15 Useful Things You Should Know When Buying LED Light Bulbs

15-things-about-led-light-bulbs

LED Lights Are Designed to Help Reduce Your Energy Costs... Not to Stress You Out

Shopping around for the right LED can take more time than you may have originally thought. But, you shouldn't have to. Im going to teach you what the most important things to look out for when buying your LED lights so you're not over thinking things and spending too much time finding something thats already designed to save you time and money. Here's my list of 15 things you should know while shopping around for LED light bulbs. You'll get insight into the most common things customers ask us and things we teach our customers to help them in their LED education.

1. Get the Shape Right the First Time

While the most common light bulb any of us will replace in our lifetime is the standard A19 bulb, most of us don't even know that the shape is referred to as, "A19"... we've been calling it a light bulb since we knew what a light bulb was. Unfortunately, its not as easy as that when we need to replace anything else that doesn't resemble the traditional light bulb shape we're use to seeing. Light bulbs come in different shapes and sizes. For example, an A19 can come in a smaller size, A15 or a bigger size, A21. Get the shape right the first time, even if it means busting out your old ruler in your office drawer to measure the diameter (dia) and the MOL (maximum lenth from top to bottom). Check out our LED light bulb shape guide.

2. Is Your Base Right?

When someone says, "screw in", I know its a base with spirals on the bottom. But the most important thing to know is, just how wide is the base? there are many different base types and each come with their own differences in widths. Bases include E26 or E27, E12, GU10, GU5.3, 2-pin, 4-pin, etc. Always make sure you know which base you're looking for because it will save you time.

3. How Many Watts Does it Use?

This is one specification where I think many people can make the easiest mistake when buying LED lights. For example, lets take two LED light bulbs: both use 7 watts and are made by the same manufacturer. So, what's the difference you ask? Its simple. One outputs 350 lumens and the other 500 lumens. Watts are important because they tell us how much energy this bulb will use. LEDs are not made equal, so its important to make sure you're not only looking at the watts, but the lumens too.

4. How Many Lumens Does it Produce?

There's one guy that works in my company and he turns off the lights in his office; its really strange. But for most of our customers, myself included, the more light the better. That's where lumens comes in. Lumens is the measurement of how much light is produced from a light bulb; more specifically its referred to as Initial Lumens. Over time, light bulbs gradually produce less light. Incandescent bulbs are the worst. Imagine this, an uncle of mine has a farm in Central Alberta. He's got light bulbs in there that are only used when they family goes down there to visit. The light bulbs are easily 10 years old and are 100W bulbs - but don't tell the bulbs that because they look like they're only 35 watt bulbs. Aside from that fact, they're still using 100 watts. That's why you'll see lumens specified as Intial Lumens. So, just because two different LED bulbs use the same wattage, doesn't mean they produce the same amount of light. Pay attention to the lumen output or if you can, calculate the lumens per watt by dividing the Intial Lumens by the Wattage of the bulb. When comparing two bulbs, the bulb that has the higher lumens per watt value is more efficient. But just like everything, assess your needs and buy accordingly.

5. Price, Cost and Your Budget

Its not that hard to get carried away with spending lots of money all at one time with LED lighting if you're not careful. But, if you've got the cash and prepared yourself for this investment, please do. If you've had to sit down a couple of times or the price of one LED light bulb took your breath away, don't worry, a person doesn't have to replace all their bulbs at the same time to reap the energy saving benefits of LED technology. On average, most of our customers make 2 - 3 purchases to complete their LED replacements. These purchases sometimes happen over 3 months and some take a year. It really doesn't matter, its your money. To help you, we created an ROI calculator to help you work out the numbers. Of course, its not a budget calculator, but our ROI "Payback" calculator can help you figure out how soon you can expect to see where you might see the money you initially invested into your LED lights come back and start seeing the savings.

6. Beam Angle

The Beam Angle refers to how light is spread from the bulb. You know the regularly shaped light bulbs in your home you use in your lamp shade or ceiling fan? Those bulbs provide a 230 degree or greater beam angle. In LED terms, we call those bulbs Omni. "Omni" you say? thats just the beginning. Then there's Flood, Narrow & Spot lights most commonly associated with PAR shaped lights. Flood refers to lights that have a beam angle of 35 - 40 degrees. Narrow refers to lights that have a beam angle of 25 - 30 degrees. Spot refers to lights that have a beam angle of 10 - 15 degrees. Which one do you pick? Before LEDs, we really didn't have a choice. Halogen GU10 or MR16 lights had one beam angle: ~25 degrees. Now, you have the choice of going from 10 - 40 degrees, allowing you to get the look you want. You can find the Beam Angle of the LED light bulbs we sell by looking at the name, description or in the specifications.

7. Colour & Colour Temperature

People will refer to the colour of a light bulb either by the area where the light falls along the light spectrum by a simple name or by the value of its Kelvin. Warm White light bulbs provide a yellow tone and range from 2400K to 3500K. Neutral White provides an even white tone and its Kelvin ranges from 4000K to 4500K. Cool White also known as Day Light in traditional lighting terms provides the brightest light but does have a blue tint, ranges from 5000K to 6500K. Check out our LED colour temperature guide page to see what your room may look like when using different light colours.

