most natural artificial light
November 27, 2012 9:41 AM   Subscribe

Recommendations for lightbulbs

Now that's wintertime, I use light bulbs more. Even when I select light bulbs that say full spectrum or daylight, they still look like an alien autopsy. Does anybody have specific recommendations for light bulbs that I can put into regular lamps that will look better. I'm not super concerned about price, if they will look OK.
posted by dipolemoment to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
GE makes bulbs that have some color to them, pink and blue. The blue makes everything sharper but to my eye also colder. I like the pink. Very flattering and warm.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:45 AM on November 27, 2012

"Natural" as in daylight isn't actually what you want. Take a look at this color temperature lighting chart for reference. Daylight bulbs are actually the bluest of the standard range of bulbs. We think of sunlight being yellow, but it's actually fairly blue compared to interior light. Go for "warm white" bulbs or whatever bulbs you can find that have the lowest color temperature, something down in the 3000s for preference.

On a related note, I also like F.lux which is a program that alters your computer's display temperature around sunset so that if you are using your screen during the darker hours, you aren't blasting your eyes with sun-like light and confusing your brain into thinking that it's still daytime.
posted by Scientist at 9:59 AM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you're bothered by how unnatural things look when the lights turn on, there's two key concepts you need to understand when buying lightbulbs:

1. Color temperature, which ranges from around 1900K (very warm, like candlelight) through 8500K (very cool, like being outside on a clear day with bright sun). Most people prefer warm lights at home; your typical incandescent lightbulb is around 2700K. I personally can't stand artificial light at all and refuse to turn on lights until it's impossible to see anything from the natural light through the window, and I try to go as cool as possible in order to have lighting that mimics what naturally happens from the sun during the day.

2. Color rendition index or CRI, which runs on a scale from 0 to 100 with higher numbers meaning the light won't shift or distort the colors. (A 100 would be the same as daylight, or what the color "really" looks like outside.) Incandescent and halogen lightbulbs tend to be very good, around 95-100, while fluorescents and CFLs are much worse (in the 80s or lower). If you're using a CFL in a lamp it's definitely worth it to hunt out one with a CRI that is as high as you can find, above 85 for sure.

If your lights are making things look like an alien autopsy, it could either be a problem with the color temperature (too low looks sterile to some people, especially if you have really white walls or a cool color scheme in terms of rugs, pictures, etc) or a problem with a too-low CRI that is distorting the way colors appear.
posted by iminurmefi at 10:18 AM on November 27, 2012

These Philips LEDs have a CRI of 92 and color temp of 2700. (Spec sheet PDF) That's pretty darn close to standard incandescent bulbs. No mercury inside. Dimmable. Buy one and it will probably last for the rest of your life. About 30 bucks.
posted by beagle at 11:28 AM on November 27, 2012 [6 favorites]

Marco Arment compared several LED bulbs including that Philips one. He liked the Philips but found that this Lighting Science bulb had possibly nicer light, for a lower price. (It's not quite as bright as the Philips, but it's more of a warm white compared to the yello of the Philips.) His review includes photos of the light output (using the same camera/shutter/aperture/balance for each shot, so you can compare them).
posted by mbrubeck at 4:56 PM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

« Older flickering lights are driving me crazy!   |   Where's the Main St. in Maine? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.