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Home tools Buyer's Guides from tech enthusiast who loves technology and clever solutions for better living.
Home tools Buyer's Guides from tech enthusiast who loves technology and clever solutions for better living.
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After lumens, the next concept you’ll want to understand is color temperature. Measured on the Kelvin scale, color temperature isn’t really a measure of heat. Instead, it’s a measure of the color that a light source produces, ranging from yellow on the low end of the scale to bluish on the high end, with whitish light in the middle.
An easy way to keep track of color temperature is to think of a flame: it starts out yellow and orange, but when it gets really hot, it turns blue. You could also think of color temperature in terms of the sun — low, yellowy color temperatures mimic the tone of light at sunrise or sunset, while hotter, more bluish-white color temperatures are more akin to daylight (sure enough, bulbs with color temperatures like these are commonly called “daylight” bulbs). This is also why a lot of people prefer high color temperatures during the day and lower color temperatures in the morning and evening.
Generally speaking, incandescents sit at the bottom of the scale with their yellow light, while CFLs and LEDs have long been thought to tend toward the high, bluish end of the spectrum. This has been a steady complaint about new lighting alternatives, as many people prefer the warm, familiar, low color temperature of incandescents. Manufacturers are listening, though, and in this case they heard consumers loud and clear, with more and more low-color-temperature CFL and LED options hitting the shelves. Don’t believe me? Take another look at those two paper lamps in the picture above, because they’re both CFL bulbs — from the same manufacturer, no less.
Sylvania often color codes its packaging. Blue indicates a hot, bluish color temperature, while the lighter shade indicates a white, more neutral light.
As you’re probably aware, light bulbs come in a fairly wide variety of shapes. Sure, it’s easy enough to tell a hardware store clerk that you want “one of those flamey-looking lights,” or “just a normal ol’ bulby light bulb,” but knowing the actual nomenclature might save you some time.
Are pricey candelabra LEDs a smart upgrade for your chandelier?
Let’s start with the base of the bulb, the part that screws in. In the US, the most common shape by far is E26, with the “E” standing for Edison and the “26” referring to the diameter of the base in millimeters. You might also see E2bulbs from time to time, which is the European standard. Those should still fit into common American fixtures, but keep in mind that voltage ratings are different in the two regions, with American bulbs rated for 120 volts compared to 220-240 volts in Europe. For smaller sockets, like you might find with a candelabra, you’ll want to look for an E1base.
As for the bulb itself, the typical shape that you’re probably used to is an A1bulb. Increase that number to A2or A23, and you’ve got the same shape, but bigger. Bulbs made to resemble flames are F-shaped, which is easy enough to remember, as are globes, which go by the letter G. If it’s a floodlight you want, you’ll want to look for “BR” (bulging reflector) or “PAR” (parabolic aluminized reflector). Those bulbs are designed to throw all their light in one direction only, which makes them useful for spot lighting, overhead lighting and the headlights in your car.
Your automated-lighting options
It used to be that if you wanted your lights to turn on and off automatically, then you had to rely on a cheap wall socket timer, the kind you might use to control a Christmas tree. These days, with a modest boom in smart lighting currently under way, it’s easier than ever to dive into the sort of advanced automation controls that can make any home feel modern and futuristic. Use the right devices, and you’ll be able to control your lights in all sorts of creative ways, and make your life a little bit easier in the process.
The most obvious way to get started with smart lighting is with the bulbs themselves. You’ve got plenty of intelligent options from brands both big and small, and to find the one that’s best for you, you’re going to need to understand what sets them apart.
Connect with these 3IFTTT-friendly smart devices (pictures)
The first thing to look at is how the bulbs communicate with you. Some offer direct connections with your smart phone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, which makes setup as simple as screwing the thing in and following in-app pairing instructions.
Others transmit using a distinct frequency like ZigBee or Z-Wave. Bulbs like those might be a better fit for bigger smart home setups, as it’s typically a little easier to sync them up with things like motion detectors and smart locks. Setup can be slightly more advanced, as you’ll need a separate hub or gateway device capable of translating that distinct frequency into a Wi-Fi signal your router can comprehend.
Some smart bulbs come with their own gateway. Others, like the Cree Connected LED, require a third-party control device, like the Wink Hub.
If you’re looking for a little more color in your life, then be sure and take a look at a product like the Philips Hue Starter Kit. Aside from being fully automatable via a mobile app and control hub, the Hue LED bulbs are capable of on-demand color changes. Just pull out your phone, select one of millions of possible shades, and the light will match it. And if you’re into voice control, Hue bulbs hit the compatibility trifecta — they’ll work with Siri, Alexa, and the Google Assistant.
Because Philips opened its lighting controls to third-party developers, you’ll also find lots of fun novelty uses for Hue bulbs, like changing the color of your lights in rhythm with whatever music you’re playing. There’s even an app that’ll sync your Hue lights up with certain TV programming.
Hue lights are also directly compatible with the popular web service IFTTT, with recipes already available that will change the color of your lights to match the weather, or to signal a touchdown from your favorite football team, or even to indicate when your stocks are doing well.
To Dim or Not to Dim
Dimmable bulbs allow the user to adjust the amount of electricity to the bulb and control its brightness. Thanks to their ability to conserve energy, dimmable bulbs are a great option for those looking to save on utility bills—but not all LEDs are dimmable, so be sure to read the package before buying. Also, keep in mind dimmable bulbs only work when you have installed dimmable light switches.
An LED Bulb’s Useful Life and Yearly Cost to Operate
When shopping for an LED light bulb, you’ll find an estimated lifespan on its package; most bulbs last anywhere from to 2years. You’ll also find an estimate of how much the bulb will cost to operate per year. These estimations are based on an average bulb use of three hours per day. If you leave a light on all day long, the lifespan will be significant shorter, and the bulb will cost more per year to operate.
Why you should trust me
I’ve reviewed consumer electronics for more than 1years and have held top editorial positions at magazines including Electronic House, E-Gear, Dealerscope, and others. I’ve also reviewed products for Sound & Vision, Big Picture Big Sound, and Consumer Digest. I’ve been an invited speaker at both the CEDIA and CES expos on the subject of smart home systems. In addition to turning my house into a laboratory for DIY home automation products, I’m also a certified Controlprogrammer.
Who should get this
Smart light bulbs are the easiest way to upgrade your home or apartment lighting to wireless control. Smart bulbs can reduce your energy consumption, especially if you’re just getting around to replacing incandescent or compact fluorescent bulbs with the significantly more energy-efficient LED bulbs. An LED bulb can last more than 1years under normal usage. If you’re smart about using the smart bulb’s scheduling and remote-operation features, you can save money by not using them when no one is in the room. However, smart bulbs cost more up front—sometimes a lot more—than non-smart LED bulbs, so the cost savings over time may be more symbolic than actual.
The main reason to try smart bulbs is that they’re fun. It’s okay to admit there’s a little thrill in tapping your smartphone to turn off a light across the room or across the house. Maybe that thrill decreases over time, but it’s still there. Getting up to physically hit a light switch—that’s never fun (unless you’re stopping at the fridge along the way to grab a beer). And smart bulbs do add convenience to your life. It’s easy to shut off downstairs lights when you’re upstairs tucked in bed. If you hear a bump in the night, you can turn on multiple lights at once. Want to turn down the lights for watching TV in the evening? All smart bulbs are easily dimmable from their apps. Most apps allow for scheduling, so you can have groups of lights turn on and off based on your daily activities or to simulate occupation when you’re away from home.
Smart bulbs that change colors are even more fun. Like a softer, warmer light to ease your way into morning? A color-adjustable or tunable white bulb can do that. Want to set a relaxing mood for music after dinner? Turn the lights blue, or green, or whatever palette you like. Set in strategic locations, color-adjusting smart bulbs can be an integral part of your home decor, rather than just something to chase the shadows away.
Many smart bulbs, including our top picks, can be integrated with a variety of other smart-home products, including smart-home hubs, switches, cameras, and thermostats, making a light bulb an easy way to start your smart-home system.
If you already have a couple of smart bulbs or a smart-home system installed, however, you may be stuck with a specific brand or technology. Some bulb brands can be mixed and matched in a system, others can’t; we explain that further below.
The Hue does everything its competitors do, but a wider product and app ecosystem allows for more flexibility and creativity than any other smart bulb.
Since Philips introduced the original A1color-changing bulb in 2012, the company has added several more products to the family, including battery-powered lights, strip lights, light globes, wireless remotes, motion sensors, and plain-white-light smart bulbs. The recent addition of HomeKit compatibility makes Hue lights work with additional products and allows Siri voice control over the lights. This requires the Hue gateway, which comes in the current starter kit.
No need to paint the walls to change the look of your room. Just change the color scene of your Hue bulbs. With 1million colors, you won’t quickly get bored.
