'Energy-efficient' sunlight: How LEDs allow homeowners flexibility in their homes
FARGO — During these long winter months, Midwesterners tend to spend long hours in their home, soaking up the light when they flip on a switch instead of sprawling out under the sun's warm rays.
Like the sun, interior lights are expected to shine bright without thought. But to simulate sunlight in each room of the home depends much more on the type of light bulb in order to produce the desired effect for the homeowner.
"There is no such thing as too much light," says Jason Stachowski, co-owner of Limewire Electric. "As electricians, we really hate to see any shadows in the home."
Stachowski says he speaks with homeowners about the type of light they want.
"The color temperature is measured in Kelvins and the lower the Kelvin number, the more yellow the light," Stachowski explains. "Typically I've seen about 2,500 Kelvin all the way up to 6,500 Kelvin with the lower the number being a yellow (hue) and the higher number being blue."
Stachowski says his company's baseline installation is 3,000 Kelvins.
"Lights that emit 3,000 Kelvins accomplish 95 percent of all task lighting for the average homeowner," he says.
In recent years, Stachowski says homeowners have been switching to light emitting diode (LED) bulbs and fixtures.
"LEDs are a different technology than incandescent, which is the first generation of light bulbs and what the everyday person usually thinks of as light bulbs," he says.
One reason for the switch, Stachowski says, is due to LEDs' energy efficiency, as it uses gas to emit light.
"It saves more energy than any other form of light because it limits the amount of heat it produces which is considered an energy loss," he says.
Stachowski describes LEDs as "a more pristine light."
"LED lights give you a variety of flexibility in what color temperature you prefer. Some people prefer something more like daylight and some people prefer a more brilliant white which almost has a blue hue to it," he says.
With an incandescent light bulb — which uses a filament of tungsten wire inside to conduct electricity and emit light — the effect is very close to sunlight. But Stachowski says LEDs allow the flexibility for picking any color in the spectrum to view your surroundings in.
Often Stachowski says homeowners are choosing a LED light unit or bulb when it's the main light source for the room. It's long lifespan also makes it attractive for installation in hard-to-access locations like a high ceiling in a hallway. According to Lightbulbsetc.com, many LED light bulbs are designed to last 50,000 hours (more than five years) compared to 1,000 to 2,000 hours for incandescents.
Choosing 'light' for each room
Stachowski says although all homeowners have different preferences, most are looking to choose light fixtures or bulbs that mimic sunlight, with options to dim or shut out light completely in the bedroom.
"That's still the more common practice — to keep the lighting as close to sunlight as possible because, as humans, that's all we've known," he says.
When deciding on light bulbs and fixtures or updating an existing light, Stachowski recommends considering different aspects, depending on the room.
• Kitchen: "In kitchens, you want to ensure you have as much light as you can have and this sometimes includes under-cabinet LED lighting," he says. Adequate lighting is especially important in this room where homeowners are cooking, using knives and spending a good amount time every day in the space.
• Great or living room: In this room, most would want the option to have a "warm white color," Stachowski says. Often, this room can include a focal point like a large LED chandelier, but this isn't always the case as some prefer a more subtle features. "The lights we install can work in a 'smart home,' which is becoming a popular option," Stachowski says. "In a 'smart home,' you can use your phone to turn on, off and dim the lights." Whenever deciding to upgrade the entire a light fixture, it's best consult an electrician.
• Bedroom: "In the bedroom, depending on the mood as far as the color spectrum is concerned, it's still around that 3,000 Kelvin," Stachowski says. In fact, the ability to dim the lights to a cooler temperature is most popular in this room.
Shopping for LEDS
When considering upgrading your light fixtures or bulbs to LEDs, Stachowski says there are some guidelines to follow.
"When these LED light bulbs were brand new about 15 years ago, they were out of the reach for the everyday homeowner. Now that they have more competition in the market, that has driven down costs while still maintaining high standards on warranty, reliability and value in general," he says.
• Don't just buy the lowest price option. Stachowski says homeowners can run into issues when they pick up the best bargain because often this will mean a shorter overall life. Before purchasing, look at the lighting facts on the back of the box which will display lumens, expected life and energy usages.
• Look for lumens instead of watts. The terms are changing for bulbs when it comes to LEDs. Most often, LED packaging will list lumens, the unit measurement that explains how bright a bulb will be. (The more lumens, the more white light it will emit.)
• Estimate the desired brightness. For different spaces, you may require a different level of light. New LED lights are available in "cool" white light (around 2,700 Kelvins) and "warm" light (4,100 Kelvins), commonly used for accent rather overall lighting.
Light and sleep
Nurse Practitioner Heidi Saarinen at Sanford's Sleep Center says those who have trouble waking up can purchase wake up alarm clocks which emit light. These "wake-up lights" can be purchased in-store and on Amazon, but Saarinen recommends consulting a doctor if you are seeking ways to improve your sleep cycle. "You should give your body two weeks to adjust with any changes to your sleep cycle," she says.