The Best Healthy White LED Light Bulbs - Low Kelvin, High CRI, Low Flicker, Low EMF Bulbs Tested!
What are the best white LED light bulbs for health enthusiasts? Can they ever be as comfortable and safe as an Incandescent bulb? Do white LEDs really exist that are low in blue light, balanced with red, low flicker, and low EMF?
LEDs are the wave of the future for lighting due to their high efficiency, long lifespan, and economical costs. However, there has still been uncertainty in the health community if LEDs can be safe to use at home. Many influencers have preached that LEDs are inherently and irredeemably dangerous for several reasons.
Can we find high quality LED bulbs that are a safe alternative to Incandesent?
However, it isn't practical anymore to stockpile banned incandescent bulbs, or smuggle them into your home from other states or countries. LEDs aren't just the future, they are the present! Its the year 2022! We need to find a way to embrace LEDs and promote the brands that are making healthy lighting.
So we decided to compile a list of some of the healthiest LED light bulbs, and along the way explain why they are much healthier than their problematic predecessors from a decade ago.
Not a Red Light Therapy Blog?
Although this blog isn't specifically about red light therapy, interest in Red Light Therapy often acts like a gateway drug that makes people realize that all of the lights around them can be important for their health. They may even be more open minded to how even more fringe health effects like from EMFs or pulsing.
Many people realize that excessive blue light disrupts our circadian rhythm and can cause declining eyesight. On the other hand, Red Light Therapy is becoming newsworthy for it's potential eye benefits. The irony is that we could be improving our eyes every morning with 670nm lights, and then throughout the day accosting our eyes with blue-rich LED lighting and digital screens.
Especially in the "new normal" where many people are working from home and realizing that they need to improve their light bulbs in their office. The right light bulbs will provide energy and alertness, the wrong lighting can cause tiredness and anxiety.
We already have a blog post on the best ambient red light bulbs for sleep, and due to popular demand we have compiled a list of the best white LED light bulbs!
Summary of Results:
Here are the bulbs we tested (actually we tested a lot more, but these are the good ones). Ranked from best to worst in terms of overall performance (not price) according to our testing and preferences.
Click the name of the bulb mentioned to see where to purchase it!
- Waveform Lighting 60W 2700K Bulb: 98 CRI, <1% flicker
- Philips 40W 2700K Bulb: 92 CRI, 2.5% flicker
- Sylvania 100W 2700K Bulb: 93 CRI, 1.4% flicker
- Sylvania 75W 2700K Bulb: 93 CRI, 1.2% flicker
- Cree 40W 2700W: 92 CRI, 7.8% flicker
- Sylvania 40W 2700K: 92 CRI, 8.5% flicker
- Satco 40W 2700W: 91 CRI, 7.5% flicker
- Satco 60W 2700W: 92 CRI, 11.3% flicker
- Waveform Lighting 60W 3000K Bulb: 98 CRI, <1% flicker
- Yuji 60W 3000K Bulb: 97 CRI, <1% flicker
- Satco 40W 3000K Bulb: 93 CRI, 4.7% flicker
- Philips 60W 3000K Bulb: 90 CRI, 7.2% flicker
- Satco 60W 3000K Bulb: 93 CRI, 9.3% flicker
- Sylvania TruWave Series (3000K versions): similar performance as the 2700K versions noted above
*CRI measurements were performed with a HopooColor 0HSP-350SF and flicker percentage with a Radex Lupin meter.
The 2700K Bulbs (left) will have a slightly more "yellowish" hue, giving it the name "warm white" and also confirming it is low in blue light. 3000K bulbs (right) have a bit more blue light and have a nice balanced "soft white" color to it.
You can watch many of our measurements on our YouTube video!
Tested but excluded: We tested the GE Relax and Feit Electric bulbs which got good reviews on other sites like Wirecutter and CNET. They offer good CRI values and low Kelvin, but our testing of flicker showed they were too high.