Setting up Hue lights requires a few simple steps, much like any other smart-home device. The gateway connects to your home router or network switch via a wired Ethernet port. This connects the system to your network and allows you to control the lights with a smartphone or tablet connected wirelessly to the same network. The gateway connects to the Hue bulbs themselves over a Zigbee wireless mesh network. A mesh network has the ability to repeat signals through all the connected nodes (in this case, the Hue lights are the nodes), which cuts down on errors and improves reliability. The gateway unit is small enough that you can easily tuck it out of sight.
Who else likes them
Pretty much anyone who’s reviewed Philips Hue bulbs loves them. PCMag gave the starter kit an Editor’s Choice award and says “Hue not only adds the convenience of wireless control, but it adds an element of wonder with its ability to easily recreate scenes and moods.” Though CNET wishes the bulbs were a little brighter (newer versions are brighter than the originals), the site agrees with me that smart compatibility makes it a winning choice, declaring “If you have a variety of smart-home gadgets, and you want color-changing bulbs that will work with as many of them as possible, Hue can’t be beat.” The reviewers at Digital Trends called the Philips Hue “just plain fun and addictive.”
Simple Bluetooth control
An inexpensive bulb that’s good for people who want an easily controllable light, not a whole smart home.
GE discontinued its previous Link line of bulbs, which connected using Zigbee, in favor of the new C family. C-Life bulbs connect via Bluetooth, making them easy to connect and control from your smartphone, tablet, or computer, but which also means you can’t control them when you’re away from home or—given Bluetooth’s limited range—even if you’re on a separate floor of the home.
The C-Life bulb is usually sold in a bundle with C-Sleep, a tunable white bulb that you can adjust from a harsh white to warmer tones. The app also allows the tone to automatically track with the time of day, supposedly creating the optimal light for the conditions. Of course, because it doesn’t include a light sensor or any connection to weather information, C-Sleep can’t actually know what the ambient lighting conditions are. Still, it’s an inexpensive tunable white bulb and works well at what it does. Like the C-Life, it also communicated via Bluetooth.
Sylvania Lightify bulbs (which used to be called Osram Lightify) work on a Zigbee network, and as such need a Zigbee hub, either the small wall-plug unit often sold bundled with a bulb or a smart-home hub like SmartThings or Wink. The Lightify RGB color-adjustable bulb is about the same price as the Hue, but it’s shaped more like a traditional incandescent bulb. I measured 500 lux from the top and 250 at the sides, which makes it slightly brighter than the Hue, but the difference is only really noticeable when in a white mode. The colors are not as rich as those of the Hue or LIFX bulbs, but red looks red enough, and green looks green enough to satisfy most people.
The Lightify tunable white bulb measured a little brighter at its peak settings, giving us 600 lux from the top and 320 from the sides.
When setting up your Lightify bulbs, you first need to set up the gateway (unless you’re using another brand’s hub). It didn’t initially want to connect to my network, until I resorted to calling technical support and was walked through a few additional steps that did the trick (turn iPhone to airplane mode, then turn Wi-Fi back on, which disables Apple’s Wi-Fi Assist). Weird, but it worked.
The Lightify app is graphically dull and not as intuitive as the Hue or LIFX apps, but if you’re connecting the bulb to the SmartThings or Wink hub you’ll use that app instead and won’t have to mess with the Lightify one. For a while Lightify bulbs could also be paired with the Hue gateway, but firmware updates seem to have made that more difficult, so it’s no longer a dependable option (feel free to try it, but cross your fingers).
Like Hue and LIFX, Lightify bulbs work with Alexa when connected to an Alexa-compatible hub like SmartThings and Wink, but they won’t work with Alexa independently, and don’t work with Google Home or Apple HomeKit. The lights do work with Nest, so you can create scenes that synchronize with Nest’s Home and Away modes. Those may be factors to consider if your plan is to add a variety of smart-home gadgets to your abode.
Like Hue, these bulbs are part of a family of Lightify products, which also include outdoor string lights and strip lights for indoor use (which we plan to test soon) as well as a wireless remote similar to the one Hue offers. Lightify isn’t a bad way to go if your plans go beyond standard A1bulbs, but the company doesn’t currently integrate with as many other platforms.
The Cree Connected and LinearLinc bulbs.
LinearLinc Bulbz (also sold under the GoControl brand) is a Z-Wave bulb for Z-Wave–based smart-home systems. It works well with both the Wink and SmartThings hubs (and presumably with other Z-Wave smart-home hubs). Putting out 520 lux from the top and 360 from the side, it’s brighter than many of the bulbs we tested, but also more expensive—twice the price of the Cree or GE bulbs. Unlike those bulbs, the LinearLincs responded almost immediately to app commands. If keeping your smart-home devices within a Z-Wave ecosystem is important to you, these bulbs will light the way.
What to look forward to
Sylvania’s Smart+ A1Full Color bulbs, the company’s first line of smart light bulbs, are supposedly the first to allow owners to control them directly via Siri and Apple’s Home app. The Bluetooth-enabled bulbs are expected to ship in September. Once they are available, we’ll see how they stack up to our current picks.
TP-Link’s LB230 smart bulbs are designed to change color and connect to Wi-Fi without a separate hub, and can be controlled remotely through an app. TP-Link says it offers a two-year warranty and lifetime technical support. We’ll test these out as soon as we can and update this guide with our thoughts.
IKEA’s Trådfri smart LED bulbs are now compatible with Apple’s HomeKit (IKEA’s dimmers and other smart-lighting devices are still not compatible, however). According to The Verge, IKEA has also promised Google Home compatibility sometime in the future, but just when that might happen is unclear. They’re certainly cheaper than our current pick and runner-up, but we’ll wait to update this guide until we get a chance to test how they perform with the HomeKit.
You can already find several smart bulbs that include non-lighting features such as music or video cameras. Although we’re not huge fans of those, we expect to see more, and if there’s interest, we’ll check them out. Overall, the biggest trend we expect and hope for is declining prices. Though smart LED bulbs may last you 1to 20 years, they’re still expensive. As they grow in popularity, they’ll inevitably become cheaper, and more people will get to enjoy their benefits.
Efficiency of LED Lighting
It’s not just a buzzword—efficiency is the name of the game with LEDs. LEDs are more than five times as great as its incandescent counterparts. They use only about 20 percent as much electricity to product the same amount of light.
A quality LED lamp can last anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 hours. If you operate the lamp for hours per day, 36days a year, your LED lamp could last 20 years.
Brightness of LEDs
Brightness is measured in lumens, while the energy a bulb consumes is measured in watts. To produce similar amounts of light, LED and fluorescents bulbs consume far fewer watts than incandescent or halogen bulbs. A standard 60W incandescent produces 800 lumens, whereas LEDs consume 13-1watts to produce 800 lumens.
LEDs Versus Fluorescent Lighting
Both LED and fluorescent lighting are more efficient than incandescent: LEDs consume up to 90% less energy and fluorescents consume up to 75% less. Fluorescents are made of glass tubes and can shatter if dropped, whereas LEDs are more durable. Also, fluorescents contain trace amounts of mercury and several states have special recycling rules.
LED vs. CFL vs. Halogen
Now that most incandescent lightbulbs are pretty much a thing of the past, consumers now must choose between LED (light-emitting diode), CFL (compact fluorescent), and halogen bulbs to light their homes. But which is the best option? It all depends on your needs. We’ll take you through the various kinds of lighting, and the benefits that each offers.
LEDs vs. Incandescent Bulbs
Traditional incandescent bulbs measured their brightness in watts; if you wanted a brighter bulb, you bought one with a higher wattage. However, with the advent of LEDs and other types of lighting, that yardstick has become meaningless, and as a result, a bulb’s brightness is now listed as lumens, which is a more accurate measurement of how bright it is, rather than how much energy it consumes. Below is a conversion table which shows how much energy, in watts, an incandescent bulb and an LED typically require to produce the same amount of light.
Other Lightbulb Alternatives
EISA will also stop the manufacturing of candle-and globe-shaped 60-watt incandescent bulbs (the types used in chandeliers and bathroom vanity light fixtures). However, the law doesn’t affect 40-watt versions of those bulbs, nor three-way (50 to 100 to 150-watt) incandescent A1bulbs. So, those will continue to be an option for you, as well, in fixtures that will accommodate them.
LED Lightbulb Options
Traditional bulbs for table and floor lamps are known by their lighting industry style name “A19,”while floodlight bulbs made for track lights and in-ceiling fixtures are dubbed “BR30.” Your best long-term alternative to either style is extremely energy-efficient LED technology.
The LED equivalent of a 60-watt A1bulb consumes only between and 1watts, and provides about the same light output, measured in lumens. A 40-watt equivalent LED bulb consumes only to 8.watts. And a 65-watt BR30 (floodlight) replacement LED bulb consumes only to 1watts.
