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How do I pick the right light bulb?

Efficiency Vermont offers some advice

  • 1 min to read

Q. I went to the hardware store to buy a few new light bulbs for my house and I was totally overwhelmed by the options – how do I know which one is right for me? I used to always just go by watts but this doesn’t seem to translate to the new options.

A. Picking the right bulb can definitely be confusing – with rapid advancements in lighting technology it is hard to keep up with all of the product options out there. When choosing a bulb that is right for you there are a few key things to consider:

Brightness: You mention selecting bulbs by the number of watts – that was the best way to pick the right incandescent bulbs, but with new, efficient bulb options it is all about lumens. Watts describe the power used, but lumens are a measure of a bulb’s brightness, the higher the lumens, the brighter the bulb. If you’re looking to replace a general 60-watt bulb, look for an LED with 800 lumens. For a 75-watt, 1,100 lumens; for 100-watt, 1,700 lumens. Keep in mind that the bulb needs to be right for the fixture you are using – what’s right for a floor lamp may not be the correct choice for your ceiling fan.

Color: This choice is entirely based on your preference. Depending on where you plan to put your new bulb, you may decide you’d like it to have a warm or cool glow. The “light appearance” of the bulb is measured in Kelvins (K). The higher the number of Kelvins, the cooler the light. For something that looks like your old incandescent, look for a bulb in the 2,700K to 3,000K range; for cooler light, 4,100K to 5,000K.

Cost: In Vermont you can get an efficient bulb that requires a small amount of electricity to power for a relatively low price for a far longer time than less efficient bulbs. Generally, LEDs cost the least to power over time and they last the longest.

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