When shopping for bathroom lighting, striking the perfect balance between bright and flattering is tricky. Not to mention, with so many different products on the market, choosing light bulbs can be overwhelming. Even the language surrounding them is confusing. Shoppers can easily get caught up in trying to decipher all of the numbers and terminology on the side of the box. It can be confusing to ponder whether watts or lumens matter more when it comes to brightness or if LEDs really last for 30 years. In this article, learn more about how to choose the best light bulbs for bathroom spaces.
- BEST OVERALL: GE Relax 8-Pack 60 W Equivalent Dimmable Warm White
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: OHLUX Smart WiFi LED Light Bulbs (No Hub Required)
- BEST FOR VANITIES: Sunco Lighting 10 Pack G25 LED Globe, 6W=40W
- BEST FOR VINTAGE LOOK: Ascher Dimmable Vintage LED Edison Bulbs, 6W
- BEST INCANDESCENT: GE Incandescent Light Bulbs, A21, 150-Watt, 6-Pack
- BEST CFL: Sylvania 13W CFL T2 Spiral Light Bulb, 60W Equivalent
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Light Bulbs for the Bathroom
Before you shop for bathroom light bulbs, weigh some key considerations. Though it would be easy to assume that all light bulbs will deliver a similar result, keep these factors in mind when shopping for the best light bulbs for your bathroom.
- LEDs (light-emitting diodes) have quickly taken over the market because they’re eco-friendly, energy-efficient, and ultimately help save money on electricity bills. They also last about 25,000 hours—or more than 30 years. Their brightness is measured in lumens, and modern LEDs can produce a wide range of color temperatures. They’re becoming increasingly affordable, and when you consider the fact that each bulb costs an average of $1.19 per year to run, they’re actually an economical choice.
- Incandescent lights are becoming less popular because they require more energy to produce the same amount of light as LEDs. Much of the energy they use is wasted in producing heat. Because of that, they each cost about $7 per year to power. Incandescent lights typically have a lifespan of approximately 1.5 years. One advantage, however, is that they tend to have a flattering effect on the skin, making them a good choice for vanity lighting around a bathroom mirror.
- CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) have a coiled design and are a middle ground between LEDs and incandescent lights. They’re significantly more energy efficient than incandescents and have a lifespan of 10,000 hours, or 14 years. The downside is they don’t render color as well as LEDs and tend to emit a harsh, sterile light. That makes them less desirable in bathrooms.
Every light fixture has a maximum wattage rating, and it’s important to ensure that the bulb chosen is compatible with the fixture. If a fixture has a maximum wattage of 60 watts, using a bulb that requires more energy risks causing the fixture to overheat. Luckily, this is only a concern when dealing with incandescent lights. Because CFLs and LEDs use energy so efficiently, there are very few instances where their wattage will exceed the maximum rating.
Brightness and Color Temperature
When it comes to LED lights, brightness is measured in lumens rather than watts. In a bathroom, it’s ideal to have 75 lumens per square foot for task lighting. Once the size of the space is calculated, establish how many cumulative lumens would work best.
The color temperature of the bulbs is a matter of preference. Light temperature is measured in Kelvins (K). The higher the number, the cooler the light will be. A bulb with a 5,000K color temperature will give off a brighter white hue, while 2,700K bulbs emit a warmer, orange glow. Warmer lights are more flattering for most skin tones, so they’re a good choice if you need a confidence boost before starting your day. Cool-toned lights, on the other hand, give a room a clean, crisp feel.
Choosing dimmable lights for a bathroom offers several advantages. The strongest setting is ideal when bright light is required for shaving or applying cosmetics, but they can be dimmed for middle of the night bathroom visits. Dimmable bulbs also save energy in the long run if they’re frequently used at lower brightness levels. If there’s a dimmer on the light fixture, it’s important to choose compatible dimmable bulbs.
There are countless different light bulb shapes, but the ones most often used in bathrooms are A-series, globe, and Edison bulbs.
- A-series bulbs are the classic light bulb shape that is most popular for home use.
- Edison bulbs have exposed filaments and typically produce an ultra-warm light temperature of between 2,200K and 2,400K. They have a vintage look and provide an antique aesthetic.
- Globe or G-series bulbs are suitable for decorative fixtures where the bulb will be on display, making them a great choice for bathroom vanities.
Smart light bulbs are a great way to introduce smart technology into the home. By connecting them to an app, they can be controlled from the phone or by using voice commands, allowing users to turn off the light while away from home—or from the comfort of the bed or couch. Some models change color, allowing users to create different lighting aesthetics depending on the mood they want to set. Smart bulbs take a little more effort to set up than standard bulbs. After they’re screwed in, individuals must link to an app in order to get the most out of them, so they’re great for tech-savvy users.
Our Top Picks
The following recommendations take into account all the above-mentioned considerations, including type, brightness, color temperature, and shape. This list includes some of the best light bulbs on the market.
These 60-watt replacement LED bulbs from GE only use 8.5 watts of energy to produce 800 lumens of brightness. They come in a pack of eight dimmable A19 bulbs and feature an E26 base, which is compatible with a wide variety of fixtures. They emit a soft white light that registers 2,700K, providing a flattering effect on the skin. Those who prefer a cooler-toned option could consider GE’s Refresh bulbs, which offer a 5,000K-color temperature.