Moreover, an LED bulb’s lifespan is practically infinite. Manufacturers typically estimate a bulb’s lifespan based on three hours of use per day. By that measurement, an LED bulb will be as good as new for at least a decade, manufacturers say. Under the same conditions, an old-fashioned lightbulb may work for only about a year before burning out.
For example, GE’s equivalent LED bulb has a rated lifetime of 15,000 hours or 13.years. Philips’ equivalent LED bulb has a rated lifetime of 10,000 hours or 9.1years.
LED bulbs will continue to light up even after their rated lifetimes expire; however, brightness may drop or the color cast of the light may change.
GE, Philips, Sylvania, Cree and other brands (including IKEA) all offer LED bulbs that output the most popular “soft white” light, at retailers including Home Depot, Target and Walmart. In addition, GE ‘s Reveal lineup of color-enhancing lightbulbs (a coating filters out yellow tones to enhance colors lit by the bulb) with LED replacements equivalent to 40-watt and 60-watt A1bulbs and to a 65-watt BR30 bulb.
IKEA Tradfri Gateway Kit
Even IKEA is getting into the smart lighting game. Its Tradfri line includes several bulb types, including an A2(essentially an A19), GU10, as well as a remote control, dimming switch, and a motion sensor. These bulbs also require a gateway hub to connect to your smartphone via Wi-Fi. While they currently do not work with any other smart home system, Ikea announced that the lights will work with Alexa, Google Home, and HomeKit by the fall. Not all of the Tradfri lights are available online, so you’ll have to go to an IKEA store for some; be sure to stock up on Swedish meatballs while you’re there.
Instead of looking for the wattage to determine how bright the bulb is, look for the lumens.
Wattage is a measure of the energy used by a bulb. The higher the wattage, the more energy a bulb uses. With incandescent bulbs, wattage was a good measure of brightness. Now, because LEDs and use significantly less energy, wattage does not accurately portray the level of brightness.
Estimated Yearly Energy Cost
This is an important measure to consider when purchasing light bulbs. You will see that LEDs last significantly longer than incandescent and CFL bulbs. This is really helpful when comparing different LEDs.
While the price of LEDs has been dropping significantly as technology has gotten better, there are still LEDs out there that are not the highest of quality. Check the estimated life to find those that will last long enough to see money savings. The quality LEDs will still run at a higher price, but the cost is well worth it to save a significant amount of money on your electric bill.
This may be the most unfamiliar feature listed on the lighting facts. In comparison to incandescent and CFL light bulbs, LEDs have a large range of color options. This has led to the need to measure the different colors of LEDs so consumers know what they are buying.
Color is measured by a unit called Kelvins (K). If you are looking for something similar to the color appearance of incandescent bulbs, 2700K would be a good place to start. As you get higher on the Kelvin scale, the light becomes cooler and whiter. Office buildings and retail stores typically use a whiter light. If this is the color you would like in your home, look for a bulb around 4000K. Anything above 4500K will give off a blue-white light that is similar to daylight. In comparison, the lower you get, the closer you get to a warmer looking color like that of candlelight.
While LEDs give off much less heat than incandescent bulbs, they still give off heat. Most LEDs include a heat sink to dissipate the heat it generates. However, in an enclosed area there is nowhere for that heat to go. LEDs are much more sensitive to heat so this will greatly shorten the lives of your bulbs. Look for information on the lightbulb packaging to make sure your bulbs are safe to use in enclosed spaces.
If using CFLs to light your space, try to use them in areas where you are not constantly cycling the lights on and off. Because CFLs take longer to reach its full light when turned on, frequent cycling reduces the life of the light bulb.
Pros & Cons of LED Light
LED stands for light emitting diode, which are semiconductors that produce light when charged. LED bulbs have an average lifespan of over 50,000 hours, compared to a little over 1,000 for conventional incandescent bulbs. As a LED ages, the amount of light it gives off dissipates over time.
Pros & Cons of CFL Light
CFL stands for compact fluorescent lighting, which is simply a smaller version of a fluorescent tube. CFL bulbs contain a mercury vapor that lights when it is energized. Because CFLs contain mercury, they must be disposed of carefully, at designated drop-off site (Home Depot, Lowes, recycling centers, etc). An average CFL bulb should last 7,000 hours.
Pros & Cons of Incandescent Light
Incandescent light is an electric process that produces light with a wire filament that is heated to a high temperature by an electric current which runs through it. This is the type of lighting which was the standard in homes up until the 1990’s. Due to its poor energy efficiency, it is being replaced with the newer technology of LED and CFL bulbs. Incandescent bulbs last roughly 1,000 hours.
Pros & Cons of Halogen Light
Similar to incandescent light bulbs, halogen bulbs use a similar electric-filament technology with one important difference; with incandescents the filament degrades via evaporation over time whereas, with halogens, filament evaporation is prevented by a chemical process that redeposits metal vapor onto the filament, thereby extending its life. Halogen bulbs have a lifespan of roughly 3,000 hours.
Color Temperature & Lighting Color temperature is a characteristic of visible light. The temperature of light refers to its warmness or coolness, or hue. This temperature is measured using the Kelvin scale, which for most use ranges from 2,700°-7,500°K. Incandescent and halogen lighting are the most limited in the temperature range at 2,700°-3,000°K. LED and CFL have each expanded their color range to now offering warmer options. Most task lighting, however, benefits from cooler lighting options which include LED, full spectrum, and CFL.
Understanding Lumens & Brightness is a measurement of light output from a lamp, often called a tube or a bulb. All lamps are rated in lumens. For example, a 100-watt incandescent lamp produces about 1,600 lumens.
The distribution of light on a flat surface is called its illumination and is measured in footcandles. A footcandle of illumination is a lumen of light spread over a one square foot area.
The illumination needed varies according to the difficulty of a visual task. Ideal illumination is the minimum footcandles necessary to allow you to perform a task comfortably and efficiently without eyestrain or fatigue. According to the Illuminating Engineering Society, illumination of 30 to 50 footcandles is needed for most home and office work. Intricate and lengthy visual tasks — like sewing — require 200 to 500 footcandles.
1,000-1,400 Lumens is a commonly accepted range for most applications of task lighting. An average of 50 Lumens per square foot is a common measure. efficacy. Efficacy is the ratio of light output from a lamp to the electric power it uses and is measured in lumens per watt.
Demystifying LED Light
When comparing the raw lumen output of traditional lamps with the lumen output of many LED lamps, it may seem that LEDs deliver less light than the conventional counterparts. These comparisons, however, are inaccurate and misleading, since they fail to account for the amount of wasted light in conventional lighting.
Therefore, lumen output is a poor measure of the suitability of a lamp for a given task. The better measure is delivered light — how much light a fixture delivers to a surface, as measured in lux (lx) or footcandles (fc). You can make comparisons between conventional and LED lighting fixtures on the basis of delivered light, as it measures how much of a light source’s raw lumen output reaches a surface or area you are lighting.
Determining the amount of a conventional lamp’s raw lumen output reaches as area, you must discount any light lost in the fixture housing (at times over 30%), as well as the light lost as a result of shading, lensing, and filtering. Since incandescent and fluorescent lamps often emit light in many directions, you must also discount any light cast away from the target area.
Reading area or den
The reading area should have a bright task lamp. A bright desk lamp can prevent eye strain which is helpful in preventing eye damage in the long run. With bright task lamps in the reading area, you can keep headaches away. Thus, you will surely enjoy reading as well as other activities like writing letters or completing puzzles.
Your kitchen is another part of the home that requires task lighting. The dangerous nature of the activities you do in your kitchen is reason enough to get additional task lighting. More importantly, you need enough light to read recipes and to see the ingredients as they cook as well as other practical things. For kitchens, common task lighting fixtures are under cabinet lights that provide extra illumination to supplement the ambient light.
Smart bulbs offer a degree of control and interactivity you just can’t get with traditional bulbs, like scheduled timers and remote control options. They’re also more convenient; it’s easier to tap on a smartphone screen than to get up and trudge over to a wall switch.
Aside from keeping you out of the dark, most of the bulbs listed here can be scheduled or controlled remotely, which is great if you want to save on energy costs or you often forget to turn off the lights before leaving the house. Some bulbs use geofencing, which means they work with the GPS in your smartphone to pinpoint your exact location, and can automatically turn the lights on or off when you reach a certain point. Color-changing bulbs are great for mood lighting, and some can even sync up with certain movies and TV shows.
Right now we don’t recommend bulbs that do double-duty as a speaker (like the Sony LED Bulb Speaker), as we haven’t found any particularly good ones in testing.
