LED Lights & Ceiling Fans Buying Guide

Published By: Shades Of Light

Date Published:

Last Updated: November 22, 2022

Hanging LED lights in a shop window

If you’ve shopped for a light bulb recently, you’re probably aware that LED light bulbs are pushing those tired incandescent and unsightly CFL bulbs to the sidelines. LED technology represents an increasingly popular type of lighting that centers both attractive design and efficiency, so you don’t have to sacrifice style for eco-friendly— and budget-friendly— illumination.

Though we consider LED bulbs to be relatively new compared to incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, LEDs (or light emitting diodes) have been around for decades. That little red light that flashes when you point your remote control at your TV? That’s an LED! LEDs work by passing a current through a small diode, which then emits photons — particles of light. While incandescent and fluorescent lights require larger bulbs to produce higher light output, LEDs have no size limitations, meaning they can pack a lot of illumination into an incredibly petite package. They are also longer lasting and use less energy than other light sources, making them the perfect choice for daily use.

Measuring Light: Lumens Vs. Wattage

To truly understand the benefits of LED lighting, we must first understand how light is actually measured. Most of us are familiar enough with incandescent lighting that we associate wattage with how much light a bulb produces. Wattage, however, is not actually a measure of light, but rather a measure of energy usage. The word lumen refers to how much light a bulb produces, and thus is a more accurate way to determine exactly what to expect from your bulb before you turn it on.

Lumans and wattage infographic

One of the major draws of LED lighting is that LEDs use less energy to achieve brighter light— in other words, LEDs use fewer watts to achieve the same or higher lumens as other types of bulbs. A typical 60-watt incandescent bulb produces about 800 lumens and a 60-watt halogen bulb produces about 900 lumens. Conversely, an 800 lumen CFL bulb may only use 13 watts, and an 800 lumen LED bulb uses as little 8 watts!

Bulb wattage infographic

Tip: On Shadesoflight.com, when you view light bulbs, ceiling lights, and other light fixtures wattage and lumens measurements are provided in the product description.

Since we’re so used to thinking of a bulb’s brightness in terms of wattage, it can feel a bit strange or confusing to shop for more energy efficient bulbs. Some bulbs will list an ‘incandescent equivalent’ to help make the transition a little easier. It’s important to understand that high wattage is not required for bright light, and that the wattage requirements for your household fixtures are the maximum wattage that can be safely used in that fixture. You can always use a bulb that has a lower wattage than your fixture requires, but never a bulb with a higher wattage.

Practically speaking, this means if you make the switch to LED bulbs, you can often use brighter bulbs than the fixture can accept in traditional incandescent bulbs. If a fixture has a 60-watt max, you can only ever use a 60-watt incandescent bulb, amounting to about 800 lumens. But an LED bulb of 2500 lumens— equivalent to a 150-watt incandescent bulb— only uses about 22 watts, making it perfectly safe for use in the same fixture!

How Does LED Lighting Differ from Other Sources of Light?

Since LED technology utilizes the most recent innovations in lighting tech, it’s natural to wonder how it compares to more traditional light sources. To get the most accurate picture of how LED lighting stacks up against other lights, let’s look at how other common lamps work!

Incandescent: When we think of a light bulb, odds are, the picture that pops into our heads is of a traditional incandescent bulb. Incandescent lamps have a filament surrounded by a glass bulb filled with an inert gas which protects the filament from exposure to air and oxidation. They generate light by passing a current through a thin wire filament, which heats it until it glows.

Halogen: Halogen lights are a type of incandescent bulb, but a much more specialized one. Halogen bulbs are made of a tungsten filament surrounded by a halogen gas. These specific materials combine to create a cyclical chemical reaction inside the bulb that generates light without the rapid degradation of the filament that causes normal incandescent bulbs to burn out so quickly. Halogen bulbs last longer than normal incandescent lights, are smaller, and generally shed brighter, cooler light. However, they operate at very high temperatures, meaning they require closer attention to safety and energy considerations.

Fluorescent: Fluorescent lamps consist of a glass tube with a special coating on the inside that is filled with a combination of mercury vapor and another gas like neon or xenon. An electrical current is passed through the gas, causing the mercury to interact with the coating inside the tube which then produces light. To properly regulate the electrical current, fluorescent bulbs require a ballast, making them more costly to produce than incandescent bulbs. They are, however, much more energy efficient and produce higher light output— or lumens— at lower wattages than incandescent bulbs. Because they contain mercury, they may be considered a hazardous material with specific requirements for disposal when they are no longer in use.

CFL: Compact Fluorescent Lamps, commonly called CFL bulbs, are fluorescent bulbs designed to be smaller— more compact— than typical fluorescent bulbs. The glass tube is often spiral-shaped, and they are ‘self-ballasted’-- a ballast built into the bulb itself (rather than the fixture) helps regulate the electrical current.

So how do these various lighting technologies compare to each other and to LEDs?

Incandescent vs. Fluorescent: Incandescent bulbs are cheaper up front than fluorescent bulbs or CFLs, but have a lower lumen output and require more energy— higher wattages— to operate. Incandescent bulbs also have a shorter lifespan than fluorescent bulbs.