GE estimates that the user will save $84 on energy costs per bulb over its lifetime compared to a 60-watt incandescent bulb.
- Energy efficient
- Soft white light
- May flicker during voltage fluctuations
Smart LED bulbs are becoming increasingly popular, but their high price point is prohibitive for many shoppers. Luckily, these WiFi-enabled bulbs from OHLUX offer the benefits of smart technology at an affordable price. They’re compatible with Alexa and Google Home and are a 60-watt equivalent when it comes to brightness. They’re the perfect solution for those struggling to choose between warm- and cool-toned lighting because they allow users to change the color using voice commands or through a mobile app. They offer a range of 16 million colors from which to choose, have an E26 base, and require a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connection.
- Compatible with most smart-home technologies
- Voice or app controllable
- Affordable compared to other smart bulb brands
- More complicated to install
Decorative globe lights are ideal for bathroom vanities where exposed bulbs are part of the fixture’s aesthetic. This 10-pack of LED lights is a 40-watt equivalent while only requiring 6 watts of power. Each bulb produces 450 lumens, which might seem low, but when many are paired together on a vanity fixture, they’ll provide plenty of illumination. Their color temperature is a neutral soft white at 3,000K, which offers proper lighting for applying cosmetics while still being flattering. They have E26 bases and are dimmable from 10 to 100 percent. Each bulb has a diameter of 3.15 inches and a height of 4.46 inches, including the base.
- Sleek round bulb design
- Great color temperature for applying makeup
- Perfect for vanities
- Multiple bulbs required for high brightness
Vintage-style Edison bulbs have become wildly popular over the last decade, and while earlier versions lacked modern features, these by Ascher are both dimmable and energy efficient. The LEDs provide an antique look and come in a pack of four. They’re 60-watt equivalents while only using 6 watts of energy, giving them a lifespan of 20,000 hours. Users can choose their preferred color temperature among three available options: Daylight White (4,000K), Warm White (2,700K), and Amber Warm (2,300K). They have standard E26 bases and, at full power, have a 700-lumen brightness output.
- Popular Edison style
- LED bulbs last 20,000 hours
- Multiple color temperatures available
- May start to flicker over time
Those who haven’t yet come around on LEDs and prefer the visual effect that incandescents provide should consider this six-pack of GE bulbs. They use 150 watts of power to give an ultrabright 2,680 lumens of brightness. This makes them a great choice for bathrooms that only have a single light fixture and are short on illumination. They have a soft white color temperature of 2,800K. GE estimates these bulbs each cost $18.07 per year to operate.
- Very bright
- Single bulb can light entire bathroom
- Can get quite hot
- Higher energy consumption
Those shopping for CFL bulbs should find that this six-pack from Sylvania fits the bill. They’re 60-watt replacements, using 13 watts of energy, making them more energy efficient than incandescents but using more power than LEDs. CFL bulbs have a hard time reproducing warm color temperatures, but these offer a soft white hue at 2,700K. In terms of brightness capacity, they offer 850 lumens. They have an estimated lifetime of 10,000 hours, and it’s important to note that they are nondimmable. Finally, these CFLs feature a T2 spiral shape.
- Soft white hue
- Long lifespan
- Ideal brightness for bathrooms
For a simple yet effective bulb to light your bathroom, consider the GE Relax Dimmable Warm White Light Bulb and enjoy the soft white light and dimmable feature. For shoppers looking to add some style to a vanity, the Sunco Lighting LED Globe light bulbs are a great choice with contemporary globe-shaped bulbs.
How We Chose the Best Light Bulbs for Bathrooms
The best light bulbs for a bathroom can provide enough illumination for users as they go about their business, casting a pleasant color temperature that is not too harsh, yellow, or blinding. Our list of recommendations features a wide range of styles, shapes, brightnesses, and color temperatures to suit multiple style choices. We made sure to provide options for shoppers looking for simple no-frills lighting with dimming capabilities for added convenience. We also included high-tech options for those looking to upgrade their home to function with their smart-home devices such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home.
We’re aware that energy efficiency is always high on the list of priorities for shoppers, so our top picks all boast excellent energy saving characteristics. Plenty of LED options are available as well as CFL bulbs and an incandescent bulb option for users who still prefer the traditional lighting style.
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about bathroom lighting.
Q. What kind of light bulbs should be used in a bathroom?
Look for dimmable LED bulbs with a color temperature between 2,700K and 3,000K.
Q. What color light is best for the bathroom?
The best color temperature for bathroom lights depends on preference. Warm bulbs are more universally flattering, while cooler bulbs are ideal for shaving and applying cosmetics.
Q. What wattage bulb should I use for the bathroom?
The brightness of modern LED bulbs is measured in lumens rather than watts. The rule of thumbs is to have 75 lumens of light per square foot in the bathroom.
Q. Which light bulbs are best for makeup?
Natural light is best for applying makeup, so the next best thing is a light bulb that accurately mimics sunlight. Look for a neutral color temperature between 2,700K and 3,000K.
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