Important notes before getting your project started
Step 1: Get a clear vision! Because each project is unique, there is no all-in-one solution. Different projects require different types of LED strips.
Do you want to dim your lights or control them with a remote or wall switch?
Wattage consumed per strip of LEDs
Power consumption is one of the reasons we as a society have begun switching to LEDs. Wattage tells us how much power we are consuming while these lights are on, and in turn how much we’ll have to pay at the end of each month. Once again, be sure to verify the wattage per foot, meter, or reel before you buy.
Some may read “2watts” on a reel and then get home and realize this is per meter or per foot, meaning the whole reel actually uses much more. Making matters worse, they have bought a power supply that covers 30 watts, thinking that would be enough. This often occurs when a seller doesn’t properly list important information in an easy to read format.
Best of all, the TP-Link bulbs don’t require any sort of smart hub to function, so there’s no need to buy a starter kit or pay extra for a hub – once you buy a bulb, that’s it, making these an especially good choice for anyone who only wants one or two smart lights, and not a whole house worth.
All of the bulbs other than the cheapest LB100 model also come with energy monitoring, so you can see how much energy you’ve used and plan your usage accordingly.
Connectivity is reliable, with only one brief network drop in our testing time, and our biggest complaint is that at just 800 lumens these aren’t the brightest bulbs around – but they should be enough to suit most uses.
Lightwave is a smart lighting solution that’s a bit different to the others in this round-up, since it requires you to replace your light switches rather than the light bulbs themselves. It is ideal for homes with multiple spotlights that would otherwise be incredibly expensive to individually replace, and also means that when one bulb blows you can just buy a regular replacement.
To set up Lightwave you need to purchase the £89.9Web Link hub, which manages your various Lightwave kit, and you can then add on as many or as few Lightwave devices as you like. Each light switch costs from around £3(see the full range at Maplin, but shop around for best prices).
The Web Link will also manage other smart home devices from the company – you can set up devices that control your hot water and individual room heating, motion detection, and the opening and closing of blinds or curtains. You can also install smart switches on your plug sockets that allow you to turn on and off power when required.
Lightwave has a companion app through which you can turn on and off the switches from your phone or tablet, and through which you can set up schedules or timers that are ideal if you are going on holiday.
It also integrates with IFTTT, which allowed us to control the system through both an Android Wear watch and Google Home.
Hive Active Light
Rating: then you can also pick up individual bulbs.
The Hive Active Light Colour changing bulb is an easy and smart way to introduce lighting into your smart home environment.
The coloured bulb is arguably more of a gimmick and something you might not use day to day, but the Cool to Warm White bulb is easy to recommend, as being able to change the colour temperature of the light is a very handy feature.
The Elgato Avea might look fairly ordinary, but the Avea is a smart LED bulb you can control with your iPad or iPhone. Plus Android support was added in early 201You can control up to of them from your phone, creating different mood lighting for every room in the house.
This 7W LED screw-fit bulb has a class A energy rating. You can set a static colour or choose from one of seven themes, which slowly flow through preset colours.
The Avea also functions as an alarm, turning on at a scheduled time. Rather than blinding you with light and forcing you to hide under the covers it’ll gradually brighten just like a natural sunrise.
The Elgato Avea is a good and affordable buy if you want a single Smart LED bulb. You can add to the system too, but the app is a little basic for our liking.
Belkin Wemo LED Lighting Starter Set
Unlike other smart lightbulbs the Belkin Wemo doesn’t change colour to suit your mood; it’s meant simply as a direct replacement for existing 60W incandescent bulbs, or the energy saving fluorescent equivalent.
The kit includes two bulbs: you can choose between bayonet or screw varieties. Each is rated at 800 lumens, which may not be as bright as your old-school incandescent, but it’s still impressive compared to many competing LED bulbs. You also get a Wemo Link in the pack, which acts as a bridge between the bulbs and your Wi-Fi router.
You create ‘rules’ for the lamps to work and these can be for them to turn on and off at sunset and sunrise, or at times you choose. They can be individually named and controlled, and you can even set a dimming period so the lamp fades in to your set brightness over a few minutes (or even up to 30 minutes). You can also define a sleep period, so the bulb will turn off after a set time, just like a TV or radio.
The Wemo LED Lighting Starter Set is a good introduction to smart lighting. The app is easy to use and lacks only geo-fencing, and the Link plug has Wi-Fi so doesn’t need to be connected directly to your router unlike Philips’ hub. We’d like to see the price drop, but if you know you’ll benefit from the smart aspects or have other Wemo sensors or gadgets, this is a good choice.
Incandescent bulbs: These inexpensive bulbs are probably what you’ve been buying for years, but they’re about to undergo some changes. Forget buying a 100-watt incandescent bulb—they’re being phased out for environmental reasons. While consumers can still purchase incandescent bulbs, federal law requires that they be produced using 30 percent less energy. They’ll emit the same warm light, but even with the federally required changes, these bulbs will still use more energy than some of their greener counterparts.
Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs): These bulbs are good for the environment and your wallet: They often last to times longer than incandescent bulbs, and experts say they use 7percent less energy. These bulbs generally cost more up front, but you can break even quickly, thanks to the energy savings. The major downsides: You can’t use them with dimmers, and they take a few seconds to power on. And while they contain a very small amount of mercury, it’s sealed in glass tubing so it’s not released if the bulb is broken. Manufacturers are working to improve these bulbs; for example, they no longer emit an annoying buzzing sound and they’re available in different colors, like cool, neutral, or warm. These bulbs are particularly effective when used in places where the lights are left on often, like a hallway, porch, or kitchen.
Things to Consider
Make sure that you don’t choose a lightbulb with a higher wattage than your lamp allows. It can be tricky with the lower wattages to know what is the right wattage in CFLs or halogens. Energy Star has very helpful charts to help you figure out what bulb is best for you.
If you’re choosing a lightbulb for outdoors, make sure that it’s in a fixture that protects it from getting wet. Many CFLs and LEDs can be used outside, but they can’t get wet.
When buying traditional incandescent light bulbs, all we needed to pay attention to was the bulb shape, wattage which indicated the brightness of the bulb and the screw base size to make sure it fits into the lamp.
With CFL’s came the option of choosing the light appearance described mostly as soft white, bright white and daylight. Soft white resembles the warm tone of an incandescent bulb whereas bright and daylight being more crisp and cooler with a blueish appearance.
When using LED’s it is important to understand three concepts
After all, LED products are still more expensive than comparable incandescent products and they will be a much longer lasting appliance, so we want to make sure we are buying the right product for the job.
First off, we have to let go of the misconception that wattage equals brightness. While for incandescent bulbs wattage and brightness had a direct correlation, this is not true for LED products and since LED’s consume much less power (Watts), it’s impossible to compare brightness of an incandescent and an LED bulb based on wattage.
So the only factor to pay attention to when looking for brightness of an LED light is Lumens. Lumen is the unit of measure for brightness and tells us how much light a particular lighting product emits.
For reference, a typical incandescent 60 W bulb emits approximately 800 lumens.
The color appearance or correlated color temperature (CCT) of light is measured in kelvin (K). When we want to know if a lighting fixture or bulb creates a warmer or crisper, cooler light we need to look for the kelvin number. The lower the number, the warmer the light will be and the higher the number the more cool and blue the light will appear. A typical incandescent bulb has a color temperature between 2700K and 3000K. The sun at noon on a clear day produces a light of approximately 5500K.
People often complain about the cool, sterile light appearance of CFL bulbs compared to incandescent bulbs. The issue here is that they chose a high kelvin, cool color temperature instead of a warmer color temperature.
Have you ever been to a store and thought that you are color blind, because you couldn’t quite make out if the piece of clothing you were looking at was a dark green or blue? If so, then you experienced poor color rendering by the light fixture inside that store.
Light sources differ in their ability to display the colors of objects “correctly”. And by correctly we mean compared to a natural light source like the sun or an incandescent bulb.
The color rendering is expressed as the Color Rendering Index or short CRI. The scale goes from 0 to 100. A 2700K incandescent light bulb has a CRI of 100.
A value of above 80 is with current LED technology considered a good CRI and will be sufficient for most applications. However, for some areas, better color rendering of 90 or above can be desirable, we explain that in the next section.
Choosing the right light for different light functions and areas in your home Functions of Light
Lighting is typically categorized in ambient, task, accent and decorative lighting. Each category provides a different purpose. When planning the light for a home, it is helpful to understand how these different light levels can complement each other.
Ambient (or general) lighting provides a uniform amount of lighting throughout an area or room for general vision and orientation.
Recessed down lights, cove lighting or pendant-hung fixtures are typical examples for ambient lighting.
It’s used to highlight objects like works of art, architectural features or plants, by creating contrast in brightness. This is often achieved using recessed or surface mount adjustable fixtures or track lighting, wall grazing and wall washing.
Color Temperatures for Ambient Light
The ambient lighting in a room is typically the main source of light and therefore a key element in setting the overall mood and ambience for a room.
Warm white lighting fixtures are often preferred in living rooms and bedrooms to create a cozy atmosphere.
The kelvin numbers offered for LED lights are typically 2700K and 3000K. These warm white lights are a good choice to compliment earthy tones and wood furniture.
If more than one type of ambient light is installed, e.g. down lights and cove lighting, choose the same color temperature for both to ensure an even, harmonic effect.
Though many people seem to prefer warm white, rooms that are decorated with light colored furniture and crisper colors, like white, blue and light grey e.g. in a modern kitchen, can benefit from a more neutral, cooler light.
Lighting with kelvin numbers in the range from 3500K to 4000K are considered neutral white and accentuate lighter colors better than warm white lights.
In addition, studies show that neutral and cool white light has an energizing effect on people, and is therefore are a good choice for home offices and studies.
Since neutral and cool white light creates better contrast than warm white, they are also a good choice for the main ambient light in bathrooms. The cooler light will provide a more realistic idea on what we look like in the real world. Look for kelvin numbers between 4000K and 5000K for your main ambient bathroom fixture.
If the bathroom features a bathtub and you want to be able to create a warm atmosphere as well, consider using an additional layer of light, e.g. a wall sconce with a warm white light in the range of 2700K that can be switched separately from the main light.
Dimming is an important feature of ambient and task lighting. It enables us to set the light level to create the desired atmosphere in an area or create the ideal brightness for a task. In addition, dimming provides energy savings by reducing the electric load of a light fixture.
As opposed to a standard incandescent lamp, not all LED fixtures are built to be dimmable, it is therefore important to look at the product label and ensure that the fixture is marked as dimmable.
When making the switch to LED, be prepared to also change out your dimmer switches. Most dimmers were built for incandescent, bulbs, however LED’s are based on a very different technology and therefore these two don’t necessarily work well together. It’s like trying to connect your old rotary phone to your digital phone outlet.
Most manufacturers provide a compatibility list that shows dimmer manufacturers and models that have been tested and are compatible with the LED fixture.
To ensure an optimal lighting experience, it’s highly recommended to stick to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Using incompatible dimmers can lead to flickering lights or insufficient dimming levels.
Though most LED lighting fixtures are considered low-voltage, that means they either have a transformer build in or require an external transformer, the good news is, it is not necessary to rewire a house to use LED’s. All the wiring that is commonly used in houses is perfectly fine for use with LEDs.
Many LED fixtures have a transformer already built in and can be connected to a standard electrical outlet. Some LED products, i.e. LED strip lights, require an external power supply. These come in two formats, either with an AC cord attached, similar to a laptop power supply or they need to be connected to an outlet.
It is recommended to have a licensed electrician perform any installation that requires electrical connections to the line voltage.
Do pay attention to the product label, it will indicate if a power supply is required or not.
Install LEDs where you’ll use them most
LED bulbs are still expensive and so, unless you have the budget to replace all the bulbs in your home at once, you’ll have to replace bulbs as they burn out. In the long run, your investment will pay you back in energy savings.
But, as Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson has learned, it matters where you use your LED bulbs if you hope your investment will repay you soon. Put an LED in your closet, for example, or another place where the bulb is seldom used, and it may be years and years before the bulb’s cost is repaid in energy savings. It’s best to use your LEDs where the payoff will be fastest, in the light fixtures that get most use in the high-traffic parts of your home.
Get the light color you want
If you were turned off by the harsh white quality of light from older LEDs you’ll be glad to know there are more options now. LED bulbs offer a range of colors, from a warmer yellow-white, akin to the color of incandescent bulbs, to a whiter white or blueish white.
Match the bulb shape to your fixture
LED bulbs come in a number of unfamiliar shapes. You’ll find spiral bulbs, different types of globes, spotlights, floodlights and some shaped like candle flames. One useful shape is the MR16, a smallish, cone-shaped bulb.
Which bulb will work in your can lights? Which is best for the ceiling-fan light? For a table lamp? This brief, illustrated Energy Star guide and EarthEnergy’s bulb guide show which shapes work best in various types of fixtures.
Choose the right bulb for dimmers
Another problem with LEDs used to be finding bulbs that were compatible with the dimmer switches in your home. Some buzz, flicker or just fail to respond to a dimmer switch.
Those still can be problems, but CNET tested bulbs and has a recommendation. The Philips 60-watt LED performed best. It’s easily found in stores, but don’t confuse it with the less-expensive Philips SlimStyle LED, which buzzed badly in a dimmer (although it may be good for other uses). The Philips bulb isn’t the only solution. Read bulbs’ packaging to find the ones recommended for use with dimmer switches.
Or take another route: Replace your dimmer switches. Popular Mechanics says:
The solution is to buy a dimmer switch rated for both CFL and LED bulbs. Two reputable manufacturers of CFL/LED dimmers are Leviton and Lutron; both provide lists of bulbs they’ve verified will work with their dimmers.
Initially when LED bulbs came out with no standards, manufacturers would claim lifetimes of 100,000 hours with no real testing. Since then the standard has been to scale back to 50,000 hours so as not to over-state claims. (Beware of bulbs that are rated at 100,000 hours unless they state specifically WHY they are rated at so high manufacturing process, heat sink materials etc., I would be wary of trusting this rating).
The lifetime of an LED lamp is generally considered to be the point where the light output has declined to 70% of its initial output, measured in lumens. So, a 300 lumen LED bulb with a lifespan of 50,000 hours will have 2lumens at the end of its lifetime. However, the lifetime of a bulb does not mean it is unusable, only that its light output has degraded to a certain point. The LED bulb may continue to be useful for several thousand hours past its stated lifetime. Unlike old-fashioned light bulbs, it is extremely rare for an LED light to simply burn out. Rather, it will gradually fade over time.
You can see that Cree is by far the brightest. However, there are multiple factors, besides the LED chip that determine the brightness of an LED bulb including the power supply and optics (the lens or lenses that are used to diffuse the light).
Start Using LEDs Now!
LEDs are not a good alternative for all bulbs in a business. Depending on the situation, they make sense in some places more than others. The more people who adopt LEDs, the quicker prices will come down. There is no doubt that as prices come down, and efficiency/light output of the bulbs increase, in a couple of years every light bulb in the world will be an LED Light bulb and CFLs and incandescent will be a thing of the past. The initial investment may be a little hard to swallow, but in the long run, youll be doing your part for the environment and your wallet and making the world a cleaner, greener, cooler place to live one bulb at a time for generations to come.
Color Temperature For Under Cabinet Lighting 101
You may ask: Why talk about color temperature? I just want to get straight to installations!
Simply because choosing a color temperature is indeed a necessary step before you buy your under-cabinet lighting. It will contribute to the overall kitchen aesthetics and improve an otherwise dull one.
Different cabinet materials will go well with different color temperature, and will significantly enhance the color of the material itself.
There are basically three kinds of color temperatures, as we can see in the picture below.
As we can see, colors are measured in Kelvin temperature. 1,000-3,000 Kelvin range is the warm tones range. You may have heard the term ‘warm white’ before, it belongs to this group, and warm white lightings are measured in 2,700-3,500 Kelvin.
If you are interested in more details about color temperatures as well as the technicals behind it, check an article by Discover Lighting here.
How to choose your color temperature? As mentioned, it will largely depend on your cabinet material, with the following rule of thumb:
Many types of lighting can be used in an under-cabinet application. However, in modern application, generally there are choices you may use:
Under-cabinet lighting won’t require that much power. However, you should be careful that it won’t overload a power source. If you are deciding in using battery-powered puck lightings, you can skip this step.
Depending on your country’s electrical code, not all power source will be available. For example, the U.S. electrical code prohibits connection to dedicated circuits. This roughly means that you can’t use your kitchen and dining appliance circuit (you can’t use the countertop power outlets), as well as your laundry room and bathroom circuit.
If such condition is applied to your location, it’s still legal to take power from a light switch box with all hot, neutral, and ground connection. Otherwise, you’ll have to take the power from other locations such as your hallway outlet.
Once you decided on which power source to use, you have to determine whether it is capable of handling your additional under-cabinet light without overloading. Here is how to do it:
Same rules apply if your lighting of choice needs a dedicated power supply, which is common in LED strips. Choose a power supply with 20%-25% spare power capacity to avoid overloading.
Think under-cabinet kitchen design should be monotonous? Think again. See the following examples that may trigger your creativity.
As mentioned, traditional kitchen with wooden feel goes better with warmer, yellowish color temperature. The lighting will emphasize the color of the wood materials.
