What Wattage is Best for Bathroom Lighting?

For the master or guest bathrooms, 75-100 watts is recommended. For small or medium-sized bathrooms like half-baths and powder rooms, 45-60 watts are acceptable. Higher wattage provides more brightness and light intensity which can be blinding for smaller spaces, making 45-60 watts ideal for the average bathroom. 

What to Look for in Bathroom Light Bulbs

When it comes to your bathroom’s light bulbs, there are a few things to look at:

Light Intensity and Wattage

The wattage of your lightbulb will determine its power output and general brightness. The higher the wattage, the more intense and bright the light. Light intensity is also a factor, as intense light can irritate the eyes and affect your sleep cycle. 

Bulb Shape

The bulb of the light source will significantly impact how it illuminates an area. Additionally, certain shapes are designed for specific fixtures, so you must understand which shape to choose. The common bulb shapes are:

  • Standard Household
  • Tubular
  • Globe
  • Reflector
  • Candle
  • Parabolic Aluminized Reflector
  • Mini Reflector

Bulb Type

The bulb type determines how the bulb displays light. This affects the longevity of the bulb and how hot the bulb is. 

  • Incandescent – passes an electric current through a metal filament to produce heat
  • Halogen – recycles halogen gas and tungsten within a quartz envelope
  • CFL (compact fluorescent light) – passes an electric current through a gaseous tube
  • LED (light emitting diode) – passes an electric current through a semi-conducting material

Types of Lights

There are four main light types to choose from, and each offers its own benefits:

Task lights

Task lights provide increased lighting to a given area, making them great for seeing low-contrast and smaller objects. They are ideal for a workstation, a kitchen, or a reading area is they help provide a large area of illumination to a small area. Table lamps and directional fixtures are all examples of task lights.

Pros:

  • High illumination to a given area
  • Best lighting for desk/work setups

Cons:

  • Only provides light to a small area

Ambient lights

Also referred to as general lighting, ambient lights provide overall illumination for a room, creating a consistent light level. These lights are ideal for an ample common space as it helps to establish a general light level. Floor lamps and ceiling-mounted lights are examples of ambient lighting.

Pros: 

  • Provides general lighting to a large area
  • Helps to create a uniform light level
  • Light is soft and will not be too bright

Energy efficient

Cons:

  • Brightness and overall light level may be lacking for more detailed work

Accent lights

Accent lights are designed to highlight a focal point or specific feature. These are very common with mirrors, art, or fixtures. Accent lighting has high brightness and a narrow beam angle, so only the specific feature is highlighted. Wall-mounted fixtures and track lighting are examples of accent lights

Pros:

  • Creates a bright light that can illuminate one given area
  • Can help establish a tone for your bathroom or space by highlighting areas you want attention drawn to

Cons:

  • Not energy efficient
  • Only provides lighting to a very small area

Decorative lights

Decorative lights refer to lighting fixtures that are meant to be decorative, like jewelry for your bathroom. They prioritize aesthetics over illumination to create a grand spectacle for your bathroom. Decorative lighting utilizes abstract shapes, patterns, and designs to create something unique for your bathroom. Chandeliers and sconces are typical examples of decorative lighting.

Pros:

  • Creates a unique fixture for your bathroom
  • Can highlight other features of your bathroom
  • Can be it’s own piece of art

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • More decorative than functional

Bathroom Lighting mistakes to avoid

When selecting lights for your bathroom, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. Here are some common lighting mistakes and why you should avoid them:

Ignoring Dimmers

Dimmer switches help you control your fixtures and the light they output. This is invaluable for early morning or light night usage of your bathroom. In addition to creating a better ambience, a dimmer will save you energy.

Overlooking CRI

CRI refers to the color rendering index which is used to describe the color of white light that a fixture produces. The lower the temperature of the light, the warmer the color appears. Conversely, the higher the temperature, the colder the light appears. For your bathroom, its important that you choose a natural light range, somewhere around 2700k-3000k. The larger the space, the higher you want the CRI to be, and vice-versa. Although it may seem complicated, understanding the CRI will impact which lights you should choose for your space.

Not including enough light

Insufficient lighting can make your bathroom seem sparse and make small tasks difficult. The answer to this problem is simple: layer your lighting to get the most out of your bathroom. You want to strike a balance between task lighting, ambient lighting, and accent lighting. For example, task lighting is great for your mirror/vanity, whereas accent lighting is great around your fixtures such as your sink, bathtub or even the door. 

Including too much light

On the flip side, including too much lighting can make your bathroom appear cluttered and visually unappealing. Contrasting and conflicting lighting sources will make it difficult to perform simple tasks and ruin your bathroom’s ambiance. This problem can be fixed by creating a lighting plan and mapping out your lighting sources before they are installed. 

Popular Brand of Light Bulbs

There are a wide variety of light bulb manufacturers to choose from. Here are some of the most popular brands:

  • Phillips
  • GE Lighting
  • FEIT Electric
  • Bulbrite
  • Sylvania
  • Cree
  • LIFX 

Common questions about lighting and bulbs

What kind of light bulbs goes in a vanity?

The best lightbulbs for your vanity eliminate glare and shadow, providing an unobstructed view for you to apply makeup and get ready. When choosing to light for your vanity, you want to prioritize removing glare and lowering light intensity as it may clash with your mirror. For this reason, LED lighting is best as it provides directional lighting, which provides better illumination.

What is the difference between LED and Incandescent Bulbs?

The primary difference between these two types is how they emit light. Incandescents provide light by heating a wire filament to generate light. LED lights use an electrical current through a semiconducting material to emit light, similar to how a battery operates. Because the process doesn’t require a specific temperature, LED lights are much safer and last much longer than incandescent bulbs. However, the tradeoff is that they are much more expensive up front than incandescent bulbs. 

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