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How to Choose the Best Light for Reading

How to Choose the Best Light for Reading

Wooden Base Table Lamp

Any bookworm knows that adequate lighting is one of the key factors in creating the perfect spot to sit and enjoy a good read. A proper reading light not only makes it easier to see the page – it can also reduce eyestrain, which is healthier for your sight.

Here are some of the things to look for when picking out a reading lamp:

Know the Right Amount of Light

When considering a reading light for your space, you should look at the complete lighting scheme of the room to determine how much light you need. If your reading light is going to be the sole source of illumination in the room, you should opt for brighter and more ambient lighting. On the other hand, if your space already has other lighting, a more focused lamp should give you the extra bit of brightness you need. Too much contrast between the page you’re reading and your surroundings can cause eyestrain.

In addition to considering your room’s lighting as a whole, you should keep your personal lighting needs in mind, as they may differ from what would normally be recommended. For example, anyone who has deteriorating vison, cataracts or other sight issues will need more brightness.

As a general rule, a reading light should be a minimum of 500 lumens. Lumens are a unit of measurement for the actual brightness of a light. Historically, light bulbs have been measured in watts, which indicate the amount of energy the bulb uses, but due to advancements in energy efficiency, wattage is no longer an accurate gauge for brightness.

See below for the approximate equivalents of watts to lumens (as reported by ENERGY STAR) to help you select the right bulbs for your space:

• 25W = 250 lumens
• 40W = 450 lumens
• 60W = 800 lumens

• 75W = 1100 lumens
• 100W = 1600 lumens
• 150W = 2600 lumens

Modern table lamp with white shade
Traditional table lamp with leather finish
Pivoting LED floor lamp for reading

Select the Lamp & Lampshade Styles

When selecting the specific style of lamp for reading, there are three basic designs you can choose: floor lamps, table lamps and wall sconces. Each of these offer unique advantages and may work better in different areas in your home. For example, a table lamp is very versatile, but a floor lamp might work best in the living room and a swing-arm wall sconce is more ideally suited for reading in bed.

Also consider the lampshade, as it will impact the fixture’s lighting tone. Lamp design determines the height and direction of light, while lampshade style and material affect how light is projected in your space. A translucent shade can offer soft, diffused lighting from a table or floor lamp, while an opaque design might be ideal for more directed task lighting from an adjustable light or sconce with a movable lamp head.

Take all this into account to choose the lamp style and shade that will provide the right amount of light for you and your space.

Black adjustable floor lamp
Brushed nickel table lamp
Bedside swing-arm wall sconces

Choose the Lighting Type

Once you’ve established how much brightness you need from what type of reading lamp, it’s time to select the best type of lighting that can meet those needs.

There are a various light bulb options that offer a range of lumen outputs. However, the most often used for residential needs are fluorescent, incandescent and LED light bulbs, so we’ll focus on these particular types.

Fluorescent - While many people appreciate the energy efficiency and white light of compact fluorescent light bulbs (or CFLs as they’re commonly called), these are actually not a great choice for tasks where you will be intently focusing. Due to minute voltage fluctuations, fluorescent lights have a consistent yet visually imperceptible flickering, which strains eyes over long periods of time and can even cause headaches.

Incandescent - Traditional incandescent bulbs are one of the best options when it comes to light that is easy on the eyes. They don’t flicker because they create light by heating a filament, and they provide a consistent warm-hued glow ideal for reading or focusing.

LED- LED light bulbs offer the brightest white light and will illuminate in a way that is closer to how daylight appears, making it easy to see every word on the page; however, it’s worth noting that the brightness of LED lights can cause a bit of glare if you’re reading a book with glossier pages.

Fluorescent Light Bulb
Incandescent Light Bulb
LED Light Bulb
Fluorescent Light Bulb
Incandescent Light Bulb
LED Light Bulb

Bring all of these features together, and you have a reading lamp that provides the right amount and type of lighting in exactly the right place. Now all that’s left to do is pick what to read!

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