Thinking about what kind of light bulbs to include in your landscape lighting design?

LED landscape lighting is a good choice not only because of its light quality and efficiency, but also because it is environmentally friendly. But how do LED outdoor lights actually compare to other types of outside landscape lights?

The rest of this article should give you a pretty good working-idea on how and why LED bulbs are an excellent choice for any landscape lighting design. I’ll list a few of the major reasons to back up my argument.

So here goes!

Cost Effective and Efficient

In order to adequately compare different types light and their accompanying bulbs, it’s important to understand how the brightness of light is measured. The majority of people in the United States may have a good idea of the amount of light a 15-watt, 60-watt or 100-watt traditional incandescent light bulb is going to deliver. You may be aware of the kind of bulb I am referring to – the kind that resembles the shape of a pear.

But did you know that a compact fluorescent light bulb delivers even greater light than an incandescent light bulb at one-third the wattage?

What this means is that measuring the output of light by watts is not the way to go.

A more significant measurement is terms of lumens. Lumens is what actually measures a bulb’s light output. In fact, all light bulbs now sold in stores must reveal its number of lumens as well its number of watts.

So, to get an adequate idea of the amount of light any particular kind of light bulb puts out, you want to look at the number of lumens disclosed on the packaging. In other words, you want to be able to determine the number of lumens per watt you are getting. For example, am 18-watt fluorescent bulb and a 60-watt incandescent bulb each give off close to 1000 lumens.

So which bulb do you think is more energy-efficient?

To give you an idea of which bulbs are the most efficient in terms of number of lumens per watt, here’s a quick comparison:

(a) Compact Fluorescent - 44 to 80 lumens per watt

(b) LED - 30 to 120 lumens per watt

(c) Halogen - 12 to 36 lumens per watt

(d) Incandescent - 7 to 24 lumens per watt

So, you can see that LED lights are capable of delivering the highest number of lumens per watt of all the major types of light bulbs – which clearly makes them the most energy-efficient light bulb – and this capacity is something that keeps improving with each passing year.

Long-Lasting LED Landscape Lighting

After you have determined the number of lumens each type of light bulb is able to deliver, you should consider how how many hours are in the life span for each respective outdoor light bulb type you are considering.

The following estimations are just a rough guide. Keep in mind that technologies keep improving both the brightness and life-span of LED lights, so please check the numbers on the specific packaging for any type of bulb you are considering for purchase.

With that in mind, here’s a good estimation of life-spans for each major type of light bulb as measured in hours:

(a) Compact Fluorescent - typically a maximum of 10,000 hours

(b) LED - 40,000 to 100,000 hours

(c) Halogen - 2,000 to 4,000 hours

(d) Incandescent – 700 to 1,000 hours

So, now we have determined that LED bulbs not are only are the most energy-efficient, but also last the highest number of hours.

LED Landscape Lighting – Considering the Quality of Light

Just because LED lights last the longest amount of time and are the most energy-efficient doesn’t necessarily mean the kind of light they produce will be to your liking. So, if you really want to make an educated choice, you should consider the quality of light.

There are 2 main ways to determine a light’s quality: Color Temperature and Color Rendering Index (CRI).

I’ll give a short explanation for each term and where LED lights generally fall within each category:

(1) Color Temperature – is measured in degrees Kelvin (K). I don’t want to – and, in fact, cannot – get too technical on this topic; so I’ll keep my explanations in terms of what the measurement in degrees actually means in terms of the type of light it signifies.

Cool colors (or those which give off a blueish white) are over 5,000K. Warm colors have a lower temperature in the 2,700 to 3,000K range and the light ranges from a yellow-white hue all the way to reddish hue.

To break this down even more simply in order to choose the type of light that will best serve your style and needs, you can think of color temperatures in terms of these particular ranges.

(i) Soft, Warm White – 2,700 to 3,000K

(ii) Cool, Bright White – 3,500 to 4,100K

(iii) Natural Daylight – 5,000 to 6,000K

(iv) Blueish White - 6,000K+ (Most lighting used in LED landscape lighting are in the 8,000K+ range)

(2) Color Rendering Index – also known as CRI, measures how much an object’s color shifts when illuminated by a particular light source as compared with the object’s color when illuminated by natural light (or ideal light source).

The higher the CRI number, the more natural, crisp and sharp objects will appear, while simultaneously minimizing glare. So, if a 100 score is best, most bulbs used in LED landscape lighting will fall in the 75 – 85 range.

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