Not quite the Battle of the Bulge…Instead It’s the “The Battle of the Bulb” (the LED bulb that is…)
Our Indispensable Guide to Survival in a World of LED Lighting.
Let’s face it, one of the bleakest days in home decor history was way back in 2007 when the US government passed a law ensuring energy efficiency standards for light bulbs. The victim: our beloved incandescent bulbs. Remember those? The kind of light bulb that enhanced our complexions, flooding us in a warm, youthful glow? That soft, inviting lamp light that glimmered through windows at dusk, inviting us in….
Ahhh, the incandescent bulb, how I wish I had stockpiled you when I first heard the news of your slow demise…
First on the cutting block: the 100-watt, then the 75-watt, and finally the 40- and 60-watt. And now, what are we left with? LEDs and CFLs. Even the acronyms give me the creeps.
As for the energy efficient lighting we’re left with? Well, that’s creepier still. Today, if you’re not careful with how you choose your lighting, you’ll end up with a home that looks like a slick operating room, full of sterile lighting, the kind that casts a ghoulish green glow on your skin. Harsh lighting that ages you 10-15 years, that makes you feel like you’re working in a science lab instead of relaxing in your home.
So, what’s a consumer to do?
Well, luckily, I’ve researched and tested A LOT of lightbulbs. And I’m going to share what I’ve found. Now, you do need to know, that I am a perpetual dimmer. I rarely have my lights going full throttle, and I tend to prefer warm lighting versus cool, despite its yellower hue (I’m kind of a cozy lighting gal). So, while I’m going to offer you all my intel, you’ll have to do a little testing yourself, because you might prefer your lighting a little crisper than mine. O.k. let’s get started!
RECESSED CANNED LIGHTING (downlights)
Let’s say you’re preparing for a pretty major renovation that involves opening up the ceiling and putting in (dreaded) recessed canned lighting. Now, I know, you can live without recessed canned lighting, and the world would probably be a better place lighting-wise if we could all live without it, BUT, when you’re renovating a kitchen (or potentially finishing the basement), you very likely will consider putting in some recessed cans. By the way, I really do applaud those of you out there who have managed to eschew canned lighting in a large kitchen, but let’s tackle the issue if you ARE planning for cans.
What are housings?
The photo below is a housing (it’s what goes in before the ceiling is sheetrocked), and this is the housing I like to recommend when possible. It is the Juno IC20 Housing Incandescent 5in Round New Construction Housing.
Here’s why I like this housing:
It’s not LED dedicated. Be wary of “LED Dedicated” housings, at least until LED technology improves. A LED Dedicated light (including chandeliers, pendants, sconces and other light fixtures) means that the LED light is already inside the fixture, ready to go. Because LED lights last for several tens of thousands of hours, you never ever have to change a bulb ever again. Sounds great, right? In theory, it is. BUT, since I’m not happy with the visual quality of most LED lighting yet, I really don’t want to commit myself to one type of light for the rest of my life. I’m still waiting for LED technology to continue to improve (aka to look more like incandescent lighting), so I want the flexibilty of being able to use whichever type of bulb I want in my light fixtures. As bulb technology improves, I can simply update the bulb instead of the entire light fixture.
Just because it is called an Incandescent Housing doesn’t mean you have to use incandescent bulbs...in fact, they really no longer exist. I have (tolerable) LED bulbs in mine (which I’ll share more about below).
I like the size. There are 4” round housings and 6” round housings. I like the 5”. To me it’s kind of the Goldilocks of cans, neither too big nor too small. The spread of light is good in my kitchen, where I do, unfortunately, need to use them so I can see what I’m cooking.
I love the trim options available through Juno! More on that next.
JUNO WHEAT HAZE TRIM
What’s a Trim? This is trim--it finishes off the can and is installed once the drywall is in place and the ceiling has been painted. It’s kind of the finishing touch for your canned lighting.
This is Juno’s 5” Downlight Cone Trim in Wheat Haze Cone/White Trim. This is what I have in my kitchen. I know, you’re thinking, well that’s kind of weird looking. And even my electrician was hesitant when I told him that’s what I wanted installed. BUT, I swear by it. First of all, it doesn’t look nearly as “bronze” in my ceiling as it does in the photo.
And here’s a close up:
Here’s the spec info on the Wheat Haze trim in case you’re intrigued:
O.K, now for the fun part! Let’s see what this all means once we pair our Wheat Haze trim with my favorite recessed bulb. Then we can see what happens when we dim the lights. (and remember, “favorite” bulb is a relative term--it’s my favorite of what’s available…)
FAVORITE LED BULB FOR RECESSED CANS: Philips Warm Glow Effect LED Reflector bulb (dimmable).
Let’s compare. In our basement we still have our nice Juno housings, but I didn’t splurge for the wheat haze trim (and now I rue the day, but I guess I can always replace them later). So, we’ve got the standard $5 white baffle down there AND the standard bulbs my electrician uses for all his installs (that would be the Ecosmart brand--try and avoid this). So that we’re all clear, here is a pic of the plain ‘ole white baffle:
NOTE TO EVERYONE: If you are like me and have a bulb preference, let your electrician know ahead of time so she/he can buy the bulbs you like and install them. That way you’re not left with a ton of icky bulbs stuck in a closet that you don’t like and won’t ever use (that would be me).
When we dim these two lights as far as they’ll dim, we really begin to see a striking difference. The reason I’m going to show you them completely dimmed is because if I show them to you at full throttle, my iPhone camera can’t really capture the light the right way--the light just blows out the photo.
The Philips on the left in Wheat Haze trim. The Ecosmart bulb on the right in plain white baffle. You’ll notic the Philips bulb actually dims, whereas the Ecosmart bulb just shrinks the amount of light being emitted. Plus, doesn’t that Ecosmart bulb remind you of what you’d stare up at on the operating table or in the dentist’s office?!?
So we know the Philips Light Bulb dims well, but what effect does the Wheat Haze trim have in all of this? What it does, it it helps diminish those bright white “hot spots” of light in your ceiling. It diffuses the light better so that your eye isn’t as painfully drawn to pots of white light in the ceiling.
So, that’s my experience with LED cans. In our next installment of the Battle of the Bulb, we’ll tackle regular lamp base lightbulbs, undercabinet lighting and LED light strips. It’ll be exciting, don’t worry!!
Oh, and please, please, please promise us that whichever housing and trim and bulb you decide on, DO NOT SWISS CHEESE YOUR CEILING: