With so many lightbulb options now available in the market, finding the right one can be a challenge. How do you choose suitable lights for your living room so that you can watch TV, and maybe spend some time putting together the tiny missing pieces of puzzles with your child at the same time; or what kind of light is appropriate if you or your loved ones need to spend long hours on the computer to finish up work or school assignments without getting a headache? Here are several pointers to consider as you head out for your next light bulb:

Understanding Watts

Watts measure energy use whereas lumens equals brightness. For example, a 10W bulb would generally emit 800 lumens of light. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says that brighter light helps with reading and the color of light is not the major factor. No one light (white or yellow) is better than another.

Types of lighting

Besides natural lighting, there are fundamentally three types of artificial lighting that are generally used for homes:

  • Ambient lighting: This is general lighting that provides illumination. It includes recessed lights, soffit and track lighting, sconces, chandeliers, and pendant lights.
  • Task lighting: As the term denotes, this is used for tasks such as cooking, school or office work, reading, and grooming. This type of lighting would be used in the kitchen, study or home office areas.
  • Accent lighting: If you have a unique object or area of interest, such as a distinctive architectural feature, this would be the most suitable type of lighting to use.

Formula for lighting a room

There is a general formula to calculate how much light you need in a room:

Room length x Room width x 1.5 = Amount of wattage to light a room

So, if you have a 20-feet long x 15-feet wide room multiply by 1.5 = 450 watts, which is approximately the wattage needed to adequately light the room.

You can divide that into more than one lighting source, for example two lamps at 200 watts each and one lamp at 50 watts would provide adequate light for the room.


Every household wants to save as much as possible in their energy bills. One way to accomplish this is to switch to energy-efficient lighting if you are still using the old incandescent bulbs. An average household dedicates about five percent of its energy budget to lighting, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. You can save $75 each year by replacing your home's five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with ENERGY STAR models. New lighting standards took effect in 2012, and many money-saving options such as halogen incandescent, compact fluorescent light or CFL, and LED lightbulbs are available today.

Choosing LED lights is perhaps one of the best options as they don't "burn out" the way that incandescent lights do. Instead, they undergo "lumen depreciation," which just means that they gradually grow dimmer over time, allowing you to replace them before you end up in the dark.

A note of caution, while you can change bulbs on your own, make sure to do it with the power off. And if switching your lighting choices involves making electrical changes, always have a certified electrician do the work.

Look for third-party certification, such as the UL Mark, on your lighting products to know they have met safety and performance standards.