Did you know that the average U.S. household saves $225 annually when members switch to LED lighting?
This makes sense when you consider that 15% of a typical home's electricity budget is spent on lighting. And, LED bulbs use 90% less energy than conventional bulbs.
But, not all LED lights are created equal. In this guide, discover how to choose the best LED light bulbs for your home or business.
What Are LED Light Bulbs?
LED light bulbs are unique, light-emitting devices that produce more light per unit of electricity used than incandescent lights. The acronym "LED" stands for "light-emitting diode."
Light-emitting diodes are semiconductors that produce light when electricity runs through it. While an incandescent lightbulb glows when electricity heats a filament inside it, an LED bulb doesn't need to heat up to emit light.
By bypassing the need for heat, LED bulbs produce brighter light from a lower wattage of electricity. This is how LED lights can reduce energy bills.
You can purchase LED lights in one of seven shapes. These shapes affect the light's apparent brightness, and the direction of the light the bulb emits. Shapes include:
- Standard (spiral) LED light bulbs
- Globe bulbs
- Reflector bulbs (for directional/beam light)
- Miniature bulbs
- High-intensity discharge (HID) light bulbs (gas-discharge lamp)
- Candelabra lightbulb (holiday lights)
- LED tube lights
Standard, globe, and tube LED lights are the most popular, general-use options. Reflector bulbs, holiday lights, and miniature lighting have more specific applications.
HID lighting is typically reserved for car high beams and industrial applications.
What Sets the Best LED Light Bulbs Apart From the Rest?
What makes the best LED light bulbs better than the competition? When you set out to purchase LED lighting, there are seven key traits to be aware of.
Look for bulbs with these traits to determine the bulb's quality. Some of these traits are easily discernible on the product package. But, you'll have to read reviews to figure out if a given bulb has all the qualities you want.
Energy efficiency is often a lighting buyer's top priority. After all, LED light bulbs have the potential to reduce your building's energy cost dramatically.
How can you tell if a given bulb will live up to this potential?
One strategy is to look for Energy Star certification. Energy Star-certified light bulbs meet or surpass the strict efficiency requirements set by the U.S. Environmental Protective Agency.
You can also tell how energy efficient a lightbulb is by contrasting its wattage (electricity usage) to lumens (brightness output). A low wattage:lumens ratio means it uses the energy efficiently.
The lighting industry measures the lifespan of a lightbulb in "ARL" units. ARL stands for "average rated life." LED lighbulbs' lifespan is measured by lumen depreciation over time.
That is, an LED bulb gets dimmer and dimmer over the years—until it finally goes out. An LED bulb's "L70" lifespan tells you how long it lasts until it's reduced to 70% of its original brightness.
Popular LED light bulb brands offer 1-3 year warranties. Most advertise a lifespan of 15,000-25,000 hours. But, no comprehensive studies comparing the lifespans of LED bulbs by different manufacturers have been completed.
Note that if your LED lightbulb gets overheated, its components will accrue damage. This will kill your bulb much faster than it would last in optimal conditions.
Lumens is the unit that measures an LED light bulb's brightness.
You can find charts that compare LED bulbs' brightness in Lumens to the typical brightness of incandescent bulbs of various watts.
Many of these charts are available on the Energy Star website. For example, a 450 Lumens LED lightbulb emits as much light as a 40-watt incandescent lightbulb.
Frosted Light Bulbs vs. Transparent Light Bulbs
Frosted LED bulbs are are opaque white or cream color. Other LED bulbs are transparent. Frosted light bulbs diffuse the light. This gives it a "softer" feel.
Transparent bulbs are just as bright as frosted LED bulbs. But, light from transparent LED bulbs has more of a "sparkle" or "shine" to it. Certain venues with a rustic atmosphere choose transparent LED light bulbs for this reason.
You can measure a lightbulb's color temperature on the Kelvin scale. This tells you how "warm" or "cool" an LED light is. Lighting on the lower end of the Kelvin scale is warmer.
Warm lighting gives a space a cozy or "homey" atmosphere. Cool lighting is more professional-looking. But, if the lighting is too cool, it can become cold and clinical.
Note that "warm" and "cool" light colors actually emit the same amount of heat. For an LED lightbulb, that's none.
High CRI Score
CRI stands for "Color Rendering Index." This tells you the lightbulb's color accuracy.
LED lights with a high CRI score display the color of objects in a room accurately. This is most critical in restrooms, and spaces where technical work is conducted.
Most manufacturers do not advertise their lights' CRI scores, as they are low. But if an LED lightbulb has a CRI rating in the 80's or 90's, it's an excellent sign.
The best LED light bulbs often have "smart" features. This lets you program and control your lights remotely. No special equipment required; just use apps on your smartphone.
By connecting your lighting to the Internet of Things, you can change your home's lights to sit your moods and needs with a single tap.
What Factors Make an LED Lightbulb Right For Your Space?
It's wise to buy the best LED light bulbs on the market. It's also good to know your own home or building's needs, so you can make the right choices for your location.
Consider the following factors when you choose an LED bulb.
Base, Socket Shape, and Size
Light bulbs attach to sockets in lamps and ceiling lights. Check your sockets to determine the appropriate base size and shape.
Most interior lights use "e26" or "medium" sockets.
Accentuate Decor or Displays
Go with warm, white lighting for the majority of home interiors. Use opaque bulbs that diffuse light.
To accentuate decor, you can use brighter, transparent LED lights—particularly strip lights or reflector bulbs—to "spotlight" your displays. This also works well on outdoor lights over doorframes.
Local Environment (Room Temperature, Atmosphere)
LED last for decades in ideal conditions. Unfortunately, less-than-ideal conditions are common.
If you need to light a hot, humid, or damp environment, consider displays with built-in cooling or de-humidifying elements. Ventilation and desiccant sprays can help keep LED lights dry in damp spaces.
Choose the Best With Birddog Lighting
Whether you're lighting your home, a window display, or a building interior, you need reliable equipment. For the best LED light bulbs on the market, choose Birddog.
Explore the 70+ LED bulbs in our store, and discover the parts that are perfect for your needs.