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Fact: full spectrum light bulbs are better than traditional light bulbs. (If you know what kind of full spectrum bulb you're getting!)

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Hi there! If you're like most people, you're searching for full spectrum bulbs because you're invested in your health and well-being. You've got your nutrition, movement, sleep, pure water and air all dialed in, now it's time to fix that light! You want a pure light with properties most similar to natural sunlight. 

Unfortunately, most full spectrum bulbs out there are nothing like sunlight.

In fact - they're all LED, and we all know the potential dangers of LED bulbs for your health. (Yes, they've gotten a lot better over the years, but even a flicker-free, high CRI, full visible spectrum daylight white LED isn't the best idea for those highly sensitive individuals). Plus, if the whole purpose of using full spectrum light is to feel better and try to mimic properties of the sun, why use a "digital" light source nothing at all like the sun?

Let's clarify for a moment:

Most full spectrum light bulbs out there are LEDs with a full visible spectrum of light. Period. Nothing else. No ultraviolet; no infrared. And that would be fine: it is nearly impossible to replicate the true full spectrum of light (UV, visible, and Infrared) in an artificial light source, so the definition of full spectrum bulbs has come to be defined as a a light bulb containing only the full visible spectrum (more on this in a bit)!

We can do without ultraviolet in a light bulb: it's a small percentage of sunlight - just go outside for that Vitamin D, and other hormonal benefits of UV!

It's the lack of infrared light in these full spectrum bulbs we're concerned with.  None of those aforementioned bulbs have any infrared light - the invisible wavelengths of light that act as "food" for the mitochondria of our cells. In fact, most of natural sunlight is comprised of this invisible spectra of light: infrared light comprises approximately 50% of sunlight! 

So don't be fooled, friends. The best full spectrum bulb is the one most comparable to sunlight in its constitution. The best full spectrum bulb by definition then, is the incandescent or halogen light bulb. 

The right full spectrum light bulb can work wonders if you want to increase energy, improve well-being, or feel better under your light every day. As we often say, the feeling of better lighting is palpable immediately after flipping the switch. But - with so many options, how does one choose the best full spectrum light bulb? 

As we'll soon see, just like the changing sun, there are different "types" of full spectrum light, and as such, there exists no singular definition of a full spectrum light bulb. Depending on your needs and desired effects from your lighting, some bulbs may work better than others! 

So, what is the best full spectrum light bulb? The answer to this question is long-winded and the purpose of this article. 

But we'll give it a shot: the best full spectrum light bulb is the one that makes you feel best while accurately replicating some of the characteristics of natural sunlight: vivid colors, contrast, and that feeling of uplifted replenishment you get from the sun! 

We've been in the business of full spectrum lighting for a while now (established in the US in 1978), so you bet we have a few words to say on the topic of full spectrum light bulbs!  

Let's get into it. 

First, What are Full Spectrum Light Bulbs?

Full spectrum light bulbs are designed to mimic the natural light spectrum. Unlike traditional bulbs that emit a narrow and truncated light spectrum, full spectrum bulbs emit light across the entire visible spectrum. 

 

full spectrum of light

Some full spectrum bulbs (like those for reptiles) also extend into the UV range, while others (like incandescent and halogen bulbs) extend into the infrared (IR) range of light, but as a general rule, most full spectrum light bulbs contain a balanced and full visible light spectrum only, since a bulb with full UV, full visible, and full infrared light, is nearly impossible to achieve in an 'artificial' light source. 

Unless we're talking about an incandescent or halogen light bulb, of course, whose spectrum is the closest to a true full spectrum light bulb as you can get in an 'artificial' light source. 

We've written extensively about these healthy light bulbs, and for a good reason: though definitely not energy efficient, they contain the full spectrum of light (minus the UVB) of any 'artificial' light source on their own!

So, what is the definition of full spectrum? What metric should you be looking for in a light bulb? You'll find many definitions of full spectrum light bulbs floating around out there, many having to do with color rendering index (CRI), color temperature, and - of course - the fullness of a light source's spectrum. 

However, as we'll soon see, they are all lacking. 

The Common Definition of Full Spectrum Light Bulbs: 

The most common definition for full spectrum light bulbs is the following: 

A light bulb with a color temperature between 5000K and 6500K and a CRI above 96.

If you know about the color temperatures of light bulbs, you'll quickly realize that a full spectrum light bulb is effectively a daylight white bulb with a very white, almost bluish cast. Great for alertness during the day, horrible if you're sensitive to blue light or to use in the evening. 

So why are full spectrum light bulbs commonly (and incompletely) defined as bright white, daylight color light bulbs? 

A bit of history on full spectrum bulbs

This definition primarily concerns research done in the 1960s, which demonstrated the remarkable effects specific wavelengths of light have on the health and vitality of plant and animal life. 

Even in the absence of natural sunlight - they found that an artificial light source containing a fuller, more complete spectrum of visible light (skewing particularly towards the blue light wavelengths) would have the same effect on plant growth as natural sunlight. 

If you were looking for a sun-like light bulb, you wanted a full spectrum light bulb that matched the above definition with plenty of blue light wavelengths!

Most full spectrum bulbs are daylight white with plenty of blue light. 

While the bright white light with plenty of blue light wavelengths can simulate natural sunlight during the day and promote plant growth effectively, you wouldn't want to use it at night! Blue light has a stimulating effect and tells the brain it's time to wake up, release cortisol, and inhibit the release of melatonin, a hormone whose most well-known role among many is to stimulate sleepiness and contribute to deep, restful sleep. 

The True Definition of Full Spectrum Light Bulbs:

So, what is the actual definition of a full spectrum light bulb? 

