What mistakes you must avoid when buying LED lights


What mistakes you must avoid when buying LED lights


LED lights are the best thing in lighting since Edison created lightbulbs for home use. They operate at a fourth of the power or less and at half the temperature or less of incandescent bulbs. 

(Incandescent bulbs are lightbulbs that have a wire filament. They are most of the bulbs that people have used in the past.) 

"LED" stands for "Light-Emitting Diode."

LED lights can fit into tight locations, allowing for many new and interesting ways to use them. They come in many different colours, have dimmable options, and can be used inside and outside, as listed on the package.

LED lights also come in plastic versions to be break-resistant.


Image 1. The right light colour in the spectrum for your application

LED lights come in three major colour groups:

• Warm, which ranges between 2700K -3000K

• Neutral, which ranges between 3000K -4000K

• Cool, which ranges between 4000K -6000K

( K stands for Kelvin, which is a standardized way to measure colour temperature. )

The majority of incandescent lights fall into the warm range. If you're going from incandescent to LED lighting, I'd suggest starting with 3000K to 3500K. It will be noticeably brighter but not over the top.

Not all LED bulbs come in all colours. The more custom the bulb base, the harder it will be to find the LED bulb colour you want.  The chart and images provided below will give you a good idea of how colour temperatures look.

Image 2. Warm white LED bulb 10W in floor lamp
Image 3. Warm white LED bulbs 2700K in pendant vintage fixtures and table lamps. Photo from hotel Romanos in Navarino Greece


Images 3 provides good contrast, with warm lightbulbs at 3000K in the foreground and cooled LED 3" Recess lights, which are 4000K, in the background.

The next two images show the difference between 4000K and 5000K. The chandelier in Image 4 has 4000K bulbs, and the chandelier in Image 5 has 5000K bulbs.

5000K is a little too cool in colour for residential applications, in my opinion, but I have had clients who love these cooler colour ranges.

Under-cabinet lights are a great way to accent your kitchen, and below are two examples. Image 6 is a 4000K under-cabinet light; Image 7 is an under-cabinet light at 2700K.

As you can see below, the difference between 2700K recess lighting (in image 8) and 3000K recess lighting (in Image 9) is slight but noticeable.


The difference between colour and volume seems to be the biggest point of confusion when people are buying LED lights.

When wanting a light that gives you more light, most people would say, "Give me a brighter bulb please." The problem is when people say "brighter"

in the LED world, there are two possibilities:

• One is you want more lumens / light output

• Two is you want it whiter or cooler in colour

The volume of light is measured in lumens but used to be measured in watts. Watts actually measure the total power used by the bulb. When all the bulbs were incandescent, that was all you needed to compare the total light output. Now that there are so many different bulbs that all use different amounts of power per lumen, we have to use lumens to get the right measurement.

Here are some comparisons between watts and lumens in lightbulbs:


Compatibility is the biggest issue with LED lights. When buying these bulbs, make sure to read the box so that you know what you're getting.

Here is a checklist for finding the LED light you want:

• Make sure your LED light says "dimmable" if you want to dim it.

• Make sure your LED bulb is listed as being for enclosed spaces if that's where you intend to use it.

• Make sure your LED is listed as being for outdoor use if that's where you're going to use it.

• Check the CRI or Colour Rendering Index. The CRI tells you how well you can see colours with each lightbulb. Low CRI bulbs will make things look black and white, so the higher the number, the better. I'd suggest at least 90 for most areas in your home. 100 CRI gives you all the colours you'd see in sunlight.

• Check the beam angle on your LED. If it is directional, wider beam angles will cover more area. A small beam would be good for accenting items like art, sculptures, and flowers.

• LED lights use low voltage to operate, with "low voltage" being under 50 volts. An LED driver will change house voltage into voltage an LED can use. Drivers are necessary for LED lights that don't already have a self-contained driver. LED tape lights, for instance, need an external driver. Make sure your LED driver is compatible and dimmable.


LED lights have many different configuration options. Planning ahead will help tremendously in making things match.

Not all LED lights come with all the options.

There are many lights with LEDs built-in. These are an example of lights that are going to have a limited selection. These days, many lights that have LEDs built in also have a colour selector switch built-in. This is a nice option to watch out for.

The one big downside to having the LED light built into your light fixture is that, once the LED stops working, many times you have to change the entire light fixture. For that reason, I still prefer light fixtures with the old-school option of being able to change the bulb.

There are many different bulb base types. The standard medium base E26, for US-based consumers, is the most common and will have the biggest selection. The second most common is the candelabra-based bulb E12.

If you find a light you love that has another type of bulb base, make sure the bulbs you get with the fixture have the options you're looking for. I'd suggest taking note of the bulb type before throwing away your instructions. This will make it possible for you to find the matching bulb when needed.