Lighting 101

The world of lighting is intense and has changed more since 2010 than it has since Edison first introduced the world to his light bulb.  Here we will go over the various aspects of lighting that you should know about to make better decisions in your home or business.

Most Common Light Types

  • Incandescent – Incandescent bulbs are also referred to as traditional bulbs. The bulbs contain a filament in a vacuum. When electricity is introduced the filament will glow. While this light is often the preferred light source it is also the most inefficient lighting method and only about 5% of the electricity is turned into light, where the majority is converted into heat.
  • Halogen – Is very similar to incandescent and is slightly more efficient.  The filament is encased in a halogen filled tube which increases the efficiency. Like incandescent, halogen bulbs run hot and are not as efficient as today’s LED bulbs.
  • Fluorescent (CFLs, Linear Fluorescent) – Fluorescent lighting has been in place since the 1920’s but didn’t become commercially used until the 1940’s. It has evolved over the years. Ballasts are used to convert the frequency delivered to the light fixture to activate the light. T8 bulbs are standard among typical fluorescent fixtures and are also available in LED versions.
  • Sodium – There are two types of sodium lights, high-pressure and low-pressure. They have been used for many years in street lighting and manufacturing and are associated with having a yellow-glow. They are much more efficient than incandescent lighting but not as efficient as LED. While being efficient, they provide very poor colour rendering causing most medium to dark colours appear black.
  • Metal Halide – This is a high-intensity type of light. It can have fairly good colour rendering but will also require 3x the energy of a comparable LED fixture. These were usually seen in high-bay applications in warehousing, retail outlets and are still common today.
  • LEDs – Since being introduced to the commercial market, LED lighting has transformed the lighting industry and continues to do so today. LEDs are available in all sizes, colours and shapes one could think of and are over 90% more energy efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs.

Brightness is Lumens

When LEDs first came to the marketplace, equivalents to incandescent bulbs were the norm, but in a few years there will be a new generation of purchasers who will have never seen an incandescent bulb on a store shelf. Scary! The standard brightness of a light bulb is measured in lumens. Most light bulbs in retail list their lumen level so make sure you’re making an informed choice (some bulbs advertise they are 60W equivalent but give off the lumens of a 40W bulb). Here is a handy-dandy list for comparing lumens for standard bulbs:

Lumens Incandescent Watts Halogen Watts LED Watts
1,600 100W 72W up to 22W
1,100 75W 53W up to 20W
800 60W 43W up to 12W
450 40W 29W up to 9W

LED efficiency is being improved constantly so the wattage reference is probably already out-of-date. Look for lumens.

Colour is Key

The colour of lighting is often overlooked but is key to maintaining a consistent look and feel where ever lighting is used. Try to ensure that each room in your home or business has a consistent colour range. Lighting colour has several catch words such as cool white, bright white, warm white, but the most consistent method to colour is using Kelvin (K).  The chart below illustrates how lighting temperature is measured in Kelvin.

So now that we have colour settled, where should you use them? The following chart goes over various types of rooms and the kelvin temperature range that should be used in them. This will help you choose the right light bulb for your use, but ultimately, the colour you pick will be personal preference.

Room Colour Range Reasoning
Home – Kitchen 3,000-4000k Being closer to a white light will help you cook better as you’ll be able to see the colours of your food better. Some kitchens will also go with a 2700k for a warmer feel.
Home – Bedroom 2700-3000k Warmer light is also associated with allowing your brain to get ready for sleep. Blue light can interfere with your brain patterns and keep you up longer so avoid going any higher than 3,000k.
Home – Garage 3500-4500k Going with more of a whiter light and moving towards a bluer hue will help keep you alert and the lights will show the true colours of what you’re working on whether it be a touch-up paint job or a more complex project.
Home – Living Room 2700-3000K Like the bedroom, having a cozy living room is key to relaxing. 2700k will bring comfort but a 3000K light will work better if you have colours in your room via paintings and wall colour.
Home – Bathroom 3000k – 4000k Moving closer to the 4,000k in the bathroom will still give you some comfort but it will also be closer to natural daylight (5600k) so that your look in the mirror will be closer to what people see outside. Some people use daylight coloured bulbs but this writer finds them a tad too industrial.
Work – Office 3500-4000k Having a bright white light and slightly moving towards blue will keep your employees engaged and awake. It’s your Goldilocks zone for the 9-to-5ers.
Work – Retail 4000-5000k Retail environments show colours well and keep customers alert with a brighter white.

All Shapes and Sizes

Light bulbs are measured in eighths of an inch so when you see a number beside a letter (or series of letters), this is the diameter of the bulb. A19s are 19 eighths of an inch wide or 2.375″ wide. T8 linear fluorescent tubes are 1″ thick. PAR30 bulbs are 3.75″ wide and so on.

Light bulbs also have an assortment of shapes as seen in the image below.The most common are:

  • A19 is the shape of a traditional light bulb
  • B10/11 are commonly known as candelabra bulbs
  • G25 & G40 are globe bulbs commonly seen in vanities
  • BR,R and PAR bulbs are commonly found in pot light fixtures