Modern homes place a lot of emphasis on lighting. They might have large windows, French doors, and skylights to maximize natural illumination. These features also reduce your heating and lighting bills. But you still need additional lighting, whether it’s a bedside lamp or a recessed fluorescent for your master en-suite. You want a light with high lumen-per-watt performance.
Lumens are the visible levels of light. They describe how bright your light rays are. Another important term is lux, which describes how your lumens perform over a given distance. For example, your lamp may emit 100 lumens right next to the bulb, but that might drop to 50 lumens if you’re standing at the door. Most residents want lumens that mimic daylight.
You also need to think about wattage. Watts describes the amount of power used to light your bulbs. Older incandescent bulbs use a lot of electricity. On average, a 40W tungsten bulb has the same brightness as a 10W CFL bulb or a 5W LED bulb. So the type of bulb that’s fitted in your reading light is crucial. What else should you consider when you’re shopping for reading lamps?
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Tip #1 – Energy Use
We’ve already mentioned LED bulbs can cut down your power bill by up to 90%. So if you’re looking for a bulb that saves money, LED reading lights are the most energy-efficient type, followed by CFL. These compact fluorescent lights comprise coiled tubes. They give off the same quality and intensity of light as the longitudinal bulbs you see in kitchens, hospitals, or libraries.
But because they’re curled into coils and folds, you can fit then into regular bulb sockets. LED lights are also less likely to overheat because they’re ‘cool lights’. Some may argue this makes LED reading lamps greener. Especially because these lamps can last ten or twenty years. But LED reading lights are often sealed. So when they stop working, you can’t replace the bulb.
More Reading Light Guides:
- 7 Best Reading Lights of 2020
- What Side Should a Reading Light Be On?
- How Many Lumens for Reading Light?
- 10 Lighting Tips for Reading
Tip #2 – Portability
Reading lamps with sealed bulbs can’t be repaired or re-fitted. You have to buy a whole new lamp. And while some consumers may see this as wasteful, you’ll only replace your reading light two or three times in your lifetime. So instead of focusing on bulb selection, buy a lightweight reading lamp. You’ll most likely use it at a study desk. Or maybe a bedside dresser.
You might prefer a floor lamp for your office, but even floor lamps might need to be moved around. Maybe you’re cleaning, or re-arranging for a meeting. Your lamps need to be sturdy enough to avoid tipping but lightweight enough to be easily moved around the house. On the other hand, if you prefer a permanent reading light, get one that mounts on the wall or bed.
Tip #3 – Accuracy
Most of the time, reading lamps provide intense, directional light. But since it’s a reading lamp, you’ll probably use it in dim rooms (or after dark). If your work requires attention to detail, you don’t want avoidable mistakes. For example, a seamstress, fashion designer, painter, or graphic artist can’t afford to mix their baby blues with their aquas. They need efficient color display.
In reading lights, this accuracy is measured via the color rendering index (CRI). The highest possible CRI is 100, which simulates daylight. So depending on the nature of your work, you want a lamp that’s in the 90s. But if your bedside lamp is for casual reading, you can get a lamp whose CRI ranges in the 80s. Toddlers’ CRI should be higher since they’re learning colors.
Tip #4 – Temperature
Incandescent tungsten bulbs get physically hotter than LEDs, CFLs, or halogen lights. They can burn you if touch them, and sometimes your lampstand gets hot as well. So you’re better off investing in a lamp that has a cool light. Apart from the type of bulb, color temperature plays a role in this as well. You want a bulb that’s 2,500K to 4,900K. This range matches daylight.
As for room temperature, pick a reading light with a smaller footprint and a metallic built-in lampshade. These narrow lampshades reduce the surface area for heat accumulation so your lights will cool faster. Many of these metallic shades are fitted with LED bulbs, and that further helps with heat distribution. These lights (and lampshades) get warm, but they rarely get hot.
Tip #5 – Environmental Concerns
The first rule of protecting the environment is to cut down waste. Reading lights with lifespans of 5 years or more are a good option because they lead to less wastage of plastic, metal, glass, inert gases, and other materials used to manufacture lamps. Sealed LED lights may seem more wasteful because you can’t replace the bulb. But all those burnt-out bulbs create more waste.
LED lights are cooler as well, both in terms of Kelvins and physical heat. So using cool reading lights helps you reduce global warming in your own small way. Some bulbs also have features like USB ports that allow you to charge smart devices. This means you can ‘share’ the electricity from your bulb, which lowers power consumption even further. And you’ll have fewer sockets!
Tip #6 – Convenience
A reading light is a task light. So you’ll position it at your workstation, beside your favorite reading chair, or maybe at the bedside. You can even get a reading lamp that mounts on your headboard. But it helps if your lamp has extra features that make it easier to use. This could be as simple as having an LED indicator on the on/off switch to help you find it in the dark.
Or you could buy a lamp with an adjustable arm. There lots of options. You could buy a light whose head swivels or rotates. You could get a swiveling neck as well. A popular design is a stainless steel gooseneck coated in silicone. These necks/arms are flexible so you can pull them closer for intense beams or push them further to widen your lighting arc. You could get a boom swing too.
Tip #7 – Quick Controls
Apart from turning your reading light on and off, you may want additional features. Lights with adjustable brightness are the most effective because you can tweak luminosity to avoid disturbing your roommates. Dimming is an essential feature for bedroom reading lights. The best type is controlled by a rotary knob or a touch button that shifts brightness up and down.
The button or dial should be conveniently located so test it out from different angles. You can also buy a reading lamp with night light options. This is a milder type of illumination, often in red, blue, or green. It’s useful for kids, seniors, or even regular adults that are prone to night terrors. Night lights make excellent mood setters as well, so that’s a bedroom bonus …
Tip #8 – Safety Issues
You’re likely to forget this element, but there are lots of facets involved. LED lights have lower wattages so they’re less likely to cause electrical fires. But whichever type of bulb you use, get a bulb with anti-glare features. Glare causes eye strain so you’ll get tired faster, which lowers your concentration levels and shortens your study sessions. Your lamp can use recessed bulbs and lampshades that are cylindrical or conical to direct the light beam and reduce glare.
You could also look for reading lights that have frosted glass or textured surfaces. These dimples and grooves refract and diffuse your light rays so they’re less likely to hurt your eyes. Beyond light intensity, look for reading lamps which wide bases and sturdy arms so they don’t tip easily. Other safety features include surge protectors and concealed cords to prevent tripping.
Tip #9 – Lighting Angle
This handy feature can be executed in various ways. Flexible arms allow you to point the light where you want it. But the angle is also influenced by the size and shape of your bulb housing. Sidelights have a wide, diffuse lighting area. Conical casings often have an intense beam.
This beam covers 30° to 40°. It’s tricky to tweak the light angle for desk lamps though. They’re smaller so they’re not as versatile. If you’re buying a desk lamp, get one with a longer neck (at least 15 inches) since that gives you more space to maneuver the angle and position.
For floor lamps, get a swing arm, gooseneck arc, or pivoted neck. You want the bottom of the lampshade to be at eye-level while seated. This reduces glare and eye fatigue, so even if your lamp has a rigid arm, ensure it’s the right height for your study desk or bed. This prevents the light from shining directly into eyes where it could cause irritation or worse.
These are just some of the factors to keep in mind as you hunt for the ideal reading light. Do you currently have a reading lamp on your desk or in your study? Show us a photo in the comments!