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LED light bulb buying guide: How to choose the best lighting for your home or office

Save money on lighting and help the environment by switching to LED light bulbs.

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Woman sitting at table with hanging lightbulbs

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Quick facts about LED light bulbs:

  • These bulbs cost more than older incandescent models at $3 to $30 per bulb, but the lifetime cost is usually lower because LEDs can last decades.
  • You have three main colour options to choose from and a few useful features to consider, including whether or not the light can be dimmed.

What are LED light bulbs?

LED light bulbs or light-emitting diodes are designed to last longer and run more energy efficiently than older incandescent models. In fact, countries all around the world have started to phase out the use of incandescent bulbs in favour of bulbs with lower electricity usage. Australians are estimated to have saved more than $5.5 billion dollars on electricity since restrictions were placed on the archaic bulbs in 2009.

Quick stats
  • Average cost per bulb: $3 to $30
  • Power used: 2 watts to 23 watts
  • Brightness: 250 lumens to 1600 lumens
  • Average lifespan based on three-hours of use per day: around 20,000 hours
  • Typical number of replacement bulbs needed over 10 years: one

Pros

Studies have shown that switching from fluorescent to LED light bulbs can improve your health.

Compared to traditional incandescent bulbs, LED lights:

  • Have a lower lifetime cost
  • Can last decades (based on three-hours of use per day)
  • Are up to 90% more energy efficient
  • Are more environmentally friendly and many can be recycled
  • Emit less heat
  • Are more durable and less prone to breakage
  • Are not made with hazardous chemicals
Fun fact: While Thomas Edison is generally credited as having invented the light bulb, many historians believe that as many as twenty other inventors created versions of the incandescent bulb before Edison filed his patent in 1879.

Cons

There are a few disadvantages to using LED light bulbs. As with all light bulbs, the colour intensity and light output can decrease over time. Also, some people find the colour of the LEDs to look too bluish. However, many manufacturers now make vintage-style LED bulbs to replicate the feel of traditional incandescents.

Some additional downsides specific to using LED light bulbs:

  • Higher initial price per bulb
  • Limited colour options
  • Some white LED bulbs can look bluish
  • Not all models are able to be dimmed
  • Sensitive to temperature and may malfunction when exposed to heat
  • Many LEDs will not function when installed sideways
  • Some LED lights can cause radio or electromagnetic interference

What to look for when buying an LED light bulb

When choosing a light bulb consider the number of lumens, the temperature of the light and if it can be dimmed.

Lumens

Bulbs used to be measured by the amount of power they used in watts. Newer LED bulbs use less power and are now measured by their brightness, or how much light they produce, in lumens.

When replacing an incandescent bulb with an LED, use the following Watt to Lumen translations as a general guideline:

WattsLumens
25W250
40W500
60W800
75W1,100
100W1,600

Colour temperature

You can choose between three primary colour temperatures for your LED light bulb: soft white, cool white and daylight.

Colour temperatureDegrees KelvinDescriptionBest for
Soft or warm white2,700 KMimics the yellow tones of a sunrise or sunset to make a room feel cozy.Bedrooms, living rooms and dining rooms.
Cool or bright white4,100 KBrighter than soft white bulbs to give rooms a more energetic and awake feel.Kitchens, garages, workspaces and bathrooms.
Daylight5,000 KDesigned to replicate the midday sun with a bluish-white colour.Accent lighting and reading areas.

Dimming

Not all LED bulbs are compatible with built-in dimmer switches. If you have an in-wall dimmer switch, look for LED bulbs that are dimmable.

Smart lights

Smart lights allow you to control your lights with your phone, tablet or computer. Some smart bulbs allow you to dim the lights or change the colour temperature of the bulb using a Bluetooth connection. If you want to control your lighting with voice commands, look for lights that are smart speaker capable so that you can connect them to your Google home, Amazon Echo or another smart speaker.

Alternatives to LED light bulbs

As we mentioned earlier, incandescent light bulbs are being phased out all over the world. However, you can still buy them in Australia. Other types of light bulbs include halogens, fluorescent bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps, mercury-vapour lamps and Edison bulbs. Check out our light bulb comparison for a rundown of each type of bulb.

No matter what type of bulb you choose, you’ll probably want a lamp to put it in. We’ve compiled some of the best deals for buying lamps online.

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