Excluded: We might have tested Hyperikon LED bulbs but apparently they are out of business now, and according to some pictures we have seen online they seem to have high flicker also.
Usage Tips: Don't just choose bulbs entirely based on our "top" ranking.
Lower wattage (40W equivalent) and lower kelvin (2700K) is more ideal for bedrooms, living rooms, bedside lamps, or anywhere you will be in the evenings.
Higher wattage (60W or more) and kelvin (3000K) would be better for office, kitchen, studio, task lighting, and working areas during the daytime.
Higher wattage provides more lumens (brightness) which may be needed for bigger rooms. Lower wattage provides less lumens (brightness) which is important to use in bedrooms and bathrooms and living areas.
We mention high quality dimmable bulbs later in this review.
What is the Definition of the Best LED Light Bulb?
No matter what type of bulb from Incandescent to LED, we want similar criteria to determine the quality and usability. Our top requirements are:
- Low Color Temperature (K, or Kelvin)
- High CRI (Ra value)
- Low Flicker (%)
- Low EMF/Dirty Electricity
Color Temperature tells us how well the light bulb simulates an incandescent "black body" spectrum. For example a typical incandescent bulb is 2700K, and sunlight at noon is about 5500K.
So especially for LEDs, we want lower Kelvin which helps minimize the blue light that many people have had issues with LEDs in the past. For this review we mostly selected 2700K LEDs as it usually has a natural feeling balanced spectrum that is lower in Blue light. But for office areas during the daytime the 3000K versions might be better.
The graph above shows the dramatically increasing "blue peak" as you use higher-kelvin bulbs. Typically sticking to only 3000K or 2700K is important to reduce the blue light exposure.
CRI is the Color Rendering Index. This tells us how "complete" the spectrum is for a light, and if it is deficient in any colors. This can lead to an unpleasant viewing experience or feeling unnatural. Sunlight has a CRI of 100, Incandescent is 99, and generic LEDs are 80. LEDs usually lack some of the deeper-red wavelengths, leading to the poor CRI of only 80. For this review all of the LEDs we recommend are higher than 90 CRI or higher which gives us more of those important Red wavelengths (especially which can balance the blue light).
The graph above shows the peak of Red moving to longer wavelengths with higher CRI. So for this context, higher CRI means getting proportionally more longer-wavelength Red light, which tremendously helps balance the blue light exposure further.
Flicker is one of our favorite topics we covered in depth in a previous blog. LEDs have been historically demonized for being high flicker. Of course sunlight is a continuous, no flicker light source. Generic incandescent bulbs are usually 6 to 12% flicker. The LEDs we recommend in this ranking have LOWER flicker than typical incandescent bulbs.
Some of the LEDs we found are almost indistinguishable from incandescent bulbs in terms of color quality, and have less flicker! On the left is an incandescent bulb. The middle is Sylvania LED, and on the right is the Satco LED. All are 2700K.
LEDs typically don't have much issues with emitting unwanted EMFs, unlike some of the fluorescent predecessors with magnetic ballasts. However, there can be some "dirty electricity" because LEDs utilize electronics that rectify the AC to DC to power the LEDs (and this is how LEDs eliminate flicker). Typically this isn't a big issue as the dirty electricity travels through the walls and out the neutral wires. If you turn your lights off at night, they don't emit anything while you sleep. However some health enthusiasts may still find a concern with this so we test it anyway on our YouTube videos! Those same health enthusiasts should know they can also easily clean up the dirty electricity with dirty electricity filters from Greenwave, Stetzer, and Satic. Which also cleans up the dirty electricity coming from your neighbors, the power grid, TVs, computer adapters, USB chargers, and other appliances.