Halogen vs. Incandescent: Halogen bulbs last longer, and generally have higher lumen output than standard incandescent bulbs, but they require very high heat to operate, which creates safety concerns and energy consumption concerns. (Halogen bulbs can also be quite delicate; unless the bulb is surrounded by an extra layer of protective glass, always wear gloves upon installation because the oils from our fingers can damage halogen bulbs and cause them to burn out more quickly.)

CFL vs. LED: CFL bulbs are more efficient than incandescent bulbs, with lower wattages able to achieve higher lumens. This energy efficiency is even greater in LED bulbs. LED bulbs also offer a higher range of color temperature options and generally have a longer lifespan.

Incandescent vs LEDs: Compared to LEDs, incandescent lights are physically hotter, offer little in the way of light color options, have a shorter life span, and use more energy to work. Generally speaking, LED bulbs can (and should!) replace incandescent bulbs in most household applications. Some exceptions include any application that requires the heat generated by incandescent bulbs— like lava lamps! Dimmable function may also make incandescent bulbs more attractive in very specific situations. All incandescent bulbs are dimmable. Conversely, only some LED bulbs have dimmable function. If you are replacing an incandescent bulb in a fixture with a dimmer, be sure that the LED you choose is capable of being dimmed. Non-dimmable LED bulbs placed in a dimmable fixture will have an unpleasant flicker when not operated at full power and will not pass through the typical range of color and lumen output that a dimmable LED will.

If you’re unsure of the types of bulbs suitable for a specific fixture, always consult an electrician, as well as any safety labels and literature that come with that fixture.

Do LED Lights Raise an Electric Bill?

In short— not at all! LED bulbs are energy saving lights that are significantly more efficient than other types of bulbs. Not only do they use less energy day to day, but they also have a significantly longer lifespan than incandescent and fluorescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs have a lifespan of around 2,000 hours— or a couple of months. Fluorescent bulbs have an average lifespan of around 30,000 hours, or a few years. While the lifespan of LED bulbs can vary, they average around 30,000 hours on the low end, and as much as 200,000 hours on the high end! That’s over twenty years of light from a single LED! Swapping out your incandescent bulbs and CFLs for LEDs is a great way to lower your energy consumption, reduce your electric bill, and dramatically simplify and reduce the inconvenience of dealing with a blown bulb. In the recent past, the upfront cost of LED bulbs has served as a deterrent to making the switch— LED bulbs are still a little more pricey than incandescent bulbs, but that difference in cost is shrinking pretty quickly, and the savings in the long run are substantial, making LEDs the all-around cheapest option for household light bulbs.

What Do LED Lights Look Like?

LED bath sconces in a modern bathroom

Other types of lights have limited applications based on the size and shape of the bulb, but LEDs have no such limitations. LEDs are tiny compared to other types of light bulbs, so LED light appearance comes in a massive range of shapes and sizes.

A typical medium-base LED bulb is the same shape and size as an equivalent incandescent— some decorative LED bulbs even have lighting arrays that mimic the shape and color of incandescent filaments for that trendy vintage look. But this is certainly not the only size, shape, style, or color of available LED lights. Integrated LED light fixtures— fixtures without a removable bulb— press the limits of modern decor design, with slim, low-profile fixtures that look like something out of a sci-fi novel. Removable bulbs come in every available bulb base, color, and size. Some even have fun effects! For example, you can achieve the ideal LED mood lighting by using a bulb designed to flicker like a candle flame. Other bulbs and fixtures have adjustable LED light color so you can shift through not just the typical LED white light spectrum, but a rainbow of options!

How to Upgrade a Light Fixture to LED

LED lighting upgrades are some of the simplest upgrades you can make. Any fixture in your home that can take a replacement bulb can be fitted with an LED alternative to incandescent or fluorescent fixtures. Simply find an LED with a base that will fit your fixture’s socket! Make sure the bulb you choose doesn’t exceed the maximum allowable wattage of the fixture— you’re unlikely to encounter this problem with most lamps or hardwired fixtures, but some small decorative fixtures may take comparatively fewer watts. If your fixture is dimmable, be doubly certain to purchase an LED bulb with dimming function. If your fixture does not have a dimmer switch, but you want to upgrade the fixture with dimming functionality, some smart LEDs can integrate with your smartphone or virtual assistant, allowing you to dim the light at the touch of a button or a spoken command!

8.5 Watt LED Vintage Filament Medium Base Bulb ST18 4 Watt LED E12 Candle Base Bulb

Integrated LED Lights & Fixtures: Featured Styles

As touched on above, there are two types of LED light that can be incorporated into a space. LED bulbs can be used to upgrade any fixture (usually referred to as an ‘incandescent fixture’) that takes replaceable bulbs.

The second type of LED light is called an integrated LED light or integrated LED fixture. These are lights that have an LED module or array built directly into the fixture itself. These fixtures have a significant lifespan, but once the LED stops working, either the entire fixture will need to be replaced or an electrician will need to replace the LED array.

