“LED” stands for light-emitting diode, the technology behind LED lighting. When asking “what is LED lighting?” you usually want to know the difference between LED bulbs and traditional incandescent bulbs.
Incandescent bulbs have a thin metal filament that heats up as electricity passes through it. When heated enough, the filament glows to produce light.
An LED light works by having an electrical current pass through a semiconducting material – the diode. The tiny diodes within an LED bulb cast light when electricity is applied. This technology doesn’t rely on heat to produce light and has greater energy-efficiency than incandescent bulbs.
To light up a room, an incandescent lamp might use 60-watts of electricity, while an LED bulb will produce the same amount of light using about 10-watts.
Energy efficiency is one of the most important LED light advantages, but low maintenance is another great benefit. LEDs have an exceptionally long lifespan of more than 10 years because there is no filament to burn out. As manufacturers work to refine the production process, the upfront costs of LED lighting have come down, contributing to long-term savings.
Another benefit is that LEDs emit almost no heat or UV rays. They are usually not hot to the touch, making them safer to handle than incandescent bulbs. Plus, they can help reduce air conditioning costs and won’t cause nearby fabrics and furniture to fade.
LED lighting comes in many shapes, sizes, colors and temperatures for use throughout the home.
Types of General Purpose Bulbs
- Standard LED light bulbs: Standard LED bulbs disperse light at a wide angle throughout a room. They’re ideal for reading lamps, hallways and other common fixtures such as semi-flush and flush-mount fixtures.
- Can LED light bulbs: Also known as recessed lights, can light LED bulbs fit into sockets – or cans – mounted in the ceiling.
- Flood LED light bulbs: Flood bulbs are designed to emit a strong but wide beam of light to illuminate a broad area. They’re mainly used in exterior applications.
- Track LED light bulbs: Track lights are often used for directional lighting, work area task lighting or to highlight something specific such as artwork and other decorative features.
- Tube LED light bulbs: Tube lights, also known as linear light bulbs, have a functional style designed for more professional applications like office buildings, kitchens and workspaces.
Types of Decorative Bulbs
- Candelabra LED light bulbs: Candelabra bulbs, also known as candle bulbs, emulate the shape of a candle flame. They work best in chandeliers, accent lighting, wall sconces and decorative fixtures.
- Globe LED light bulbs: Globe bulbs emit light in every direction, making them ideal for bathroom vanities and pendant lights.
- Vintage/Edison LED light bulbs: Edison bulbs, or vintage bulbs, are all about aesthetics. The newest designs have thinner, longer filaments that offer a “true vintage look” without compromising on light output. These are best suited for decorative fixtures like pendant lights and industrial chandeliers.
Other LED Light Options and Features
- LED lights are not limited to replacement bulbs. Some fixtures, including certain models of ceiling fans and recessed downlights, have integrated LED lighting.
- LED technology is also found in some flexible light strips or tape that can be used as under-cabinet lights. This can be used to add task lighting in the kitchen or to provide ambiance and decorative accents in other living spaces.
- Holiday lighting can be replaced with LED Christmas string lights that will reduce energy consumption. LED string lights also pose less of a fire hazard because LED lights emit only small amounts of heat.
- Some types of LED lights are dimmable. Be sure to check packaging to determine if the bulb is compatible with dimmer switches.
- Look for ENERGY STAR-certified LED bulbs, which have been tested for color quality, light output and efficiency.
- Smart LED bulbs connect to a Wi-Fi network to allow remote control of the lights. Features such as dimming and color-temperature tuning are available. Some models don’t require a smart-home hub for operation.
How to Choose a Bulb Based on Color Temperature
- Soft white LED bulbs provide a warm, comfortable light that is good for cozy spaces like bedrooms and living rooms.
- Bright white LED bulbs have a cool and refreshing light that is best used in kitchens, bathrooms or garages.
- Daylight LED bulbs emit light to mimic energizing daylight. They’re good for reading or intricate projects and can be used in bathrooms, kitchens or basements.
Refer to our color temperature chart above for more specific bulb color temperatures that you might find listed on LED bulb packaging.
Adjustable LED Bulbs with Color Changing Technology
Color changing technology lets you adjust the color temperature of an LED light bulb to suit various purposes. DuoBright technology allows adjustment of the color temperature of the bulb with an existing dimmer switch. Other bulbs use an integrated switch that allows the user to cycle through 5 color temperatures – soft white, bright white, true white, cool white or daylight.
Rather than rely on multiple light sources with single-temperature bulbs, the lighting in your room can be made warmer for atmosphere or cooler and brighter for task lighting from the same source. This can save space and even money as you will use fewer bulbs in a space.
The brightness of all types of LED lights is measured in lumens. More lumens means a brighter bulb.
Traditional incandescent bulb brightness is measured in watts. Because LEDs use far less energy than incandescents, a better way to gauge the brightness of LED bulbs is to compare lumens.
For example, a traditional 60-watt light bulb will emit around 700-lumens. An LED bulb with comparable lumens uses less than 10-watts of electricity.
- Lumens = the amount of light the bulb gives off
- Wattage = the amount of energy a bulb uses
To choose the most energy-efficient light bulb and not sacrifice brightness, check the lumens per watt ratio on the bulb’s packaging. The greater the lumens-to-watts ratio a bulb has, the more energy-efficient it is.
Refer to our LED lumens chart above to see how LED bulbs compare to other types of bulbs’ lumens-to-watts ratios.
The best LED lights for your home will fit your light fixtures and create your ideal ambience. Consider factors like the bulb shape, color temperature and brightness when shopping for LED lighting. Need help identifying an LED light? Find products fast with image search in The Home Depot Mobile App. Snap a picture of an item you like and we’ll show you similar products.