Let’s shed some light on the situation. As a homeowner, you might not think that much about what kind of light bulbs you buy. As long as it works and it doesn’t cost too much, that’s enough, isn’t it? Not exactly. If you want to make a wise choice for your home, investing in smart LED bulbs will save time, money, and energy.
Congress began a campaign to encourage a greener, longer-lasting lighting over a decade ago. Since then LEDs have taken over the bulk of the lighting aisle. Many of these bulbs can last as long as twenty years and save you hundreds of dollars over their lifetime compared to their predecessors.
Of course, given that standard incandescent lights were the status quo, those of us considering making lighting changes can find the process intimidating. To help determine the best options, here is a comprehensive list that compares all the major lighting types available, as well as providing information about features to consider. This should convince you why LEDs, specifically Smart LEDs, are your best option.
Average cost: $3 -$20
Average wattage: 4W – 22W
Average life expectancy: 20,000 hours
Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are a scientific breakthrough in which the bulbs are designed in such a way that they use a fraction of the wattage required to power a traditional incandescent bulb. This reduced wattage level makes LEDs vastly more cost-efficient over time.
LEDs are the main bulb type for any type of smart lighting. We will expand on that later.
LEDs are rated to last tens of thousands of hours, which can translate to decades of use. Standard bulbs tend to only last a year or so.
LEDs don’t “burn out” in the traditional sense. Instead, they grow gradually dimmer and dimmer over their lifespan.
Many LED bulbs come with multi-year warranties in case the bulb fails well before the expected time frame.
70 to 80 percent more energy efficient than standard bulbs
Average cost: $2-$20
Average wattage: 9W-52W
Average life expectancy: 10,000 hours
Compact Florescent Lights (CFLs) seemed like the obvious choice to replace incandescents as the industry leader when they first came out. CFLs are recognized by their distinct corkscrew shape and compelling energy saving capabilities, but many people haven’t really seen the overall value in switching.
- Some find the whitish/bluish light output of CFLs harsher than the natural warm yellow tone of incandescents.
- Most CFLs are not dimmable, a major flaw for those that prefer more light control.
- They often have a delay of a couple seconds after being switched on to fully light up.
- CFLs contain trace amounts of mercury (usually around 3-5 milligrams). This creates a potential pollution issue if they are improperly disposed of. The extremely small mercury level is most likely not cause for concern, but if a CFL bulb does break, open a window and let the room air out for 30 minutes. Then carefully transfer any glass or dust into a sealable container. Then take it to a recycling center or hardware store, as most hardware retailers will have a system in place
Average wattage: 40W-150W<
Average life expectancy: 1,000 hours
Average wattage: 29W- 72W<
Average life expectancy: 1,000 hours
The standard filament-based lightbulb. This type of bulb is largely being made obsolete because of federal pressure to meet rising energy specifications. However, some high-efficiency incandescent bulbs are still in the marketplace, such as Halogens. Halogens are incandescent bulbs with a small amount of halogen gas around the filament. This gas reuses burned-up tungsten to extend the energy efficiency. It is a fair compromise for when the old bulbs run out, but homeowners should seriously consider more advanced LEDs.
Lighting Facts and Other Purchase Factors
Now that you know about lightbulb types, it is important to know what specifically to look for in the store. Similar to a nutrition label, a Lighting Facts label should be on every lightbulb box. They tell a consumer the estimated yearly cost to run that product, as well as other technical factors that require a bit of prior knowledge.
Lumens, for example, refers to a unit of brightness that a bulb generates. In general, the more lumens a bulb has, the brighter that bulb will be.
Here is a general outline for a standard level of brightness by lumens, switching from incandescents to LEDs.
Replacing a 40W bulb: 450 lumens minimum
Replacing a 60W bulb: 800 lumens minimum
Replacing a 75W bulb: 1,100 lumens minimum
Replacing a 100W bulb: 1,600 lumens minimum
Seeing how many lumens a bulb creates compared to the wattage required gives consumers a good idea of how efficient that bulb is. Look for a high lumen per watt ratio, because the more lumens per watt, the better the bulb converts electricity.
