What to Know When Buying LED Light Bulbs

LED lights are gaining in popularity and market share mainly due to the increase in energy efficiency that they offer. But many home owners are not getting the full advantage of LED lighting simply because they don’t understand the properties of LED light bulbs and how they compare to the old style incandescent bulbs. But understanding a few simple numbers will allow you to select the LED light bulb that best meets your needs and offers the best energy efficiency as well.



Old incandescent bulbs were labeled primarily by the energy that they required such as 20 watts or 100 watts and as consumers we simply learned to associate a level of brightness according to the energy consumption. But the more efficient LED lights use only a fraction of the energy and do not allow for an “apples to apples” comparison between LED and incandescent light bulbs. What consumers need to compare is the lumens, or light output, of each bulb to select the correct amount of light. The chart below will convert common incandescent wattages to lumens which can then be compared to the lumen count on LED lights.

  • 20W incandescent = 200 lumens
  • 40W = 450 lumens
  • 60 watts = 800 lumens
  • 75 watts = 900 lumens
  • 100 watts = 1200 lumens
  • 120 watts = 1500 lumens



LED lights offer consumers a choice when it comes to the appearance or temperature of the light that they are selecting. The appearance of the light, sometimes also called color or hue, is related to the energy it is using. In much the way that a piece of heated metal changes color when more heat is added, a light also burns differently with more energy added. A lower temperature light glows with a slight red or yellow cast. As the light burns hotter it advances to a more blue light and then to blueish white and finally white hot it reached. The corresponding labels for lightbulbs are warm white, neutral white, cool white and very cool white which is similar to natural daylight. Understanding the temperature of different LED lights will allow you to select how much light you would like for the different areas of your home.


Light Distribution

You will also notice that most LED packaging will describe the light distribution for each spot light type bulb. There will be labels such as spot, narrow flood, flood and wide flood. The chart below shows the range of each type of light distribution so that you can select the one that will best meet your needs.

  • 12° to 20° = Spot
  • 25° to 30° = Narrow Flood
  • 35° to 40° = Flood
  • >45° = Wide Flood

Understanding the brightness, temperature and distribution capabilities of LED lights and how they compare to old incandescent light bulbs will allow you to make better choices when selecting more energy efficient LED lights. You will also find that the new lights will be better suited to your needs and not produce too much light or too bright a light as compared to the light bulbs you had used in the past.

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