Remember the old days of picking out a light bulb for your house? It went something like this:
“I need a light bulb.”
Go to the store.
Choose between 40-watt or 60-watt bulbs.
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. With advances in energy-efficient bulbs, 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 four crucial details:
Type of Light Bulb
For homes, LEDs are typically superior to all other types of light bulbs because they:
- have the longest lifespan (up to 10 years or more)
- are 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.
Avoid CFLs and halogen bulbs. CFLs contain mercury and take too long to warm up. Halogens use a lot of energy and create heat.
Shape of the Light Bulb
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.
The Color of the Light
Light appearance, or color temperature, refers to a particular number on the Kelvin scale (degrees Kelvin, or K) used to measure the color of light. This is an objective number that will tell you how red, yellow, white, or blue the light will appear.
Let’s break it down like this:
- 1800 K to 1900 K: Think of candle light — nice and orange-y. Also common for some Edison bulbs.
- 2700 K: This is the most commonly available light bulb color. 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.
- 3000 K to 3500 K: Bulbs in this range 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 listing photos. *Pro tip: These are also the best color bulbs for evaluating interior paint colors!
- 4000 K to 6000 K: Bulbs in this range look rather blue. This cooler temperature light typically doesn’t work well for home staging or residential use. Bulbs this color are rather unflattering to skin tones and cast a more sterile, cold light. These bulbs are best used in retail displays, security lighting, work places, or garages. Avoid using these bulbs when staging your home or photographing listing photos.
The name of the color (e.g., “warm white” or “daylight” or “soft white,” etc.) varies by manufacturer so rely on the actual degrees Kelvin number instead of the name. You can find the bulb’s color temperature, or Kelvin scale number, on the Lighting Facts Label of the bulb package under “Light Appearance.”
The Brightness of the Light Bulb
Wattage tells you only how much energy a bulb uses — not how bright it is. Since newer light bulbs like LEDs use far less energy, wattage is no longer a reliable way to gauge a light bulb’s brightness. Instead, we use lumens.
Brightness is measured in lumens, not watts. The higher the lumens, the brighter the light. A standard 60-watt incandescent bulb, for example, produces about 700 to 800 lumens of light. By comparison, a CFL bulb produces that same 700 to 800 lumens using only about 12 watts of electricity. An LED bulb uses even less energy — only about 10 watts — to produce the same amount of light. 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.”
*If for some reason you’re not using energy-efficient LEDs, wattage may still be a relevant factor to evaluate. For safety reasons, make sure you don’t use a bulb that exceeds the light fixture’s recommended wattage, or energy use.
Download Our FREE Cheat Sheet!
If all this seems like too much to remember, fear not — we’ve created a FREE CHEAT SHEET you can download and take with you to the store or keep next to your computer for ordering online. You can get download it from our Library of Freebies:
Bulbs We Like
Take a look below at our recommendations or visit our Shop page for more.
SYLVANIA Value LED Light Bulb, A19, 60W Equivalent, Bright White 3500K, 4 Pack
LED Candelabra Bulb, Boncoo Dimmable LED Chandelier Light Bulbs 6W 3000K Soft White Filament LED Candle Bulbs 60W Incandescent Equivalent B11 530 Lumen E12 Base Clear Glass Decorative Bulb 6 Packs
When it comes to recessed lighting, you’re typically looking at either a BR30 or a BR40 bulb. BR40s spread light a little more widely than BR30s, but the difference is subtle. We recommend selecting bulbs for recessed lighting based on lumens output, color temperature, and the size of the cans.
Most cans are 4″ or 5″ or 6″. Typically, a 4″ can only accommodate BR30s. A 5″ can should comfortably fit a BR30 bulb with a little space on all sides, while a BR40 will fit more snuggly. A 6″ can will accommodate a BR30 bulb but it will also leave a lot more space between the bulb and trim, a look you might not care for.
Sunco Lighting BR40 LED Light Bulbs, Indoor Flood Light, Dimmable, 3000K Warm White, 100W Equivalent 17W, 1400 LM, E26 Base, Recessed Can Light, High Lumen, Flicker-Free – UL & Energy Star 6 Pack
Need More Help?
Great lighting can have a huge impact on the ambiance of your home and the quality of your listing photos. Need some professional feed your home before you go on the market? The home staging specialists at Three Bears Home Staging can help!
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