long time. So, you are standing there staring at the bulb you took out of the lamp at home. The CFL bulb from the lamp at home says 15 Watts, and this package says that this LED replaces a 60 Watt incandescent. You are wondering, can I replace a 15 Watt CFL with a 9 Watt LED?
Rule of thumb, if the watts of the bulb you are buying is more than the watts of the LED you are buying, you are good.
*In the industry, what the rest of us know as bulbs, the lighting industry calls lamps. So, when a lighting company says they carry fixtures and lamps, it means they carry fixtures (i.e. chandeliers) and light bulbs, not the lamp on your nightstand.
Let the confusion mayhem continue.