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I Know Nothing About Bulbs! Where Do I Start?

I Know Nothing About Bulbs! Where Do I Start?

Finding light bulbs used to be fairly simple.  You would go to the store and grab the ones you wanted without having to sift through a ton of options.  Today, you have lots of different types of bulbs, each with their own set of features.  It’s confusing, especially for someone who isn’t familiar with all the terminology.  But you don’t have to get frustrated.  Depending on what you are looking for, you only need to focus on a few key aspects to quickly find what you need.

table lamp with bed in background

Let’s say you are looking for a new light to put in a table lamp.  Your 100-Watt incandescent (or regular) blub blew out and you are now looking to try out an LED bulb.  You want something bright you can see with, but not so bright as to blind you or attract jumbo jets.  The main aspects to look for are the number of Lumens, Kelvin, Watts, the size, and shape of your next bulb.

Lumens?  Is that an Italian dish?

There is a big fancy definition for lumens, but I won’t get into that here.  Essentially, lumens are the brightness of the bulb, or the light output.  If you want the brightness of your old 100-Watt bulb, you will look for an LED bulb with a high number of lumens.  For example, a typical 100-Watt equivalent bulb will have around 1600 lumens.

Who is Kelvin and what does he have to do with my bulb?

Color temperature displayed by different bulbs

Kelvin is the term used to describe the color of the light, or color temperature.  Kelvin starts in the 1700K range which is a more orange-colored light.  As it increases into the 3000K range, it becomes whiter and eventually has more of a bluish tinge once it reaches 7000K and higher.  The 3000K to 5000K range is popular for table lamps, with the higher end being for tasks requiring concentration, like fixing your car or building model planes.

But wait, isn’t light measured in Watts?

Watts isn’t a measure of light.  It’s a measure of the amount of power used by the bulb.  Incandescent bulbs use more power to operate, which is why they cost more in electricity use.  LEDs, however, can easily match and surpass the light output of a traditional incandescent and they use a fraction of the power.  For instance, some 13-Watt LED lights have an output equal of that to a conventional 60-Watt bulb.

Why should size and shape matter?

Always check the dimensions. Object may be larger than they appear....

Always check the dimensions. Object may be larger than they appear....

Size and shape go hand in hand when looking for bulbs.  Different shapes have different sizes.  The typical shape for a table lamp is the A19, or the classic lightbulb.  A-shaped bulbs can differ by diameter depending on the number following the shape code ‘A’.  You can read more information about A-Shaped bulbs here, or lookup different styles as well.  For example, there was a co-worker who decided he wanted a very bright CFL (fluorescent spiral bulb) to use in a lamp.  He ordered based on the lumens and Kelvin, and was later surprised to discover that his super bright bulb was the size of a small puppy.  Needless to say, it didn’t fit in the lamp and he had to send it back. 

So, where do you find all of this information?  Luckily, all of this information is prominently displayed on bulb boxes and websites.  You won’t have to go searching around for it.  Now that you are familiar with these aspects, you shouldn’t have a problem finding the right bulb.  Have a funny bulb story to share?  Leave us a comment.  We’d love to hear about it and see pictures if you have them.  You can also chat with us on our Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest pages too.

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