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How to Light a Room: The Specs That Matter

how to light a room with LED lights - living room

In order to set the tone of a room and achieve the look you want, it’s important to be aware of what a light’s specifications say about its output. Learning how to light a room with LED lights depends on more than brightness and lumens. Do you want to create a relaxed environment, one that’s lively and bright, or one that’s romantic? Any look is possible with the right LED lights. They’re available in a variety of intensities, color temperatures (shades) and with different beam angles, dimming capabilities, and color-rendering indexes (CRI).  

how to light a room with LED lights - comparison chart



how to light a room with LED lights - lumens

Lumens are a measurement of the amount of light produced by a source. The higher the lumen count, the brighter the light source. Lumens are often the deciding factor when it comes to purchasing new LED light bulbs or fixtures. They’re a more reliable metric to use than choosing a light based on its wattage. An LED light with an output that’s comparable to a 60-watt incandescent bulb might only consume 10 watts of power.

Kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and closets are areas where high lumen counts would be beneficial, but brightness, as with any other lighting choice, is entirely up to you and the look you want for your room. LED bulbs are available in many intensities, but those intensities often depend on the light’s color temperature—otherwise known as the shade of white light being emitted.


Correlated Color Temperature (CCT)

how to light a room with LED lights - What is CCT

CCT indicates the hue and tone of white light emitted from a specific bulb or fixture. It’s measured in Kelvins (K), which is similar to degrees in Celsius. Different temperatures on the Kelvin scale represent different colors. For example, light at 2000K-3500K looks more orange/yellow and is called ultra warm or warm white, and as temperature increases in Kelvins, color changes to more of a “paper white” known as natural or neutral white (between 3500K and 5100K) and finally into a bluish-white known as cool white (5100K+).

As a light source’s color temperature increases, brightness often increases. While shopping for LED lights, pay close attention to the color temperatures that are available for any one bulb or fixture. Choosing a warm white bulb with a color temperature around 3000K might mean sacrificing some brightness. Whereas, if you choose the natural white version, it’s likely that it will have a higher output.

color temp intensity
Specifications table demonstrating the impact of color temperature on intensity

Traditionally, different rooms are associated with different tones. For example, living rooms and nurseries tend to have soft warm white light. A warm white light source will highlight other warm colors in a room, is least likely to show imperfections, and appears less bright when compared to higher CCTs. In kitchens, basements, garages, and other areas where tasks are completed, it’s standard to have natural or even cool white bulbs or fixtures because of the crisp, bright white light that they emit.


Color-Rendering Index (CRI)

what is cri - how to light a room

CRI indicates how accurately a light source reveals the true colors of objects, people, clothing, etc. when compared to how colors are shown in incandescent light or daylight. The closer a light’s CRI is to 100 (the CRI of incandescent light or daylight), the better the color rendition of objects under that light.

Any room can benefit from high-CRI LED lights. They’re great for living room lighting as they will show paint and furniture colors accurately. Kitchens, closets, bathrooms, dressing rooms, and other areas where presentation, appearance, and depth of color are important can also benefit from high-CRI LED lights.

Accurate color rendering can be achieved with a high-cri light strip, can light, globe bulb, linear light, or other high-CRI bulb or fixture. Lights with a CRI of 80 or higher are considered to show colors most accurately. The CRI of an LED light generally ranges from 70 to 98.




how to light a room with LED lights - electromagnetic spectrum - light spectrum


In order to understand nanometers, you must first understand the electromagnetic spectrum and wavelengths. The electromagnetic spectrum is the entire range of invisible and visible light, and a wavelength is the distance between peaks of light waves. Wavelengths are measured in nanometers, which are simply units of length that indicate colors of light within the spectrum. Nanometers will tell you how red, green, yellow, purple, etc. a light source really is. These measurements start lower at ultraviolet and increase from green to blue, yellow, orange, and then red. The wavelength of a colored light can be found in the light’s specifications table.


Beam Angle

how to light a room with LED lights - Beam Angle

Beam angle or pattern is a measurement of the angles that are formed between a cone of light’s brightest point (the center) and the points on both sides of the center where the light’s intensity is 50 percent as bright. A larger beam angle means a wider spread of light across an area and vice versa with small beam angles. While it depends on the angle and individual retailers, small beams are often referred to as spot beams, and larger angles (usually anything above 90 degrees) are considered flood beams.

how to light a room with LED lights - beam pattern
MR16 beam angle in degrees (left to right): 36, 24, 15

Fixtures or bulbs that emit wide beams, such as LED panel lights or BR LED bulbs for can lights are great for areas that require a lot of light, such as basements, kitchens, or living rooms. Narrow beam angles like those from can lights with LED PAR bulbs or track lights with MR LED bulbs are best for highlighting decor or small areas. Globe bulbs, such as A19 or G30 LED vanity bulbs, have 360-degree beam angles, which means that they throw light in all directions. Globe bulbs are the perfect choice for centralized light fixtures.



how to light a room with LED lights - dimmable LED lights

Dimmable LED bulbs and fixtures allow you to adjust the lighting in any room to match its function during a particular time. For example, in a living room or theater room, you might want low light for watching TV but high light output for a gathering of friends. They’re also great for bathrooms where you need bright light to get ready but want dim lighting for relaxing in a bath. Dimmable chandelier bulbs, for example, can create the perfect atmosphere for a family dinner while also allowing enough light for the room to function as a work space for school projects. When dimmed, these LED lights also reduce energy consumption. They’re available in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, styles, and colors from A19 LED bulbs to LED panel lights and retrofit LED can lights.