DESIGN: Incandescent, Halogen and LED…….OH MY!

Over the weekend I noticed a couple of my recessed halogen lights were out in my house so my husband, daughter l and I headed out to my all-time favorite light bulb store in Houston.  I realize that most of you probably don’t have a favorite light bulb store but as an interior designer who believes in the importance of great lighting this place is a frequent stop for me.  I appreciate the “Mom and Pop” feel of a small family run business.  I love the personal, knowledgeable service you receive by people who actually care about you and the work they do each day.

During the twenty years of doing design work I have nearly always spec’d halogen lights for interior recessed lighting of a residential space.  In my opinion it has the most beautiful light output.  It’s warm but not too warm and has a crispness that gives the space a nice sparkle. It’s my go to.

However, the world is moving to LED lighting for the cost savings and better environmental impact.  I appreciate this and support this, however, I also don’t want to sacrifice the look of the halogen.  When LED first came out they were just awful.  AWFUL.  Nope. No way, not gonna do it.  However, the builders that I work with only use LED now and are singing their praises so I guess it is time I learn the world of LED and embrace this change.  My salesman, Joshua, decided this was the day I was going to switch over to LED.

He began giving me the LED 101 information and it was all sounding great.  In a super abbreviated nutshell here is what you need to know:

1. The color temperature– This is listed on the box as either 2700K, 3000K, 4000K or 5000K.  Here are my thoughts on how to use each:

  • The 2700K is most similar to the warm yellow light we are used to seeing from an incandescent. I would use this in most areas of your home.  It feels inviting and cozy.
  • The 3000K is just a touch cooler and will still give you a somewhat warm feel but be a little cleaner. Depending on the brand you choose some of these will get too cool for your living spaces.  I could see them being an appropriate choice for  a studio, bathrooms where you need good lighting for make-up application, commercial space, closets or anywhere you don’t want the yellow to interfere with how you see color in the space.  This does lose a touch of coziness
  • The 4000K is bright pure white. This is way too harsh for a personal space in your home.  However, the color does have an energetic feel to it so if you had a commercial space that you wanted to keep a fresh, bright and energetic then this would be good fit.
  •  The 5000K begins to turn a bit blue. It is considered to be like natural daylight which indeed is blue but it really feels harsh and overwhelming for any residential application.  I struggle to find a use but maybe a garage or warehouse?  I would personally not want to be in this light for long periods of time because it makes me feel….well, blue!

Here is an example of the color difference between the warmer more yellow 2700K and the 3000K.

2. The Wattage.  SAY WATT? – We are all used to 60 or 90 watt incandescent light but the wattage on LED is totally different.  Luckily they are helping us with this on the box and give you a conversion from what you are used to.

3. The Lumens – The lumens are going to determine how bright the light is. It’s amazing how different each brand and style of light felt when the lumens were basically the same.  However, if you find a bulb you like but it’s just a bit too bright you can look for a lower lumen value until you find the perfect one.

4. The Light Angle – Last but definitely not least you must choose your light angle. Keeping it simple we will say you have narrow flood, flood, and wide angle flood.  Living in Houston we are still hesitant to mention the word flood but here it’s unavoidable.

  • Narrow flood – At 16-30 degrees this is going to give you a spot light feel. If you are trying to accent something or keep your light from spreading this is a good choice.  However, if you use this for overall ambient lighting you will find circles of light on your floors instead of an overall consistent light.  This could make a dramatic effect in certain applications.
  •  Flood – At 91-120 degrees this is a standard light used in most residential and commercial recessed lights.
  •  Wide Flood – At 121-160 these have a very dispersed beam to cover a wide are and are typically used for exterior motion sensor lighting. It can however, also be used for very high ceilings.  In my previous home I preferred the wide flood to avoid the “spots” of light the regular flood lights were giving me from my high ceilings.

If you are already overwhelmed don’t worry, I was right there with you.  I had to do some experimenting for myself to see what each of these numbers really meant.  Based off this information Joshua so generously gave me I made my selection, went home, installed the light and HATED IT.  Oh no.  I was so excited to learn to love LED and I hated it.  Now what?  Back to the light store.  Luckily, they have this really amazing room that my daughter loves to have dance parties in so she was pumped to go back every time and we did go back, five times to be exact.

By trip number three I had all the salesmen at the store giving me their opinion of what they thought would be the perfect bulb for me.  They sent me home with all their options and each were certain I would choose their favorite.  In the end I FINALLY decided on this one…(drum roll please.)

This was the closest match to my old favorite.  I bought four and installed them in my kitchen.  I can tell a slight difference but I am certain no one else would.  I hope this gives you a bit of courage to go LED with confidence.  I have faith in you!

Author: Jana Erwin