White countertops go better with cooler color temperature. An excellent example of how to conceal your light bulbs/strips by covering it with acrylic or other transparent materials. It also helps to diffuse the lights. A gorgeous modern kitchen with cool color temperature. Notice how the overall room lighting also contributes to the overall coloring.
Bars are also a common application for under-cabinet lighting. This is also an example how you can experiment with color to change the overall feel of the design.
Incandescent lights work by using electricity to heat up a filament inside a container with inert gas, which produces light after a certain degree. The major drawback to this is its efficiency. Only 2.2% of all energy used produces light or lumens, with the best being still a measly 5%. The rest is converted into heat, which eventually heats up its surroundings.
Halogens work almost the same, only with the addition of a halogen gas inside. The halogen gas redeposits the tungsten evaporated from heat back into the filament, extending its lifespan. This has two downsides, however. First, the tungsten generates UV light which will slowly damage any color pigments it comes in contact with. Furthermore, they are extremely hot. So hot that they are at times used in ceramic cook top stoves! As such, not only do they not increase efficiency, the added heat and UV light make these horrible home lights.
Fluorescent bulbs work by passing electric current and energizing the mercury vapor inside the tubes. The vapor then produces short-wave UV light that causes the phosphor coating to glow. They are much more efficient than Incandescent and Halogens, having a 15% efficiency at best. However, they still generate high amounts of heat (not as much as the Halogen though) and UV light.
To start if off, this LED bulb has a CRI of 80+. Sadly, however, there is no mention of Rrating. It is UL listed as well, so it has some backing.
The TIWIN A1come in only varieties, but it makes up for it on lumens. Both the 2700K and 5000K output 1100lm, and both use 1watts at max power. The high lumens make these a perfect 80w Incandescent replacement for those looking.
According to the manufacturer, these LED bulbs are not suited for full enclosures as the voltage regulator heats up a little too much. They will, however, do fine in semi-closed enclosures.
SGL Inch Downlight
Onwards we go, with this bulb having a CRI of 80+. This bulb is ENERGY STAR and UL Listed, using up to 1watts at max, making this an efficient LED.
These LED bulbs come in versions, 3000/4000/5000K, with lumens being as follows: 3000K: 1050lm, 4000K: 1080lm and 5000K: 1150lm. With their high lumens, this downlight is perfect for an 80w Incandescent replacement.
On another note, this LED bulb boasts an amazing dimmability of 100% to 1%, making it the best dimming LED bulb on this list.
This bulb is rated for enclosed fixtures as well, due to its requirement of a recessed can. While these LED bulbs are dimmable, sadly no percentage is given and as such, should be assumed to be 100-50%. Lastly, this LED light bulb is also rated for outdoor use, making this appealing to those wanting a recessed patio bulb.
Coming with a choice of glows, the 2700K outputs: 630lm, 3000K outputs 650 and the 4000K outputs 670. Every glow also consumes the same wattage, 14w.
As such, they are on the dimmer side in terms of lumens, mostly due to the smaller size and increased attention to CRI. Overall, however, these are an amazing replacement for 60 watt Incandescent bulbs, but will fall behind as 80 and 100-watt bulb replacements.
LOHAS Torpedo LED
As one of the smallest LED bulb around, the LOHAS Torpedo LEDs fall shorter on the spec side. However, these still manage a CRI>80, making them on par with others here on this list. And due to their size, take the least around of watts, maxing out at watts on 100% brightness. Sadly, however, these are not UL-listed, so keep this in mind.
In terms of lumens, the LOHAS fall under with the 2700/4000/5000K all outputting 550lm. As such, these LED bulbs are best used to replace a 40-watt Incandescent, not a 60 watt as advertised. However, due to its design, this LED is marketed as a 360° bulb. As such, when placed in certain fixtures, they may seem brighter than one might expect.
Something that must be noted, is some of the design issues. People have reported issues with the base not fitting all the way and thus making these LED bulbs worthless to them. This is because the base is on the shorter side, making the bulb not fit in every socket.
LEDMO LED Candelabra
Like the LOHAS, these bulbs fall shorter than others. But they are on level fields, with a CRI>80 just like the others. They do, however, take an extra watt on the way, maxing out at watts. These LED bulbs are not UL-listed nor Energy Star
On the lumens side, these are brighter than the LOHAS, with the 3000K and 6000K both outputting 630lm. Unlike the LOHAS however these only have a 270° beam angle, and as such, cover less area compared to the other.
Tube LED Bulbs
A quick note: *most these require ballast bypass as per instructions given by HYPERIKON.
To start it off, these tube LEDs boast a CRI of 84, making them better than most other tubes. Though they are one of the most power intensive, drawing in 1watts. This LED bulb is not ENERGY STAR qualified, but it is DLC qualified. As such, it still is an efficient bulb and has some credibility.
Something to note though: all of these LED tubes are clear, so they
There is some similarity spec wise between this set of LED tubes, and the ones above. And as such, this tube draws 1watts. The lumens are the same all across the glows, with 3000/4000/5000/6000K all outputting 2200lm, just like the double ended. Lastly, this bulb also comes in at a CRI of 84, so this choice is mostly out of which works on your fixture.
The efficiency of a certain light bulb measures how many lumens of light output you get per watt of energy/electricity input. The higher the lumens count for a given wattage, the more efficient the bulb is at converting power into light. Whereas generally speaking ALL incandescent lights have exactly the same efficiency, because of the fact that a given wattage of power will invariably heat the tungsten filament to a particular temperature, which will, in turn, translate into a specific output of light; with LEDs and CFLs, which utilize a completely different method of converting electricity into light, the efficiency will differ greatly from bulb to bulb.
A non-standard downrod is used when the ceiling height is greater than feet. See our downrod sizing guide to determine which length you will need for your ceiling height.
A sloped application is intended for room where the ceiling slants at 3degrees or higher. The fan installs into the ceiling with the use of an adapter, like this Modern Fan sloped ceiling adapter.
Lastly, look for a ceiling fan with a blade span that matches the room’s square footage and height. If you choose a fan that is too small for the space, it will struggle to move air. If you choose a fan that is too large for the space, not only will be off putting, but it will waste too much energy.
Sizing Tips: Here are some additional dimensions to consider when you buy a ceiling fan a new ceiling fan.
CEILING FAN LIGHTS
To add lighting or not to add lighting, that is the question. Choosing a ceiling fan with lighting is a matter of personal preference. If you plan to install the fan in a space with good natural lighting or sufficient light fixtures, buy a ceiling fan without a light kit.
If the space could use a boost of general lighting, choose a ceiling fan with a light kit. Today’s fans offer a range of lighting sources, including halogen, fluorescent, and LEDs.
Fluorescent light sources use 7percent less energy than incandescent light sources and have an average lifespan of 10,000 hours. Ceiling fans with CFL bulbs emit cool or warm lighting.
LED light sources consume very little energy and have an average lifespan of 50,000 hours. These ceiling fans with energy-efficient bulbs emit cool or warm lighting.
Antique Ceiling Fan Designs
Antique and vintage style ceiling fans complement traditional and vintage home decors. They often feature decorative filigree and scrollwork on the motor housing and blade brackets. Many light kits include a warm globe light. To achieve a vintage-inspired look, buy a ceiling fan that features an antique-style and pair it with American Empire furniture, floral prints and textiles, and warm brass and copper finishes. A warm pastel palette ties the space together.
Contemporary Ceiling Fans
Contemporary ceiling fans are a great addition to any modern and transitional space. The modern style ceiling fans feature clean lines, smooth metallic finishes, and minimal adornment. Buy a ceiling fan with a contemporary feel and pair it with casual contemporary furniture (avoid wood carving and adornments), natural textiles such as cotton, linen or wool, and chrome, nickel or stainless steel hardware. A bold color palette and geometric accents bring the look together.
Rustic Ceiling Fans
Rustic ceiling fans pair well with country, mission and western interiors. These rustic-inspired ceiling fans feature straight lines and dark wood finishes with homespun accents. To achieve this look, buy a ceiling fan with a rustic look and pair it with lodge-style furniture, checkered or striped prints, handmade accents, such as baskets, carved wooden bowls, and pottery, and hand-forged metal accents. Soft, muted colors, rough hewn wood and hand-forged metal accents round out this look.
Tropical Ceiling fans
Tropical ceiling fans complement coastal, island, and nautical home interiors. The island-inspired fans feature bamboo, natural palm leaf, and rattan blades with distressed wood finishes. To achieve this look, buy a ceiling fan with a tropical feel and pair it with rattan furniture, bright colors and natural patterns, tropical flowers and plants, and handcrafted items.
