The Only Way to Shop for Lightbulbs in Singapore

  • Jun 8, 2018

Buying a lightbulb might seem like an uncomplicated task, but when you really come down to it, it’s perhaps not as easy as it looks. For one, there are so many options out there that you don't know where to start. For another, the technicalities and terminologies that lie in the world of lightbulbs would make anybody weep. Which is why we've decided to put together a quick and simple guide to help you along. With the help of lighting expert Clarence Leong of Three Cubes, here's how to shop for lightbulbs in Singapore:

You should only get LEDs

LEDs (light emitting diodes) are gradually replacing CFLs (compact fluorescents) as well as incandescent bulbs such as tungsten and halogen. LEDs are seen as more efficient, having a longer lifespan, more cost effective and better for the environment. “Our local regulatory bodies for lighting such as NEA and Spring are encouraging the use of LEDs and phasing out the other non-LEDs bulbs by introducing mandatory labelling (MELS) and restricting the sale of bulbs that don’t meet certain standards,” says Clarence. “Even with CFLs, which are more efficient than incandescent, manufacturers are slowly reducing their production for them in favour of LEDs.” [gallery cstype="gallery_lightbox" columns="1" size="full" ids="46032"] Design: Arte Living

LEDs cost more, but they are worth it in the end

Compared to CFLs or incandescent, LEDs are a lot pricier. Most E27 lightbulbs (one of the most common types in Singapore) from well-known brands like Megaman and Philips as well as ones that are MELS-certified cost $5 apiece, with dimmable E27s going up to $15. However, because LEDs are more energy efficient, you are saving money in the long run. Plus, their longer lifespan means you’ll be changing bulbs a lot less often too. [gallery cstype="gallery_lightbox" columns="1" size="full" ids="19954"] Design: Collective Designs

With LEDs, lumens now determine brightness, not wattage

In the past, when incandescent bulbs were still popular, brightness was determined in wattage (W), although it’s technically a measurement of power. Nowadays with the industry moving to LEDs, which use up less power, wattage measurement isn’t quite as helpful. As such, people are using lumens to determine brightness of a lightbulb instead. Clarence explains: “To understand this, here's an example: A non-LED lamp can go as high as 60W today to achieve the same level of brightness as a 10W LED lamp.”

As a rule, go brighter rather than dimmer

While the brightness of a lightbulb is eventually affected by several other factors such as paint colour, ceiling height, and the amount of natural light received in the room, 1200 to 1500 lumens in total is enough brightness for a typical-sized living room in an HDB flat. “A general rule of thumb is to go brighter, since people are less likely to be affected by a brighter environment than a less-than-ideal dim environment,” advises Clarence. “That said, we would recommend the use of dimmable LEDs so that you’re able to control the brightness to your preference depending on the situation and time of day.” [gallery cstype="gallery_lightbox" columns="1" size="full" ids="23915"] Design: Fineline Design Go for frosted glass for LED bulbs as it helps to reduce the glare of the powerful LED bulbs, particularly if they are not covered by an exterior lamp.

Be aware of bulb voltage

The voltage of a bulb doesn’t determine brightness, but it matters as it will determine whether your bulb will work in your home or not. In Singapore, the voltage supply is 220/240V. When purchasing bulbs or lamps overseas or online, make sure they run on this voltage or you will most likely damage your power outlet. You will need a transformer if you’re planning to run a bulb that has a higher voltage, but transformers are generally expensive and not worth the investment for a lightbulb.

Find your bulb’s cap type on your light fixture

There are several types of caps for bulbs out there, so make sure you know which one fits with your lamp. If you’re replacing a bulb, take the old one down when you’re shopping for reference. If you’re getting a new one, most lighting manufacturers would provide information on the cap type to get within the light fixture itself. For LEDs, screw types like E27 and E14 are most common. Other common types in Singapore include the GU10 (twist and lock) and GU5.3 (pin base). [gallery cstype="gallery_lightbox" columns="1" size="full" ids="65873"] Design: The Interior Lab

The lower the colour temperature, the warmer the light

Colour temperatures, indicated by the Kelvin (K) unit, affect the mood of a home. The lower the K, the warmer and yellower the light. What you choose is also dependent on what you need it for. For task lighting, usually placed in areas where you need to work or focus like the study, go for daylight (5000K to 6500K). For daylight, which can appear bluish, it creates very defined shadows. For general ambience, warm white (2000K to 3000K) helps to create a warm and cosy milieu. Cool white (3500K to 4500K) is a safe choice for most spaces, although it can cause your furniture and furnishings to appear pale. *For the K ranges, take note that it can differ depending on the brand of bulb. [gallery cstype="gallery_lightbox" columns="1" size="full" ids="52670"] Design: Department of Design

Colour rendering indicator isn’t so important, but higher is always better

Some lightbulbs come with a colour rendering indicator (CRI). But that, according to Clarence, isn’t such an important factor. “Unless you’re into photography or require accurate colour reproduction in your everyday life, CRI isn’t a terribly important factor,” says the lighting expert. “But having a higher CRI for a lightbulb is always good since it means colours will be appearing more natural.” Note that natural light has a CRI of 100, which is the basis on which a bulb's CRI is measured against. Clarence recommends a CRI of at least 80 for general residential use, although the higher CRI you go, the more expensive your lightbulb will be.

Shape of bulb affects how lighting spreads

There are several types of bulb shapes, ranging from standard to candle to bigger globe shapes. Beyond aesthetic, bulb shapes can change how a light beam spreads in a room. If you want a narrower beam, get a spotlight bulb. Go for the very trendy globe shape if you want a larger spread of light. For more traditional settings, candle shapes can add to the milieu perfectly with their focused glow. They are also great on chandeliers. [gallery cstype="gallery_lightbox" columns="1" size="full" ids="61111"] Design: DB Studio

Make sure your dimmer switch is designed for LEDs too

For folks who have a lamp that is operated by a dimmer switch, first make sure you are getting a corresponding lightbulb that is also dimmable. “Using a non-dimmable lightbulb on a lighting fixture that is controlled by a dimmer switch will cause your bulb to flicker. This might also damage both the bulb and dimmer switch,” says Clarence. “Second, if you’re getting a dimmable LED bulb, ensure that it can work with your dimmer switch. Not all dimmer switches work with dimmable LEDs—some dimmer switches may be unable to support dimmable LEDs, which can lead to flickering and ultimately, damaging your bulb.” [gallery cstype="gallery_lightbox" columns="1" size="full" ids="17830"] Design: DistinctIdentity  

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