Buying Guide: LED light bulbs

You might not realize it when you flick a switch, but the right lighting can make all the difference when it comes to how you enjoy your home. Learn how to make the most efficient and attractive lighting choices for your home.

Getting an efficient bulb is easy when it comes to LEDs - the trick is to get the best quality light for your needs. The right lighting choices can also help you get the most out of your home by making spaces more comfortable, functional and attractive.

Why LEDs?

LED light bulbs are now largely the norm for most homes and businesses. Most people are making the switch from compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), usually distinguished by their spiral shape, which were designed as replacements to traditional incandescent and halogen bulbs. While CFLs are more efficient than older, traditional incandescents, LEDs are far more effective for saving energy. Because CFLs contain mercury, they need to be handled with more care at home and disposed of safely through available recycling programs.

LED bulbs last up to 3.5 times longer than other bulbs. They're also dimmable, safe to use outdoors and don't emit heat, so they can reduce your home's overall cooling costs.

Did you know? ENERGY STAR®-certified bulbs use 70 to 90 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent ones. Look for the ENERGY STAR® logo when you’re shopping.

How to shop: Look for lumens, kelvins and CRI

Traditionally, we used to look at watts when shopping for light bulbs, but LEDs have changed the game. They use less energy, so their number of watts isn't the best way to determine their brightness because they'll naturally have a lower wattage than traditional bulbs.

Instead, look at lumens, which are a measure of brightness. The higher the lumen, the brighter the bulb. Lumens can range from about 450 lm (similar to a standard 40-watt incandescent bulb or a 5-watt LED) to 2600 lm (a 150-watt incandescent bulb or 26-watt LED).

Along with brightness, you'll also want to decide on the colour temperature for your home, measured in kelvins. Colour temperature ranges from warmer, yellow-toned glow (around 2700K to 3500K), to cooler, soft white (3500K to 5000K) to bright daylight (5000K to 6500K).

What you choose depends on the space and your personal preference. For example, you may choose softer, warmer lighting for your dining room, and brighter lighting closer to daylight for a mirror area in your bathroom.

Finally, you'll also want to consider CRI, or Colour Rendering Index. This is a measure of how accurately a light source illuminates an object's true colours. Find LEDs with a CRI in the mid-to-high 80s at least.

You can typically find a wide range of bulb configurations to fit many fixtures and colour requirements – so shop around.

Tip: Remember to look at the base of the light fixtures you’re shopping for to find bulbs that match. When you're shopping, look for ENERGY STAR®-certified light fixtures, which use a quarter of the electricity that standard fixtures use. All bulbs and fixtures should also have proper CSA or equivalent safety certification.



How do I figure out what I need?

How you use each room in your home differs, so chances are your lighting needs will differ too. Think about who is using the room, for what and how much natural light is available. Remember that the fixture type matters too. For instance, you may want to choose something different for direct overhead lighting than for a reading lamp.

Tip: Ensure that LEDs are dimmable and that the bulb and dimmer you select are compatible. Dimmers can help curb your monthly electricity costs and give you more options for improving the atmosphere in your room.

What about smart lighting?

Smart light bulbs allow you to control your lighting remotely using your smartphone or tablet. You can use the corresponding app to change the lights' brightness level and colours (think red and green for the holidays or orange for Halloween).

Tip: Consider setting up more task-oriented lighting, like reading lamps or over-the-counter lights in the kitchen, so you can avoid keeping the whole house lit unnecessarily. And remind the whole family to turn off the lights when they leave a room, or install motion sensors if they're a forgetful bunch.

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