Waveform Lighting Versus Yuji Lighting:
Waveform Lighting and Yuji lighting offers some of the most ideal light bulbs to meet the above criteria. They offer Low Kelvin, Low Flicker, and Very High CRI bulbs. These criteria aren't necessarily made for healthy people, but because they are important for Videography! Poor color rendering (CRI) and flicker can be devastating to photographs and video quality. However, people can benefit from these high quality LEDs too!
However, there are a few drawbacks to their Waveform and Yuji LED bulbs.
- Too Bright
The standard Waveform lighting bulb we use is a 10 Watt, 800 Lumen, 60-Watt Equivalent bulb. This is great for bigger rooms. But smaller rooms, bedrooms, bedside lamps, and even bathrooms can easily be overpowered by brightness.
That is why you will find many of the other LEDs we chose for this review are lower watts, 450 Lumens, 40-Watt Equivalent bulbs. So even if the Waveform lighting bulbs are superior in many categories, it is often better to use a lower brightness bulb in some parts of the house.
The high expense of $18-20 per bulb is self-explanatory why this is a problem, especially to outfit an entire house with them. Some areas of the house might not need so much brightness, or other areas aren't critical to have super sophisticated bulbs in.
The real quest for this entire blog was for us to find suitable substitutions for our Waveform Lighting bulbs, especially where cost and brightness is a problem.
Is Dimming Safe?
Often times we fear that LED bulbs will exacerbate their flicker and EMF issues when you attempt to dim them. This is because the electronics in LEDs may not be compatible with the old dimmer switches that were designed for incandescent bulbs.
This may have caused massive (visible) flicker and EMF noise with older LEDs and CFLs which weren't designed right for dimmer switches. But now we have found several LED bulbs that perform exceptionally without significant flicker!
2. Sylvania TruWave series
The GE bulb that ranked #2 above starts out with low flicker and continues to be low flicker even when dimmed!
The Sylvania TruWave series uses impressive technology where the flicker actually reduces while dimming! They offer a very wide range of dimmability even with old style dimmers. All of the Sylvania bulbs in our first list are the Truwave series, or just search for them on LightBulbs.com
Watch our video on the best dimmable LED bulbs on YouTube!
Still using Incandescent Bulbs?
There was a push by many health influencers to demonize LEDs and revert back to incandescent. However, many of the original problems with LEDs have been resolved. Or quite frankly, the health influencers didn't really try very hard to find high-quality LEDs.
We have shown repeatedly that LEDs actually can have less flicker than incandescent bulbs. The high amount of Blue light from LEDs is easily avoided with either low Kelvin, High CRI bulbs, or simply using an Amber, Orange, or Red LED bulb entirely.
Early introductions of Fluorescent, CFL, and LED bulbs did have problems with EMF interference, dirty electricity, and flicker. However, most notoriously this was a problem with the CFL style bulbs and these fears carried on towards the LEDs. And now in 2022 there are regulations and standards for LEDs to be lower in flicker, and not emit any disruptive EMF per FCC and CE requirements.
As well the Materials of Concern (MOC) with mercury being used in Fluorescent bulbs were also giving rise to concerns in LEDs. LEDs certainly do not contain mercury, as well they must be compliant with RoHS, REACH, and other directives to not contain heavy metals which may be bad for disposal in the environment.
We do think that incandescent heat lamps can be used therapeutically in close proximity to the body, but it isn't very practical to use incandescent bulbs for general lighting. They tend to high higher flicker than the LEDs we recommend, need to be replaced often, and waste electricity.
With incandescent bulbs being phased out and even banned in some regions, finding healthy LED lighting is more important than ever.
We know many LED lights have been problematic in the past for blue light emissions, flicker, EMFs, and unpleasant light spectrum. The "healthy" LEDs seemed to always be too expensive and packed with more marketing gimmicks than focus on the important criteria (remember SORAA?).
Here we dug through dozens of LED light bulb descriptions and tested many of them to find some of the most ideal white LED bulbs for practical usage. We are very happy with what we have found, and many of them have exceeded our expectations and can be very affordable.
Thanks for reading!