Color Rendering Index (CRI)- The CRI is a score from 1-100 that rates a bulb’s ability to accurately illuminate colors. You can think of the CRI as a light bulb’s GPA for colors, as it averages multiple scores for multiple shades. Manufacturers aren’t required to list the bulb’s CRI number on packaging, but many of them choose to do so anyway, so you’ll want to know what it means.
Imagine a basketball game played outside on a sunny day between a team in red jerseys and a team in green ones. Daylight is the ideal for making colors look the way they should, so it gets a CRI score of 100. Most people watching this game would have no problem telling the teams apart because red would appear clearly red, and green would look green.
But what if the same game was played with a rather imaginative light tech shining different colors lights one the players? Purple and red and orange in mixing swirls are fun but ultimately distort what the viewers see so it isn’t very practical. So CRI simply refers to how well you can rely on a bulb to show you your world in the most accurate light.
Color Temperature is another point of consideration. This is measured in Kelvins, a measure of color that a light source produces ranging from yellow on the low side and blue on the high side, paling to white in the middle. A scale is often included with the lighting facts.
Incandescents tend to lean towards the yellow spectrum, while LEDs and CFLs land farther in the bluish zone. Many people prefer the warm yellow tones they are familiar with, so more and more low-color temperature CFL and LED options are coming out.
The easiest way to sort this out is to look for 2700 K for warm, yellow light and anything above 5000 K for hotter, bluish white light. Whatever is between will tend to have a more neutral, almost pure white tone.
Bulb Shape can be an aesthetic factor to think about, but otherwise, there is not much else to say about it from a functionality standpoint.
Dimmability comes into play when a homeowner uses in-wall dimmer switches or smart light switches to affect the level of light in a room. Make sure the bulbs say “dimmable” on them. Go ahead and keep the receipt, just in case that or another problem arises, such as a faint buzzing that some dimmer bulbs emit.
Automated lighting options are where it gets really interesting. Now is the best time to upgrade to smart lights as technology has started to meet the demand for smarter home features. With the advent of popular AI assistants like Alexa and Siri, millions of people’s appetite for voice-controlled products has grown exponentially. Upgrading to smart lights is a naturally attractive- and surprisingly affordable- next step.
One way to start with smart lighting is to look at the bulbs themselves. There are plenty of cool options from a huge span of brands. Think about how the bulbs would communicate. Some offer direct connections with a smartphone through Bluetooth or Wifi, which makes setup simple enough as the designated application would come with instructions built into it.
Others transmit using a personal radio frequency, such as Zigbee or Z-Wave. These bulbs might fit better in elaborate smart home installations because it’s usually easier to sync them to other functional pieces like motion detectors and smart locks. It required a separate hub/gateway device to translate that set frequency into a Wi-Fi signal comprehendible to a router. Some bulbs come with their own gateway devices, and some have to be purchased separately.
Bulbs can also be automation enabled at the switch. They come in handy if you want the manual function of a switch, as well as smart home capabilities.
Smart Features to Look for:
- Smart Scheduling- With an app you can set your lights to turn on or off at certain times. You can use this to wake up to light in the morning or to make the house appear occupied when you’re away.
- Voice Control- Virtual assistants have become so integral to the cultural landscape that tech companies are using these tools to their best advantage. Using Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant, users can find products that allow them to use their preferred AI to work their lights with simple voice commands.
- Color Control- For when life gets too dull and you need to add some color to the scene, products like the Philips Hue Starter Kit will work wonders. Fully automatable with a mobile app and control hub, Hue LED bulbs can changes color on demand. With a flourish of your phone, select from millions of shades to breathe beauty into your space. And here is the kicker- it works with Apple, Amazon, and Google voice control systems. There are a variety of applications that can make your lights do amazing things. Set it to change colors in rhythm with your music, or to sync with certain tv programs. It’s a bright, exciting new world.
- Operating device- if you prefer a physical operating device such as a remote (in lieu of an application), that is important to make note of. Here is the bottom line. This is your home. These are your lights. Make them yours. Let iTrust help you install the lighting setup you’ll most enjoy, because it is an investment you will make daily use of. We can help you know what’s out there, pinpoint the best course, and love your lights.Information from CNET