Choosing the Right Light Bulb: Watts Aren’t Everything

blog-light-bulbsRemember the old days of picking out a light bulb for your house? It went something like this:

“I need a light bulb.”

Go to store.

Choose between 40-watt or 60-watt bulb.

Go home.

If you were really trying to be fancy, you might get one of those three-way light bulbs for lamps that offered you a bright-brighter-brightest option. Now with the advance of energy efficient bulbs over the last decade or so, it’s no longer enough to simply know the wattage.

As a home stager, one of the most common (and most easily fixed) “boo-boos” I see among home sellers is using the wrong light bulb for the job. Replacing light bulbs can have a big return on investment, not only in terms of energy costs, but in the visual impact it makes on potential buyers — even a subtle change in lighting can make a big difference in the vibe of the room! Next time you’re shopping for the best light bulbs to showcase your home, be sure to check these 4 crucial details:

Type

For homes, LEDs are typically superior all other types of light bulbs because they:

  • have the longest lifespan (up to 10 years or more)
  • more durable (solid structure, no glass or filaments)
  • emit great quality light (available in a range of color temperatures)
  • use the least amount of energy (replacing just one bulb saves about $52 annually in energy costs)

The cost of LED bulbs has also decreased so significantly in recent years that the bulbs pay for themselves in a matter of months.

Shape

Save yourself multiple trips to the hardware store by bringing the old bulbs with you when you go shopping. It’s also not a bad idea to use your phone to take a few pictures of the light fixture. LEDs are now available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, but newer technology may mean a slightly different design than your old bulb. Make sure your bulb is a perfect fit by heading out with the right info on hand.

Color Temperature

Color temperature refers to a particular number on the Kelvin scale used to measure the color of light. This is the number that will tell you how  red, yellow, white, or blue the light will appear. Let’s break it down like this:

  • Candle light is nice and orange-y, somewhere around 1800K to 1900K.
  • “Soft white” light bulbs are usually about 2700K. While this is the color temperature of the typical incandescent light most of us are used to, it tends to be rather yellow. These are a good second choice for staging, but not ideal.
  • “Warm White” bulbs are around 3000k and are ideal for home staging in nearly every interior room of the home. LEDs in this range cast a bright light that is still slightly warm, yet fairly neutral, allowing your home’s true colors to shine through and giving you the most consistent results on your MLS photos.
  • “Natural Light” and “Daylight” bulbs can range from 4000K to 6000K and look rather blue. These cooler temperature bulbs usually don’t work well for home staging or residential use, as they’re rather unflattering to skin tones and cast a more sterile, cold light). Daylight bulbs are best used in retail displays, security lighting, work places or garages. Avoid using these bulbs when staging your home or photographing MLS photos.

You can find the bulb’s color temperature, or Kelvin scale number, on the Lighting Facts label of the package under “Light Appearance.”

Lumens

Wattage tells you only how much energy a bulb uses — not how bright it is. Since newer light bulbs use less energy, wattage is no longer a reliable way to gauge a light bulb’s brightness. Instead, we use lumens.

blog-lighting-facts-label

Check label! Look for the Lighting Facts Label on each bulb package to find the both the Kelvin scale number (under “Light Appearance”) and the lumens (under “Brightness”).

Lumens measure brightness. A standard 60-watt incandescent bulb, for example, produces about 800 lumens of light. By comparison, a CFL bulb produces that same 800 lumens using less than 15 watts. An LED bulb uses only 8 to 12 watts to produce 800 lumens of brightness. You can use lumens to compare the brightness of any bulb, regardless of whether it’s a halogen, incandescent, CFL, or LED.

When staging your home for sale, we recommend the brightest bulbs safely possible, usually around 750 lumens or more. You can find the bulb’s lumens on the Lighting Facts label of the package under “Brightness.”

When you have the type, shape, color temperature, and lumens properly adjusted in your home, it can have a huge impact on the ambience of your home, the quality of your MLS photos, and most importantly, the perception of your buyers. If you need a little professional help evaluating the light in your space before you go on the market, give the home staging experts at Three Bears Home Staging a call to set up a Walk & Talk Consultation!

Title photo credit:  “Bulb” by Vassilis is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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