Integrated LED lights offer some of the most exciting designs and function in lighting today. The petite profile of LEDs leaves lots of room for creative shapes and streamlined styles that can be as eye-catching or as unobtrusive as you prefer. We’ve collected some of our favorite integrated LED lights below, so you can see just what this versatile and functional category of lighting decor has to offer!

LED Ceiling Lights

Slim Circular Low Profile LED Ceiling Light Slim Circular Low Profile LED Ceiling Light

Ceiling lights are a stellar option for using integrated LED technology. LED ambient lights like ceiling lights are important for properly lighting any room, and low-profile lights like these are especially well-suited to rooms with low ceilings, or smaller spaces like hallways, closets, or stairwells.

The long lifespan of LED ceiling lights means once installed, it’ll be years before you have to fight with a ladder or unwieldy diffuser to change out a blown bulb. And since fixtures like these two lovely LED flush mounts are enclosed, they won’t accumulate dust (and insects) on the interior of the diffuser, so you can mark yet another unpleasant chore off your list!

LED Bathroom Lights

Contemporary Hexagon LED Bath Sconce Cydney LED Vanity Light – Small

A well-lit bathroom is essential and LED bathroom lights and LED vanity lights are certainly up to the task. For small bathrooms, LED bathroom strip lights can be slimmer than incandescent fixtures, allowing you to reclaim some of that limited space. For larger bathrooms, modern LED lights give a sleek, posh aesthetic. Just be sure to choose lights that are rated for use in damp or wet locations!

LED Sconces & Wall Lights

Frost Compacted LED Wall Sconce LED Squared Wall Sconce

LED wall lights, including LED sconces, are particularly useful for narrow spaces like hallways or stairwells. Many of these sconces meet ADA requirements since the tiny LEDs allow for slimmer silhouettes! Modern LED sconces also look stunning in a minimalist dining room or kitchen.

LED Pendants & Chandeliers

Integrated LED Zane Pendant Seeded Rod & Globe LED Pendant

Caswell Island Integrated LED Chandelier Cutlass Blade Chandelier – Integrated LED

Integrated LED pendant lights and integrated LED chandeliers make the most of LED versatility by utilizing unique and striking designs. In keeping with the theme of smaller fixtures, LED mini pedants can be downright teeny! Use these LED hanging lights in multiples over a kitchen island or bar. LED kitchen lights make daily kitchen use a breeze and you can be sure you won’t have to fix a blown bulb halfway through preparing your dinner.

But LED fixtures don’t have to be minuscule! Large LED chandeliers make a huge impact as LED living room lights or dining room lights.

LED Floor & Table Lamps

Balanced LED Floor Lamp Petite Beacon LED Charge Desk Lamp

Use LED floor lamps and integrated LED table lamps to upgrade your office, bedroom, or living room. LED bedroom lights are particularly good candidates for installation on dimmers, or for utilizing fixtures with smart features so you can adjust the light as you wind down for the night or turn the light on and off from bed with your smartphone or a spoken command. Don’t forget, you can always upgrade incandescent lamps with LED bulbs!

LED Mirrors

Lighted LED Mirror Dara LED Lighted Mirror

For a truly chic and cutting-edge feel, consider mounting LED mirrors in your bathroom, powder room, or bedroom. LED bathroom, vanity, and makeup mirrors are ideal for evenly illuminating your face as you style your hair and makeup, brush your teeth, or shave.

Integrated LED Ceiling Fans: Featured Styles

LED ceiling fans with lights are a versatile option for both lighting and climate control in your home. Ceiling fans reduce cooling costs in the summer and heating costs in the winter, making fans with LEDs an energy efficient dream. Many lighted fans come complete with LED lights integrated, while some require a separate and optional LED ceiling fan light kit.

Tip: On Shadesoflight.com, you can check the specs below every product to see if a fan includes a light kit; if your chosen fan has a light kit sold separately, you can find it by clicking ‘Shop Collection’ at the bottom of the page below any listed specifications.

Modern LED Ceiling Fans

52 Inch Whirligig Integrated LED Ceiling Fan

Modern LED ceiling fans and contemporary LED ceiling fans offer fun, sometimes whimsical alternatives to traditional ceiling fans. Integrated LED light kits help these fans fulfill both your lighting and airflow needs and they do so in a neat, attractive package.

Low Profile LED Ceiling Fans

44 Inch Low Profile Indoor/Outdoor LED Ceiling Fan

For low ceilings, low profile LED ceiling fans don’t add extra bulk when they bring extra light. These minimalist ceiling fans with lights are perfect for the decorator who wants to keep things sleek and simple.

Indoor/Outdoor LED Ceiling Fans

48 Inch Indoor / Outdoor Metal & Wood LED Ceiling Fan

For covered patios and porches, an indoor/outdoor LED ceiling fan is a must. These two-in-one fixtures serve as both your LED outdoor ceiling light and fan, keeping you cool, and the area illuminated as you enjoy your favorite outdoor space.

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