Reading a Lighting Facts Label Like a Pro

by Pulse Power Communication | Nov 09, 2022

The lighting in a home affects a lot of things from safety to monthly energy costs. When a light bulb goes out it will need to be replaced. Changing a light bulb is a simple DIY task just about any homeowner in Texas can handle. But buying a light bulb can be a different story.


Today there are a lot more light bulb options than ever before. One resource that can make light bulb selections easier is the lighting facts label. You can find it on the back of the bulb’s box. It’s chock full of information that tells you about the light that the bulb will produce, how much energy it will use and how long it will last. 


Let’s take a closer look at what you can learn from the lighting facts label. 


The Brightness of the Light Bulb

Lumens are used to measure a light’s brightness. Many experts will argue that the lumens measurement is the most important fact on a light bulb’s label because it tells you how much light a bulb will produce. The recommendation is that homeowners start with figuring out the lumens that they need to light up a space. From there you can look for a bulb that is bright enough in your preferred color temperature that uses the least amount of energy. 


Lumens are the first thing listed on the lighting facts label in the Brightness section. They are rounded to the nearest five. 


GOOD TO KNOW: LED light bulbs decrease in lumens with use, and when that happens it’s called lumen depreciation. Because of this effect, you may want to go higher rather than lower with the lumens, especially if you can control the brightness of the bulb. 

The Color Appearance of the Light Bulb

Brightness is only one characteristic of a light bulb. A bulb’s light appearance refers to the color of the light it generates, mainly whether it is a warm hue or a cool hue. You can tell a warm light bulb from a cool light bulb because the warm bulbs give off a yellow hue whereas the cool bulbs look blue. 


The light appearance is also measured in Kelvins (K). The Kelvin scale is based on correlated color temperature (CCT). Cooler light is on the higher end of the scale and warmer light is at the lower end. The equivalent of daylight is around 5500 K. The lighting facts label will show the Kelvin scale with an indicator of where the light bulb lands on it. 

The Lifespan of the Light Bulb

Now the question is, how long can you expect a light bulb to provide illumination? The Life metric on the lighting facts label is going to be based on three hours of use a day. It also takes into account that some types of light bulbs, like LEDs, can still keep running even when the lumens are much lower than they originally were. So the Life is going to indicate when the bulb needs to be replaced, not necessarily when it will completely go out. 


In general, the lifespan of an incandescent bulb is just one year. An LED light bulb can go much longer, often lasting 10+ years. 

The Energy Used by the Light Bulb

The label should note the watts used by the light bulb. This tells you the amount of energy that’s used by the bulb while in operation. It’s the quickest way to determine which light bulb will be the most energy efficient. If two bulbs produce the same lumens the one with the lowest watts will be the winner. 


Knowing the wattage is also important for safety. You never want a light bulb to have a higher wattage than what a lamp or fixture is rated to power.  


PRO TIP: Look for the ENERGY STAR label. Light bulbs that receive the ENERGY STAR certification have met energy efficiency standards. These bulbs also emit less heat, which means you use less energy to cool your home in the summer.


The Estimated Yearly Energy Cost

Like the Life metric, the Estimated Yearly Energy Cost of the light bulb is based on three hours of use a day at the rate of $0.11/kWh. Now, there’s a good chance those metrics don’t exactly match your situation. But comparing all light bulbs with the same metrics makes it easy to tell which bulb will cost more to operate. Plus, you can easily adjust the calculation so it’s more accurate.


All you have to do is figure out how many hours a day you use the light bulb you need to replace. Next, take a look at your most recent energy bill to get the cost per kWh. Use that information in place of what’s on the lighting facts label to determine your actual Estimated Yearly Energy Cost. 

Pulse Power gives you pro-level resources that can help you become a more informed energy consumer. The resources pair perfectly with our energy plans that are designed with Texans in mind. See what Pulse Power has to offer in your neighborhood - use your zip code to find available energy plans.