Navigating The Light Bulb Aisle

For decades, when you needed to incorporate or replace a light bulb within a fixture, you checked the base type and usually there would be a label to indicate a specific wattage. That’s more or less all you had to worry about when choosing a light bulb. With the introduction of CFL options, consumers were given more choice on factors like efficiency and bulb shape.

More recently, light bulb options have become extensive—even overwhelming. Conventional incandescents are mostly phased out and CFLs are becoming less popular. LEDs have taken over, and with their market dominance, there’s a plethora of options and an ample source of confusion for consumers.

Even those sourcing light bulbs for industrial purposes can have trouble navigating LEDs. Authorized lamp and bulb distributors like those at are getting a lot more questions about how to transition from an incandescent, fluorescent, or halogen into a newer LED option.

So what happens when you’re ready to put new bulbs in the light fixture above your kitchen island or in the lamp on your nightstand? With rows and rows of LED light bulbs available in even the most basic hardware and home stores, how can you make a smart lighting choice?

Image result for led light bulbs shoppingYou can greatly demystify the process of buying bulbs when you ask yourself a few basic questions and look for the factors that determine the type of light a bulb will emit.

First, ask yourself: How bright would you like the light to be? Lumens provide this detail as they are a quantity measurement of light. If you want brilliant overhead lighting in a workspace, you’ll benefit from choosing a bulb with more lumens. If, on the other-hand, you want a more gentle glow for an accent or table lamp, then a bulb with fewer lumens may better meet your needs.

If you’re not sure how that translates with regard to watts, and you need to replace an 80 watt incandescent with a new LED bulb, as a general guideline, you can divide that wattage by four—meaning that you would need a 20 watt LED bulb to get more or less the same effect you had with the incandescent. To make matters a little easier, a lot of lighting manufacturers include wattage equivalency right on the bulb packaging.

It’s important to remember that wattage isn’t an accurate predictor of how bright a bulb will be. Since wattage refers to the amount of energy a bulb uses and LEDs require much less to produce comparable light, it’s better to shop based on lumens if you’re looking for a bulb with a certain degree of brightness.

Next, you should determine your preferred color temperature and whether you would like the light to have a warmer or cooler quality. A bulb’s Correlated Color Temperature will determine whether a bulb will have a cool, white-blue tone or a warm, yellow-amber tone. You can get a sense of lighting tones by checking for a kelvin measurement on the package, which typically ranges from 2700K on the warmer side of the spectrum to the cooler end of 6500k.

And finally, if you want to make sure the lighting in your home allows for real color rendering, then look for a Color Rendering Index (CRI) rating between 90 and 100. A high CRI will make colors look brighter and closer to how they would appear in natural daylight, which may or may not be something you want to incorporate into a room.

With a basic understanding of factors like lumens, temperature, and CRI, you’ll then be able to navigate the light bulb aisle with confidence and achieve your desired lighting look and feel at home.

I’m Abigail Joseph, an experienced blogger, and journalist, who writes for both print as well as online media. I’m a storyteller and a travel writer at I write about luxury spa travel. Prior to this, I worked as the editor of a travel website and books.

Abigail Joseph – who has written posts on The Insider’s Guide.