CEILING FAN EFFICIENCY & AIRFLOW
The motor is the heart of any ceiling fan, and it determines the airflow and efficiency of your ceiling fan. You don’t have to have to be an electrical engineer to understand a fan motor, but it’s the most important part of any fan. Consider the factors below the next time you buy a ceiling fan:
High airflow ceiling fans circulate more air and consume less energy than standard fans. These fans are ideal for garages, warehouses, and outdoor spaces, such as your patio and porch. When you buy a ceiling fan with high airflow you get an added bonus: high-airflow fans are known to drive away mosquitoes and other backyard pests.
Ceiling Fans with Remote Control
The handheld remote control offers the most convenience of all the fan control options. The lightweight and portable control operated within a 30 to 50-foot range, making it ideal for high ceiling fans and hard to reach places. Handheld remote control ceiling fans are also ideal for bedrooms.
The fan speed wall control option allows you to operate the fan speed, direction and lighting with the press of a button. The stationary remote has a range up to 40 feet, making it ideal for families with kids. A wall control is ideal for kitchens, dining rooms, living rooms and multipurpose rooms.
Here is the deal
Vintage Edison incandescent bulbs like we sell here produce far less light (lumens) per watt. This means that a 60-watt vintage bulbs will give you about 300 lumens when a standard incandescent 60-watt bulb will give you 800 lumens.
Assessing Your Lighting System Needs
In putting together your lighting system, it’s useful to consider what you want to achieve. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Regarding the last question, if you’ll be handling your own lighting during performances, features such as remote control, foot pedal control, and programmability will be important considerations.
LED vs. Conventional Lighting Fixtures
Inexpensive LED fixtures typically have smaller, low-power LEDs while larger, high-end fixtures are equipped with one-watt or three-watt diodes for much more impact. Smaller LEDs are often designated by their sizes—typically 5mm or 10mm. A 10mm diode is proportionately much brighter than a 5MM LED.
Light-emitting diodes or LEDs have revolutionized all kinds of lighting fixtures from those used in autos and homes to even the humble flashlight. For many good reasons, the LED’s impact on stage lighting and effects has been huge. Major acts such as Radiohead have recently toured using LED lighting exclusively. Let’s look at LED lighting’s advantages and disadvantages in comparison with traditional lighting:
Strobe and Laser Effects
Strobe effects use a pulsing white light beam to create a visual stuttering effect similar to viewing old-time films. They’re very popular in dance clubs and are available with both traditional filament bulbs as well as LEDs in a range of power levels to match various venues. You can choose from standalone models or DMX-controlled strobes that can be programmed with custom patterns. Sound-activated models can create a particularly exciting ambience on the dancefloor. Note that many LED PAR cans and effects lighting fixtures include strobing functions that may be adequate for your needs.
Laser effects produce very intense single-color beams and often include built-in display programs as well as sound-activated functions using a built-in mic. Motorized units allow scanning and burst effects, and the inclusion of gobos can create patterned laser beams. More advanced laser effect fixtures can produce 3-D effects and detailed backdrops, skyscapes, and much more. Lasers are especially effective when used in conjunction with fog machines.
Black Lights and UV Lights
These fixtures are a simple, low-cost way to add a special ambience to performance spaces and other venues. They enhance the appearance of white and fluorescent colors in darkened spaces creating a ghostly glow. Black lights are available in standard fluorescent tube and incandescent bulb formats that use standard lighting fixtures as well as newly developed LED fixtures.
PAR Can Lighting Fixtures
These lights are a staple of stage and live-sound lighting. These basic fixtures have a metal housing, mounting bracket, reflector, and socket that can accept a variety of different lamp types. They’re often used in large numbers to illuminate certain performers or stage areas and are usually mounted on overhead trusses. They do not offer a true hard-edge beam; the width of the beam is determined by the shape and positioning of the PAR can’s reflector.
PAR cans come in a wide range of sizes and are identified by their diameters in eighths of an inch. A PAR64, for example, has an 8″ diameter (because 6eighths of an inch equals 8″). Most include a holder allowing colored gels to be mounted in front of the lens.
Note that PAR3lamps are sometimes designated as simply SP (Spot) or FL (Flood).
The power requirements of PAR cans with incandescent lamps can add up fast. Those for smaller stages are typically in the 75-150 watt range. PAR3cans typically run between 50-150 watts. PAR46s usually have 200-watt lamps, PAR56s usually range from 300-500 watts, and PAR 64s range from 500-1000 watts. This is where the LED technology really shines (pun intended). They not only use a fraction of the power required by incandescent fixtures, but also reduce the number of fixtures needed in order to create a wide range of color options.
A common lighting setup for bands involves the use of a pair of light trees on either side of the stage, each holding enough PAR3cans with spot lamps and amber or light pink gels to light each frontline band member. Drummers are usually lit from the back and sides. Mounting the light trees to the tops of your main speakers is a space-saving strategy.
PAR cans and other lighting fixtures that have a double-yoke support system are something to look for if you want maximum placement flexibility. Double yokes allow mounting the fixture from a truss or placing it on a floor, speaker, or stage without a separate mount.
Today, many PAR fixtures are equipped with LEDs instead of traditional incandescent bulbs, giving them multi-color and color-mixing options. As noted above, PAR cans with LEDs generate much less heat, require far less power, and don’t require the use of dimmer packs.
The Thinpar6from Venue uses 100 bright LEDS to generate intense static or pulsing colors plus sound-activated and automated programs with master/slave or DMX-controlled operation.
Dimmer and Switch Packs
PAR cans with incandescent lamps require dimmer packs to control them. They operate in the same way household dimmer switches function, allowing you to set the relative brightness of connected lights. Most small bands and DJs use satellite dimmer packs with several channels that are typically mounted to the T-Bar or truss holding the PAR cans. The cans are plugged into the dimmer and they’re connected to a DMX controller. Dimmer packs are available with various numbers of channels, and some include built-in programs or chases.
Some units offer both dimmer and switch capabilities. Switches only provide on/off functions, and should be be used on LED and non-DMX effects fixtures to avoid shortening their life.
Lighting and Effects Packages
On the Musician’s Friend website you’ll find affordable lighting and effects packages that range from economical multi-PAR can packs to full systems that include a complete set of stage lighting and effects fixtures plus a controller, stands, and cables—everything needed to light your show. Aside from the savings these packs offer, you can be sure each fixture is compatible and designed to maximize the overall visual impact of your performance.
Non-DMX lighting fixtures have their own on-board controllers. Many such fixtures are designed to react to sound picked up through an internal microphone. Sound-activated fixtures usually include settings allowing the unit to create effects when insufficient or no sound is present.
Selectable, built-in programs allow you to automate non-DMX fixture operation—an advantage for bands and DJs who handle their own lighting. Fixtures in this category with incandescent lamps are often manufactured to operate for a specified period of time before they must be turned off, which may make it necessary to use multiple fixtures to create a continuous show. Look for the duty-cycle specification to determine if a specific model makes sense for your needs. This is another advantage of LED fixtures—they have no duty-cycle limitations. Examples of common non-DMX lighting include beam effects, flower effects, and gobo projectors.
DMX Lighting Fixtures
Also called intelligent lighting, these fixtures can be controlled via DMX-51controllers or interfaces. A DMX controller allows you to program stage lighting and effects remotely, ideal when you want complete control of the look and timing of lighting effects. DMX fixtures offer more control attributes or “traits” than non-DMX fixtures.
DMX-51is the communication/cabling protocol that most entertainment lights and controllers use to communicate with each other. DMX acts like a post office. For control, you assign an address between and 51However, unlike your house, which only has one address, your fixture needs a number assigned to each of its channels. A 6-channel DMX fixture uses addresses, or channels on a controller. Each channel on the fixture handles a specific control attribute such as pan, tilt, color, etc.
Controllers run the gamut from simple non-DMX switchboxes and relay packs that allow you to power multiple lighting and sound channels to highly sophisticated DMX units that provide control over every aspect of multiple lighting systems composed of hundreds of DMX-compatible fixtures. Some simpler controllers have a dedicated purpose such as controlling specific effects such as strobes or fog machines. Some controller models allow foot control—a great feature for solo acts and small bands who control their lights in realtime during performance.
The basics of DMX controller operation are generally quite simple. Each slider on the controller corresponds to a channel on the fixture being controlled. DMX fixtures have specific values that correspond to their various control settings such as color, gobo, pan, tilt, strobe speed, etc. By moving a slider on the controller to a specific value, the fixture follows suit. The various control values of each button or slider used to create an overall effect can be saved into a “scene”, which triggers the specific action or state you set. The scene is then saved into a memory bank. Numerous scenes can be combined into an entire program, which, for example, can be synchronized with cues for a show. This is called a “chase.” Chases can be adjusted via a myriad of input functions, depending on the controller being used. Examples of control triggers include MIDI and clock/calendar events.