8. Dimmable

Yes, an LED light bulb can be dimmed. BUT, not all LED lights are dimmable and just because an LED bulb can be dimmed, doesn't mean your lighting system will work with it. If an LED light bulb is dimmable, it must be stated on the box or even on the base of the bulb in tiny text. To know if your new LED lights will work with your lighting system; by that I mean, your light switch, check the specifications of your dimmer switch by searching for it on Google or call the manufacturer. Interestingly, most light switch manufacturers have a list of LED light bulbs that are compatible with their switches. Getting an LED light bulb listed in their list isn't easy because the LED manufacturer must work with the switch company and many don't want to go through the time to do it. So, some LED manufacturers test their bulbs with a variety of dimmer switches themselves and publish it on their website. From what I've seen, higher quality LED lights are known for their ability to dim from practically 0 - 10% to 100%. Cheaper LED lights can only dim from 60% - 100%.

10. Quality

Once you've seen as many LED light bulbs as I have, you'll be able to distinguish well-built ones from really bad ones and everything in between. CREE, the largest manufacturer of LED chips in the world and leader in LED technology makes LED chips for many LED lighting manufacturers. So many light bulbs will actually use a CREE chip but, everything else built around the chip may not be up to the same standards as the chip. That's where some problems arise because its what I like to call a frankenstein product. The brain might be perfect and runs when electricity runs through it, but give it a little time and it will just fall apart or will just die. There are basically three types of LED light bulbs in the market: 1. The cheap generic plastic kind - These bulbs are light, fall apart easy and basically feel like a cheap headset Air Canada gives you on International flights complimentary; use them once and they're ok. Try using it on your connecting flight and they fall apart. 2. Residential - These bulbs look much better than the first kind. Here's where you'll start seeing big brand names like Philips where you can buy them in every retail store like Home Depot. These are warrantied for 3 hours of use per day and will work fine for most consumers. 3. Commercial & Industrial - These bulbs aren't fancied up like the residential grade bulbs but have one big advantage. Commercial and industrial grade LED light bulbs are designed to be used longer each day, like 12 hours or 24 hours per day. These bulbs can feel heavier and feel like ALL the components are high grade and its not going to fall apart on your after you turn them on the first time.

11. Warranty

Some LED lights are warrantied for 1 year, most are warrantied for 3 years, bigger light bulbs light PAR30s etc are warrantied for 5 years. Big LED fixtures can have warranties as high as 10 years.

12. Rated Life

The rated life of an LED is measured in hours. Energy Star qualified LED light bulbs must be rated for at least 25,000 hours. Most LED bulbs are rated for 25,000 hours but some are rated for 30,000 and as high as 50,000 in some I've seen.

13. Safety

Safety is always a concern with anything electrical. If you're buying LED lights for your home in North America, make sure the light bulbs are UL listed and or CSA approved. The last thing you want is to have an electrical fire and not have your home insurance cover the damages because you didn't have the right products installed.

14. Heat

LED lights don't work well in enclosed fixtures. In fact, most of our LED lights like the Lunera 13 Watt PL26 LED replacement doesn't work in them at all and will void your warranty on them if you do. The problem is, although LED lights don't generate nearly as much heat as an incandescent or halogen bulb, if the temperature around the LED chip gets too hot, it will short and kill the bulb. So yes, LED lights can get hot, but the amount of heat is less and the heat is not dispersed over the bulb face as it is with incandescent, halogen or other light bulb types. Don't install LED light bulbs in completely enclosed fixtures. If there's a way for air to pass through the fixture, the LED light will be fine. Don't install LED light bulbs in fixtures where the bulbs are less than 2 inches apart.

15. Flickering

What causes flickering? Why are my LEDs flickering? I have new dimmer switches that I know are 100% compatible with LED lights, my LED bulbs are dimmable and my lights are still flickering... Why? If you or someone you know has experienced this, the cause isn't as easy as 1, 2, 3. Other challenges that face replacing lights with LED lights can be summed up as an electrical problem. Things like overloading the switch. Some of our customers design and build a new room or building and assume LED lights will automatically work in their system because they have the latest and greatest. But sometimes they might have a switch, breaker or circuit that causes the LED lights to flicker. Luckily, this doesn't happen very often, but when it does, can take a lot of time troubleshooting. One time I read about a restaurant who switched from incandescent bulbs to LED bulbs then back to incandescent bulbs because they couldn't figure out what was causing the tiniest of flickering that would make some customers nauseous.

Summary

LED lights will save you money in the long run if the math works out in your favour. Using tools like our ROI payback calculator can help you determine if its worth switching. But switching to LEDs for some can be challenging because of all the new information to learn and digest. Fortunately, its not that hard. With a little research and if you need, a little help from us 1.888.717.4587, you'll be on your way to finally replacing some of the high consumption light bulbs in your home or office with LED light bulbs and begin the road to paying less monthly on your hydro bill.