The definition we began with was a light bulb designed to mimic the natural light spectrum, regardless of color temperature. Or, as is unique to our flagship brand of full spectrum light bulb, Chromalux®, a light bulb that mimics the unique joyful feeling and color of natural sunlight: a full spectrum of light specially filtered to show colors in a more beautiful, saturated way, just as you would see them under natural daylight. 

So, while the preceding definition is helpful for those wanting to achieve a daylight-white color environment, grow plants, or feel more alert and energized, we find the definition lacking. Regardless of the numbers on the paper, a full spectrum light bulb can be any color temperature, have a balanced full spectrum of light, and be any CRI as long as the colors you see are bright, crisp, and vivid.

Metrics for Full Spectrum Light Bulbs

To better understand light - full spectrum or not - you must understand how a light bulb's color temperature affects you. Once this is understood, you'll be better equipped to choose a full spectrum light bulb that's best for you, based on different times of the day and what you're after in a light bulb. 

Color temperature (CCT) is a measure used to describe a light source's visual appearance and whiteness.

The "cooler" we say a light source is, the more blue light is available in its visible spectrum. Conversely, the "warmer" a light source, the less blue light and more red light available.

The color temperature of a bulb will determine how its spectrum looks and whether it will skew more towards the blue/turquoise end of the spectrum (like in daylight white, 4000K-6500K full spectrum bulbs) or more towards the red part of the spectrum (like incandescent, halogen, or warm white 2700K-3000K LED full spectrum bulbs). 

Most light bulbs range between warm white, natural white, and cool (daylight) white. 

Cooler color temperature bulbs have an energizing effect.

We briefly mentioned this above, but cooler color temperature light bulbs have a visible spectrum skewing more towards the blue light wavelengths, which creates a biological response in us to wake up, feel more alert, and, in effect, tell our circadian rhythm that another day has begun. 

Warmer color temperature bulbs have a soothing effect.

It is not soothing per se, but it is not energizing. Warmer color temperature light bulbs possess less to no blue light wavelengths, and their spectrum skews more towards the warmer, red, and orange wavelengths of light. 

Color Rendering Index (CRI)  is a measure on a scale of 1 to 100 of how accurately a light source replicates colors as compared to natural sunlight (which has a CRI rating of 100). The higher the value, the more accurately colors appear. 

The Changing Color Temperature of Natural Sunlight

Over the years, many people have asked how a warmer color temperature bulb can be considered full spectrum. 

Again, this is because the definition of full spectrum has failed us: a full spectrum bulb can come in many color temperatures, just like natural sunlight varies in spectral constitution throughout the day. 

We never question the full spectrum of natural sunlight: it's always full, but its color will vary between skewing more towards blue (during the daytime) or red color wavelengths (during dawn/dusk). 

We never question the fullness of the spectrum of natural sunlight, nor should we ask whether a full spectrum bulb in a warmer color temperature can be considered full spectrum. It may not be the best for alertness, but it is essential for evening use! 

How to Choose the Best Full Spectrum Light Bulb For You: 

Now that the above discussion on light color temperatures is out of the way, you may begin to understand the best full spectrum light bulb for you. 

You'll want a brighter, whiter one during the day for enhanced energy and mood (and to reset your circadian rhythm!), but a warmer color full spectrum bulb in the evening to minimize blue light and get a better night's sleep. 

Best full spectrum light bulb for daytime usage

A21 / 100W Chromalux® Full Spectrum Classic Bulb in Clear Glass

A19 / 53W Chromalux® Enhanced™ Full Spectrum Bulb

A21 72W Chromalux® Enhanced™ Full Spectrum Bulb

 

Best full spectrum light bulb for nighttime usage

Chromalux® 60W frosted bulb

B10 Clear – 25W Medium Base Chromalux® Full Spectrum Bulb

 

Why Chromalux® is the Best Full Spectrum Light Bulb

Standard daylight full spectrum light bulbs are a different bulb entirely from the Chromalux® line of full spectrum bulbs, which use neodymium glass to filter out yellow and other dulling frequencies of the light spectrum, resulting in a beautifully pure and vivid light with enhanced colors and contrast.

Standard types of full spectrum light bulbs are typically LEDs that emit a full spectrum of daylight white light (between 5000-6500K color temperature). While these bulbs are beneficial in the morning and daytime to help with energy and alertness (thanks to the biologically necessary blue color wavelengths to activate our circadian rhythm), most don't necessarily replicate colors well and can cast a garish appearance to everything. Many people also complain of glare and eye strain.

Our bulbs will appear gentler and soothing in comparison, and colors will also be more vivid and true to life.

Our light technology allows you to see and feel better while enhancing your environment and inspiring you in a way standard full spectrum bulbs cannot!

Ideally, you could both use standard daylight color full spectrum bulbs together with our Chromalux® bulbs for the ultimate lighting environment!

Wrapping Up...

In our efforts to identify full spectrum light using the definitions we've found online of what constitutes a full spectrum light bulb, we've lost touch with what using full spectrum light is meant to achieve: feeling uplifted, feeling healthy, and an overall feeling of wellness that only a beautiful light can provide. Full spectrum light is not just a bunch of numbers: color rendering index (CRI), color temperature, lumen output, spectral distribution graphs, etc. 

From our experience, you can get all the above right: in other words, it's a great, full spectrum, low flicker, spectrally uniform light on paper, but it doesn't feel right.

Real light makes you feel good. Regardless of the numbers. 

A little about us: Our parent company, Lumiram, is the original maker of full spectrum neodymium glass light bulbs. We attribute much of what we know about lighting in relation to health and beauty to them and their flagship brand, Chromalux®. Since 1978, Chromalux® has provided full spectrum beautiful neodymium light bulbs to enhance mood, vision, and interiors. Chromalux® is the original light for health and wellness!

 

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