LED light bulb buying guide
Photo: Ted Morrison
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Better Light Diffusion

The first LED bulbs I tried made my living room look like a hospital ward. How do I avoid that stark white light?
Newer models do a better job of diffusing the tiny directional beams that LEDs generate. But even so, you may want to start with lower-lumen (meaning less bright) bulbs. LED bulbs—which house electronic circuits and light-emitting diodes that act as semiconductors rather than filaments—now come in "color temperatures," including warm tones that can mimic incandescent bulbs and flatter furnishings, such as varnished wood. Interestingly, cooler ones are often recommended for outdoors because they bring out the green in foliage, says Seattle-based lighting designer Christopher Thompson.

There's enough small print on the package to blind a lawyer. Can you translate?
Look for the requisite Lighting Facts label, which posts the Kelvin (K) rating: The closer to the lower end of 2700K, the warmer the light (yes, that does sound backward). Bulbs are also rated for their ability to render color accurately, using what's called the Color Rendering Index (CRI). Incandescents, which do especially well with warmer colors, score 100. You may need to check the manufacturer's website for the CRI rating; despite all that small print, it's not always on the package.
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