It’s often assumed that energy-efficient light bulbs only come in one color: bleach white. This is not the case! New CFLs, efficient halogen incandescents and LEDs offer a variety of color temperatures to suit your lighting preferences.
Whether you want a warm glow for your bedside lamp or an overhead light to keep you awake at the office, you have a variety of new and efficient lighting options.
How to Choose the Right Color
It’s All in the Kelvins
To understand the color of light bulbs, you’ve got to understand kelvins. The kelvin (K) scale measures the shade of light in a bulb. New light bulb packages provide kelvins along with lumens, which measure the brightness of a bulb, and watts, which measure the amount of energy used.
Low K for Yellow, High K for Blue
The gradients of light color given off by bulbs range from yellow to blue. The lower the number of kelvins in a light bulb, the more yellow or orange the light appears. The higher the kelvins, the more white or blue the light appears.
Energy-efficient bulbs that emit warm white and soft white light fall into the 2700K-3000K range and are best in ceiling fans, or anywhere you would normally install a traditional incandescent. Natural or daylight light tones fall between 5000K-6500K and are suggested for activities in the garage or on the front porch.
Blasting CFL Lighting Myths
Some people have been led to believe that all energy-efficient light bulbs look brighter than standard incandescent bulbs. But that's not true!
Some of the cheapest and oldest compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) on the market were criticized for being unnaturally bright. However, many CFLs on the shelves today don’t have that problem – especially if you buy an ENERGY STAR-qualified CFL (in the 2700K-3000K range) which completely match the softer color tones of traditional incandescent bulbs.
ENERGY STAR bulbs are designed to provide natural-looking light. That’s because every ENERGY STAR bulb must have a high Color Rendering Index (CRI) value. CRI measures a light source’s ability to show colors “realistically” or “naturally” compared to daylight or incandescent light. Bulbs with the maximum CRI value of 100 have extremely natural-looking light, while bulbs with a CRI under 50 have poor color quality. Low CRI values are often found with cheaply made bulbs, which appear to be unnaturally bright. Although you won’t find CRI on the package, ENERGY STAR requires its CFLs to have a CRI of at least 80.
Let’s Go Shopping
Here are a few examples of what to look for when shopping for your perfect bulb colors:
Now that you’ve seen the color appearance options, it’s time to try out the new bulbs that will cost you a fraction in energy use and look great in your home. You won’t even see the difference … except in your lower energy bills.
Color Option Visuals
- Create the mood and atmosphere in the “color temperature” section of this great resource website from Lowe’s.
- Look at the color emitted by the bulbs in this video: "In Battle of the Bulbs, It’s Watts Vs. Lumens"
- Print out and bring this CFL checklist with you to the store when shopping for your new bulbs.
- Click on this interactive tool from ENERGY STAR to see how different lights would look in your living room: