How to choose the right light bulbs for your home (2024)

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How to choose the right light bulbs for your home (1)

Get it right for a more functional and beautiful home - plus, save on energy bills.

By Claire Sweeting

Buying light bulbs used to be easy – you’d walk into a shop and pick up a 40- or 60-watt bulb, knowing that the higher the wattage, the brighter the light.

But halogen bulbs were banned in the UK in 2021, and incandescent bulbs were taken off shelves back in 2009. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are still available, but these aren’t as energy-efficient as LEDs, which most experts recommended we should buy for the sake of our energy bills and the planet.

At first, LEDs may seem more expensive, but some can last for 25 to 30 years and they use 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs. Plus advances in technology mean you can now get a much warmer-looking light from LEDs than you used to be able to. One thing to remember, however, is that LEDs can buzz and flicker on existing dimmer switches, so you may need to ask an electrician to change to a trailing edge dimmer module for you.

How to choose the right light bulbs for your home (2)

So you’re ready to buy LED light bulbs, but do you know your lumens from your Kelvins? Here are the questions you need to ask:

How bright should lightbulbs to be?

The light output of LED bulbs is measured in lumens (often shortened to lm) – the higher the number of lumens, the brighter the light. You’ll find this measurement on the light bulb packet.

Tom Hams from B&Q recommends that bedrooms and living rooms should have around 2,000-4,000lm in total, when you add all the light sources together. You’ll probably want a brighter light in rooms like bathrooms (5,000–8,000lm per room) and kitchens (6,000–10,000lm per room). If you’re buying a bulb for a bedside lamp, choose one that’s about 400lm and go for 450lm for a desk lamp.

How to choose the right light bulbs for your home (3)

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How to choose the right light bulbs for your home (4)

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How to choose the right light bulbs for your home (5)

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How to choose the right light bulbs for your home (6)

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What ambience am I aiming for?

The colour of LED lights is, somewhat confusingly, measured in Kelvins. The higher the K rating, the cooler the light. If you’re looking for the warm, yellowy light of old incandescent bulbs, choose a bulb with 2,700K.

In fact, lighting consultant Kate Beard rarely strays away from the magic 2,700K figure. She works with architects, interior designers and homeowners to create a beautiful ambience, and she says, “With LED lights, I’m always looking for a warmth of colour, so most of the bulbs I choose are 2,700K. But it’s a matter of taste. Some people want to go warmer – 2,500K, or anything down to 2,000K – but some of those can look a bit orange.

“The mistake some people make is going for what are called ‘daylight’ bulbs. These are around 6,000K and really cool – you’ll feel like you’re in an abattoir! You might use them in an artists’ studio when you want a flat light, but I don’t think you’ll want them in your house. And so-called ‘neutral’ bulbs are usually too cool as well, at about 4,000K.”

How to choose the right light bulbs for your home (7)

Hive Active Light Colour Changing Wireless Lighting LED Light Bulb, 9.5W A60 B22 Bayonet Bulb, Single

How to choose the right light bulbs for your home (8)

Philips Smart LED 7W ST64 E27 Dimmable Warm-to-Cool Standard Bulb with WiZ Connected and Bluetooth, Clear

How to choose the right light bulbs for your home (9)

CALEX E27 4W 200lm Tube Extra warm white LED Dimmable Filament Light bulb

How to choose the right light bulbs for your home (10)

Diall E14 3W 250lm Candle Warm white LED Light bulb, Pack of 3

Which colour lightbulb should I choose?

If that wasn’t enough, every LED bulb has a CRI (colour rendering index) score. Lee Lovett, founding director of Soho Lighting, says: “CRI is a measure of how accurately artificial light represents the colour of objects, compared to natural light. For example, 100 CRI represents natural daylight. High-CRI light bulbs and downlights are usually chosen for areas where precision tasks are undertaken such as cooking, reading, or looking in the mirror.”

Kate Beard adds: “Traditionally LEDs haven’t given you the full colour spectrum, but there are higher-CRI ones coming onto the market now. You’ve probably been in houses where they’ve got gorgeous fabrics and finishes, but it all looks slightly off, and that’s because you’re not getting the true colours. I would always look for a minimum of 90 CRI.”

Should I choose clear or frosted lightbulbs?

“If you’ve got a chandelier or a light fitting where the bulbs are visible, it never looks very nice when you use those ‘white’ bulbs with the frosted look,” says Kate. For statement bulbs that look great on show, she recommends clear ones with a ‘filament’, such as Calex bulbs.

How to choose the right light bulbs for your home (11)

Tala Gaia 6W ES LED Dimmable Classic Bulb, Tinted

How to choose the right light bulbs for your home (12)

Calex 7W ES LED Filament Classic Bulb, Clear

How to choose the right light bulbs for your home (13)

Philips 13W B22 A60 LED Non-Dimmable Classic Frosted Bulbs, Warm White, Pack of 2

How to choose the right light bulbs for your home (14)

Philips 5.5W BC Candle LED Light Bulb, Frosted, Pack of 6

Should I use smart lightbulbs?

Tom Hams says, “Smart lighting is an excellent way to control multiple lights remotely, through an app on your smartphone or with your voice via a smart home assistant.” You can get smart light bulbs that change between cooler and warmer tones, so you can adjust the mood of your room throughout the day, and some even change colour.

And lastly…check lightbulb sizing

With any type of bulb, make sure you’re buying the right size for your light fitting – the easiest way to do this is to take the old bulb along to the shop and compare the base, but you can also take measurements and search online. Most light bulbs are now screw base, but you can still find bayonet bases. In terms of the shape of bulb, anything goes – round, spiral, candle, stick – but it shouldn’t be visible beneath your lampshade. As Kate says, “Lighting is often an afterthought, but it’s worth paying attention to.”

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How to choose the right light bulbs for your home (2024)

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