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How to Pick an LED
Once you've decided to switch, make it a pain-free process.
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Energy Efficient Bulbs

How to Pick an LED

So you’re interested in making the switch to LED lighting? Whether you were drawn in by the longevity, advanced energy efficiency standards, or durable nature, there is likely a LED bulb to suit your needs. Though this technology can have a higher upfront cost, the prices have been dropping, and it will save you money in the long run. Keep an eye out for rebate programs in your area which can significantly reduce the initial investment.

Here's how to make the switch.

Make a list

Count the number and types of bulbs in your home. You may be surprised at how many light bulbs you have! Most will have a marking on them to tell you the wattage, voltage, and even the base of the bulb. If you’re not sure what type of bulb you have try BulbFinder—it will help you find the bulb you’re looking for in the shortest amount of steps. Our reference charts are another way to help identify what styles of bulbs you have. The most commonly used bulb in homes is an A19 medium screw based bulb. Reflector styles are often found in recessed lighting, track, or as outdoor security flood lights and candelabra styles are often used in decorative fixtures such as chandeliers and wall sconces. Depending on your home or business application, you may also be interested in replacing your fluorescent linear tube lamps. There’s an LED for those too! Make a list of your current bulb shapes and sizes to help you find equivalents while shopping.

What color of light do you want?

Selecting the right light appearance for your space can make all the difference. The Kelvin scale is used to describe light appearance. Lower degrees Kelvin indicate a warmer, yellow-white light and higher degrees indicate a blue-white light. Warm white (2700 Kelvin) most closely approximates a traditional incandescent bulb and is favored in bedrooms and living rooms. It provides a warm and inviting light. Neutral White (3500 Kelvin) can be used in almost every space- it’s neutral. Office/work spaces will often utilize this color temperature. Kitchens, bathrooms and work spaces may benefit from a cooler color temperature (4100-5000 K). Daylight White (6500K) can be used for task lighting, detailing, or many industrial applications.

Know your watts from your lumens (brightness or light output)

At one time, we used to refer to wattage a measure of bulb brightness. Actually, wattage indicates the amount of energy a bulb uses and in traditional incandescent bulbs, higher wattage correlates with a brighter bulb. However, new and more efficient Compact Fluorescent (CFL) and LED bulbs use far less energy. Therefore, wattage is no longer an accurate indicator of bulb brightness. Instead, look for the Lumen (lm) rating, which describes the amount of light a bulb gives off or its brightness. This is the most accurate way to tell how bright bulbs are in comparison to their incandescent cousins.

Calculate your financial and environmental savings

LEDs are one of the more expensive bulb types on the market today, but recent advancements in LED technology have lowered the cost dramatically. To help reduce the upfront cost many electric utility companies offer rebate programs. LED bulbs are an investment and over their long lifetime they will save you money due to their high energy efficiency. They have the lowest Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of any bulb type. Our video explains Total Cost of Ownership in more detail.

Start with one bulb. Or Two.

Now that you know what to look for, you’re ready to buy your first LED bulbs. For your first LED purchase, it’s okay to start small. Buy just one or two LED bulbs for a lamp or ceiling fixture. It is important to find the right replacement bulbs before investing in many bulbs for your entire home. If you are making a purchase for your business or responsibly for that decision at your place of employment, consider our Buy ‘N’ Try program. It’s our risk-free program that allows commercial customers to test LED bulbs for the perfect fit before making a full purchase.

Evaluate your test bulbs

Do you like the quality of light the bulbs produce? Are they bright enough? Are they the right color temperature? Make notes on appearance, initial cost, energy used, and brightness. If you have any questions about your purchase, our certified Lighting Specialists are a quick phone, email, or chat away.

Replace the lights you use most to maximize savings

If you use a specific space regularly or if you keep a certain light on for long periods of time, you are spending more money powering those bulbs than others in your home. Target these areas for upgrades first to save money immediately.

Consider bulb longevity

Unlike other bulbs, LEDs do not burn out; they progressively dim over time. LEDs are considered to be at the end of their life when light output drops below 70% of its initial brightness at purchase. Traditional bulbs have a much shorter life than LEDs. Incandescent bulbs may last around 1,000 hours, where a CFL could last as long as 5,000-8,000 hours. LEDs are rated to maintain their initial brightness for 10,000-25,000 hours. If you have a bulb that is difficult to replace because it’s installed in a hard to reach spot, you may want to consider replacing it sooner rather than later. You won’t have to replace it for years. For example, bulbs rated at 25,000 hours last for more than 20 years when used approximately 3 hours a day.

Watch out for enclosed fixtures

LED bulbs give off much less heat than incandescent bulbs. According to ENERGY STAR®, incandescent light bulbs use 10% of their energy to produce light while 90% is wasted as heat. For an LED, 95% of that energy is used to product light and only 5% as heat. Keep in mind, LEDs are more sensitive to heat and most LEDs should not be used in fully enclosed fixtures. For this reason it is generally recommended that LED’s are installed in open fixtures which allow for better heat dissipation. If you are replacing a bulb in an enclosed fixture, make sure the LED you are buying is designed to be used in that space.

LEDs and dimmer switches

As you replace traditional bulbs with LEDs, you may want to change out dimmer switches that may not be compatible with LEDs. While most LED bulbs are dimmable, not all are compatible with traditional dimmers. Bulbs.com carries a wide selection of dimmable LEDs and compatible dimmers. Check with the manufacturer or one of our certified Lighting Specialists at (888) 455-2800 to ensure the bulbs you’re considering are compatible with your dimmer switch before making a purchase. You can also learn more about dimmers in our Learning Section. For optimal performance, seek out dimmers specifically created for LED applications. Using a dimmable LED with a dimmer that is not compatible can cause buzzing and a reduced range of dimming.

Low voltage bulbs may not be compatible with your existing transformers

LED bulbs may not be compatible with all transformers because they use so much less power and some transformers require a minimum wattage to work. You may need to replace or alter your existing systems. For example, a new 7-watt LED bulb will not be compatible with a halogen track system which requires a minimum of 10 watts to work. You may need to replace the track system or add additional bulbs to meet the minimum wattage requirement. Again, check with the manufacturer or a Bulbs.com lighting specialist to ensure that the bulbs you are purchasing are compatible with your existing transformers.

Buy ENERGY STAR® for reliability

Bulbs that carry the ENERGY STAR label have met or exceeded extensive tests and requirements for energy efficiency and reliability. ENERGY STAR is a joint government program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. Keep in mind that not all types of LEDs are tested by ENERGY STAR so purchasing any non-ENERGY STAR bulbs should be done through a reputable supplier like Bulbs.com to insure support after your purchase. For a list of our qualified ENERGY STAR products check out our selection of ENERGY STAR qualified products.

Keep replacing bulbs until you have LEDs in every fixture

If you don't like a bulb in one place, try it in another! If you don't find the shape or application-specific bulb you need on the Bulbs.com website, give us a call at (888) 455-2800 and a Bulbs.com Lighting Specialist will be happy to help.

Contact Bulbs.com to evaluate the energy savings available for your business

If you enjoy the energy savings from LEDs in your home, you'll love them at your business. Whether your workplace is a retail store, office, restaurant, hotel, production facility, warehouse or other commercial building, LEDs can help your business save money. Consider contacting Bulbs.com to assist you with energy saving calculations as well as to determine if your electric utility offers a rebate incentive for the installation of energy efficient lighting. If you want to try out a few bulbs before making the commitment to LEDs, check out our Buy ‘N’ Try program.