Software-Based DMX Control
As with software-based audio recording and performance functions, there is a revolution in progress involving a shift in lighting control from hardware-based controllers to PC software and mobile device apps. That said, also as with audio functions, there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches.
Dedicated hardware lighting controllers with physical sliders, buttons, switches, and legible displays offer intuitive and tactile control and workflow without delving deeply into menus and mastering steep software learning curves. On the other hand, software-based lighting control offers enormous control potential with nearly unlimited creativity in designing elaborate lighting programs. Software may also be more affordable route.
The compact Chauvet Xpress 51Controller and USB Interface works with Windows or Mac computers and gives you powerful software-based control over an unlimited number of shows.
Many hardware lighting controllers come bundled with their own proprietary software and/or are compatible with other lighting software. Deciding which approach to lighting is right for your needs comes down to the complexity of your lighting and your willingness to master sophisticated lighting programming.
The Elation Show Designer 2CF DMX Controller offers 102channels of controls and has a huge fixture library for simplified effects programming.
DMX Controller Features and Specs
Here are some features and specs to look at when shopping for a DMX Controller:
Number of channels: Much like calculating the connections needed on an audio mixer, count the number of devices and each device’s number of channels in coming up with an adequate channel count. You’ll of course want to allow some additional capacity for future needs too.
Number of channels per fixture: Some fixtures have many control attributes or parameters. If you plan to include such fixtures in your lighting system, a controller that can handle up to 3channels per fixture will make sense. However, if your system will be largely comprised of simpler effect fixtures and PAR cans, a smaller, DJ-type controller is likely to be adequate.
Number of programmable scenes: As noted above, a scene is a set of control values or slider positions that can be saved for instant recall. Some controllers allow scenes to be saved on external memory devices while software-compatible controllers offer scene storage and editing on external computers or tablets.
Number of programmable shows: A complete sequence of chases and other settings that comprise a complete performance that can be saved and recalled.
Number of universes: Each DMX network is called a “universe” and has up to 51channels. Smaller controllers usually have a single OUT connector allowing control of a single universe. More complex lighting systems may be composed of several networks or universes thus requiring multiple controllers, or a single controller with multiple OUT connectors.
Fixture libraries: These collections of fixture profiles streamline the process of setting attributes and functions.
Tap/sync: This function allows the operator to sync lighting effects with the music by tapping in the tempo.
Joystick/trackball controls: These make tilt/pan and other positional functions easier to control.
Keyboard input: Allows connection of a computer keyboard for faster programming and naming of scenes, chases, and shows.
MIDI I/O and control: Allows control of the lighting system with a MIDI-enabled pedalboard, keyboard or other controller—a valuable feature for performers and DJs who control their lights in realtime. MIDI in and out connectors also facilitate programming on external computers and other MIDI-compatible devices.
USB Connectivity/Software-based DMX control: A USB connector plus MIDI implementation opens up a world of control possibilities using PC software and/or mobile apps to program and control your lighting.
Wireless operation: Some DMX controllers are compatible with wireless adapters so as to deal with situation where very long cable runs would otherwise be needed. Such systems have a wireless transmitter at the controller and receivers located near lighting fixtures. These systems convert DMX control messages to radio frequencies at the transmitter then convert the signal back to DMX signals at the receivers which are connected to the fixtures.
Each fixture produces output at a specific beam angle, which denotes the width of beam being produced. Assuming that you have two fixtures with the same wattage lamps, the fixture with the smaller beam angle will appear brighter. This is because the same amount of light is being focused into a smaller area. In addition, because a smaller beam angle creates a more focused and intense projection, the light can be placed further from the subject being illuminated. The larger (wider) the beam angle of a fixture, the larger the area that can be covered by the unit.
Fixtures should also be placed in proximity to the subject based on output. Lights that have a lower output need to be placed closer to the subject than a high-output fixture in order to be perceived as having the same brightness.
Having a combination of wash and spot fixtures illuminating an area will greatly enhance the look of any show. By using contrasting colors, the spots will pop out more, appearing brighter within the wash effect than if used alone.
Assigning Effects and Programming Shows
The key to good lighting design is to mix and match fixtures and tones to create a desired mood and effect. When programming, use color schemes that complement or contrast with one another, depending on the mood you want. Using a wash to create an ambient light in a color that will complement your spot, or effect, will make it appear brighter and richer. Clean, crisp complementary colors, along with fluid movement and symmetry produce an air of professionalism. Contrasting colors add high energy and drama to a venue. The best way to increase your design skills is by visiting different venues and shows to see what other designers have done. Note the elements that struck you as the best, and attempt to emulate and improve on them.
Connecting a Controller to Lighting Fixtures
A DMX signal begins at the controller and follows the path of the cable to the first fixture and then to each fixture in line down the cable run. The following diagram shows the proper method and order for connecting multiple fixtures to a single controller. The DMX line pictured here runs from the controller to the “DMX In” connection on the first fixture. From the “DMX Out” connection of the first fixture, a cord is connected to the “DMX In” connection of the next fixture in the line, and so on until all units have a cable connected to the “DMX In” connection. The last fixture in the line should have a DMX terminator installed to maintain the quality of the DMX signal.
Method for connecting DMX lighting fixtures to the controller
When setting up your lighting, you need hardware that will safely and securely position and hold your fixtures where you need them. Raising your lighting fixtures increases their coverage and keeps them safe from accidental contact and damage caused by vibrations. Musician’s Friend offers a broad selection of clamps, mounting brackets, and safety cables to accomplish this.
If you perform in a variety of venues, it’s likely you’ll run into challenges in setting up your lights. Having an assortment of lighting stands can help make setup simpler. Basic T-bar stands with tripod bases make a good all-around lighting support. A pair of such stands with an integrated truss affords more positioning options, support, and stability. Read specs carefully to make sure that the light stand or truss system you choose is rated for the weight of your fixtures.
The fixtures you select will determine the cables required to connect your system. In general, you will need one power cord per fixture, along with the appropriate extension cords (if needed). In addition, if you are connecting your fixtures via DMX cable, you will need one DMX cable per fixture. DMX cables use XLR connectors and come in 3- and 5-pin varieties. Check the user’s manual of your fixtures and controller to determine which type will be needed for your application. It’s a good practice to have extra cables on hand to deal with failures and venues requiring longer cable runs. That goes for extension cords, switchboxes, and AC power strips too.
Attribute » a controllable parameter on a fixture such as gobo selection, color, tilt, pan, etc.
Barrel scanner » This effect fixture, also called a rolling mirror scanner, has a moving mirror that rotates around a drum with a beam that can be panned across its axis
Beam angle » The width of a beam of light, often designated by the number of degrees; the greater the number the wider the beam. Sometimes designated with qualitative terms such as narrow, medium, and wide.
Chase » A sequence of lighting effects or on and off sequences. A simple example is the apparent movement of theatre marquee lights along a string, caused by the rapid sequential illumination of each fixture.
CMY » System of light color mixing using Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow. This system entails the use of colored gels or filters to create a wide palette of colors. Also see RGB.
Color temperature » A measurement of how relatively blue (“cold”) or amber (“warm”) a given light is.
Color wheel » A circular metal disc containing colored glass filters and is motorized to rotate in front of a light source.
DMX51» The protocol used to control lighting systems and individual DMX-compatible effects.
Fixture » In lighting systems, any lamp or lighting effect is considered a fixture.
Focus » A qualitative statement of how relatively hard or soft a gobo’s projected image is. The hardness of a projected image is largely a function of the distance that the beam is projected; the greater the distance, the softer the image. Focus may also refer to the X/Y position of a moving light in relation to the performance space or stage.
Gel » Also called a color gel or color filter, it’s a transparent colored polyester or polycarbonate sheet used in stage lighting in front of a light beam to alter its color.
Gobo » A usually spherical glass or metal template containing patterns that are projected by light sources mounted behind or within the gobo.
Gobo wheel » A disc within a moving light fixture that has several gobos placed around its perimeter. A motor steps through each gobo pattern in sequence, or fixtures may be programmable to select custom sequences.
Joystick » A device that allows control of a moving light’s pan and tilt functions. See trackball.
Kelvin » The measurement of a lamp’s color temperature. Incandescent lamps typically range between 600-3200 Kelvin. Arc and discharge lamps range 6000 and 9000 Kelvin. The sun has a temperature of 577See color temperature.
Moving head fixture » A lighting fixture in which the entire optical system, including gobo wheels, lamps, prisms, etc. move with the emitted beam(s).
Moving mirror fixture » Often called scanners, these lighting fixtures employ a mirror to animate and project beams of light. They typically offer faster movement than moving head fixtures.
First of all thanks for reading my article to the end! I hope you find my reviews listed here useful and that it allows you to make a proper comparison of what is best to fit your needs and budget. Don’t be afraid to try more than one product if your first pick doesn’t do the trick.
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