How to Buy a Lightbulb for Every Room in Your Home
Overwhelmed by the options in the bulb aisle? Our room-by-room guide makes it easy to pick the right bulb for the right job, improving your home’s mood and safety—and your bottom line. Not all are created the same—you wouldn’t want to use a bathroom vanity bulb for your bedroom lamp and vice versa. When choosing a bulb think about what kind of mood or lighting you’ll want to have in a specific room: calming or energizing; a dim, cozy glow or a bright and vivid light. Keep in mind that in a bedroom you’ll want to have a versatile bulb that will help you go to sleep at night, but will energize you when you wake up (especially on those early winter mornings when the sun isn’t up yet). On the other hand, in a kitchen, you’ll want to choose a brighter light that provides clarity for cooking and other tasks. When purchasing a bulb at the hardware store, abide to the recommended-wattage label taped to the lamp cord, or specified on the lighting fixture. It’s a safety issue—that label lets you know how much heat the fixture can handle without damaging the socket and internal wiring. If you’re using a standard incandescent bulb, you should be especially obedient about the wattage guide. With CFLs and LEDs, you have a little more flexibility: “They use significantly less energy than standard bulbs, so you can go up in wattage if you want a brighter light,” says Tim Rider, LED product manager at Philips Lighting North America. No label on your lamp? “Use a CFL or LED to avoid exceeding its wattage,” he advises.
Before You Buy a Bulb, Know This: Warm lighting is helpful for nighttime, when you’re getting ready to sleep; in the morning, cooler, brighter light can help you feel alert. Dimmable soft white bulbs offer both.
The Pros’ Pick: “This bulb works with any kind of dimmer. It’s designed to change ‘color temperature’—from a standard soft white to a warmer, more amber-toned light—as it dims. Not all dimmable LEDs do this. Many others just lower the level of light output without actually changing the appearance of the light.” —Tim Rider, LED Product Manager at Philips Lighting North America
To buy: Philips Dimmable LED Warm-Glow-Effect Bulb, $8; homedepot.com.
Before You Buy a Bulb, Know This: This hangout hub calls for warm, yellow light, to create a cozy atmosphere and flatter skin tones. Choose a bulb that’s dimmable, too, so you can amp up lighting when you need it—say, for family game night.
The Pros’ Pick: “This works in almost any space. It looks like a traditional incandescent bulb and replicates the light of the soft white bulbs you’re probably used to. But it uses 80 percent less energy and lasts 10 to 20 times as long as those incandescents. Plus, it’s dimmable and very affordable.” —Dean Kochalka, Merchandising Vice President at Lowe’s
To buy: Utilitech Soft White LED Decorative Bulb, $9; lowes.com.
Before You Buy a Bulb, Know This: Some experts suggest using “daylight” bulbs, or bulbs with cooler lighting, in the bathroom, as they show colors more accurately. But there’s another school of thought: “You may find a soft white bulb more flattering,” says Rider. (In other words, just how much precision do you want in the bathroom mirror?)
The Pros’ Pick: “For a classic look in a bathroom vanity, try an LED globe light. This one has a frosted finish that cuts glare. It also works well in pendant fixtures in work spaces, like above a kitchen island.” —Joey Corona, Lightbulb Merchant at Home Depot
To buy: EcoSmart Soft White G25 Dimmable Frosted LED Bulb, $20 for 3; homedepot.com.
Before You Buy a Bulb, Know This: This task-oriented room demands a high-quality light. Bulbs labeled “HD” generally offer the most clarity. If you regularly eat in your kitchen, consider a dimmable bulb.
The Pros’ Picks: “A light that brings out colors and definition in food is helpful for meal prep and presentation. This LED bulb is made with the rare-earth mineral neodymium, which creates a stronger separation in the way your eye views reds and greens. The result is that all colors look more vivid and whites more brilliant, allowing you to see in sharper detail.” —Carmen Pastore, Consumer Marketing Manager at GE Lighting
To buy: GE Lighting Reveal High-Definition Dimmable Bulb, $10 for two; homedepot.com.
Or try this energy-saving superstar: “Mood lighting it’s not, but if you want to save on electric bills and not have to buy a new bulb till your 401(k) matures, this is the one for you. It lasts about 20 years and uses nearly 85 percent less energy than a standard incandescent.” —Joey Corona
To buy: EcoSmart Bright White Dimmable LED Bulb, $33 for six; homedepot.com.
Before You Buy a Bulb, Know This: Floodlight-shaped bulbs focus hall lighting on the floor, making nighttime navigation easier. Consider installing a motion-sensing fixture that turns on the light automatically whenever there’s movement—you won’t have to grope for that switch in the dark again.
The Pros’ Pick: “This bulb is compatible with fully enclosed fixtures, meaning it won’t overheat and damage the wires. It’s fine for a kitchen or dining room but especially effective in a hallway, where a soft white glow helps the whole house feel welcoming. It’s also dimmable—great for a light you may want to leave on at night.” —Joey Corona
To buy: EcoSmart Soft White Dimmable LED Bulb, $30 for 6; homedepot.com.
Before You Buy a Bulb, Know This: The goal is to create an intimate atmosphere where you gather for meals, so dimmable bulbs that give off a warm yellow glow are ideal. Vintage-style or candelabra bulbs are a sophisticated choice for chandeliers or pendants.
The Pros’ Pick: “If you want to give an open fixture a vintage vibe, this fully dimmable bulb looks quite authentic. It has LED strips arranged to resemble the thin, glowing filament of an Edison-style bulb—and the amber-tinted globe design gives it that old-fashioned look.” —Terry McGowan, Director of Engineering at the American Lighting Association
To buy: Bulbrite 776609 7W LED Bulb, $13; commercialbulbs.com.