How to Choose the Right LED for You

Choosing the right LED lamps and fixtures can feel a little like reading a foreign language you don’t understand. Color temperature … CRI … lumens … comparing wattages … what does it all mean and how are you supposed to pick the right one? breaks down the LED of it all:

Color temperature

The color of an LED is indicated by Kelvins, a measurement of energy. The higher the Kelvin, the cooler – or bluer – the light. If you prefer the traditional look of an incandescent bulb, then you’ll be better off with a lower Kelvin rating – either 2700 or 3000.

At 2700K, your lighting is considered soft white and will be warm and cozy, with a yellow undertone. If you prefer something slighter more true but not blue, then a 3000K would probably work. At this level, light is clean and friendly without being too bright.

Shoppers who want brighter, whiter light, should move to the bluer side of the Kelvin chart. A 4000K rating is defined as neutral so light is bright and clear without glare.

Most 5000K lamps are found in outdoor fixtures that provide parking lot, walkway and safety lighting to banish shadows and create a more inviting look at night. Described as cool white, 5000K is a bright, crisp light more akin to sunshine than the cozy glow of the traditional incandescent.


A lamp’s color rendering index (CRI) is important primarily for how a light makes colors look. CRI is how the lighting industry measures how naturally a fixture makes colors appear so the higher the CRI, the better.

Fixtures at 3000K with a high CRI – 80 or 90, for example – are great for interior residential lighting in a living room or even a bedroom. Not only do you get an inviting color tone (Kelvin), you’ll get better representation of the colors in the room (CRI).

Restaurants and retail shops, though, would most probably opt for a 4000K and 90 CRI because color and tone are critical in those spaces. You definitely want the dinner on your plate accurately represented and that red sweater you saw in the window to stay red and not turn to rust when you get it home.


How bright a bulb shines is measured in lumens, and, like CRI, the higher the number the better. Most 60-watt lamps – including LED equivalents that we’ll talk about in a minute – should have a rating of 800 lumens or better.

So … what is a lumen? Think back 100 years or so when work after dark was done by candlelight. How bright a single candle can throw light at least a foot (12 inches – a foot candle) is the basic definition of a lumen.

A light bulb that has a rating of 800 lumens means that one foot away from the light source, you will see brightness equivalent to 800 foot candles.

When incandescent bulbs were the only lamps on the market, using wattage to determine brightness made sense. 40-watt bulbs were not nearly as bright as 100-watt bulbs.

The introduction of LED, though, changed the way we shop for light bulbs. Now, we can get an LED bulb with far fewer watts than an incandescent but with the same lumen measurement or more.

Which leads us to …


How much energy a light bulb uses is measured in watts; the bigger the number (100 watts, for example), the more it costs to operate that lamp.

An incandescent bulb that uses 60 watts will cost less than a bulb rated at 75 or 100 watts. Even compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) dim in comparison to the LEDs available now. LED bulbs are much more energy efficient than both incandescent and CFLs, using far fewer watts than either. put together this handy table to make it easier to see how much less energy LEDs use compared to more traditional light bulbs.


Incandescent LED CFL
40 watts up to 9 watts up to 11 watts
60 watts 8 – 12 watts up to 15 watts
75 watts 12 – 20 watts up to 24 watts
100 watts 20 – 22 watts up to 26 watts

And one final point: LEDs last for years, saving you even more money over the course of their very long lives; up to 25,000 hours – about 10 years – according to some manufacturers.

Not having to change a light bulb for the next 10 years is the final (foot) candle on the LED cake for us.[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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