Last Updated on November 9, 2021 by Kristi Linauer
Remember the days when we all used incandescent light bulbs in everything? Things were so easy then. We could pick up light bulbs at the grocery store, the home improvement store, the corner convenience store. They were pretty much all 2700K (did we even know about that color temperature scale back then?), so the only real decision we had to make was how bright we wanted the bulb to be. Easy peasy.
Now there are so many decisions. Halogen? Fluorescent? LED? How bright do you need it? 60 watt equivalent? 150 watt equivalent? And what color temperature do you want? 2500K? 2700K? 5000K? ? Y’all, life is complicated enough. Did we really have to go muck it up even more with the additional stress of making all of these light bulb decisions? 😀
Over the last five years, any time I needed new light bulbs, I’d purchase GE Reveal bulbs, which are LED bulbs rated at 2850K. I’ll admit that I chose Reveal bulbs because I was swayed by another blogger who was paid to use and promote that product and convince her readers how wonderful they are. Her paid promotion clearly worked on me, because I’ve been replacing old bulbs that go out with GE Reveal ever since.
But I’ve never been thrilled with them. As a person who absolutely loves color, I’d notice when I turned on a light, especially at night, all of my beautiful colors in my home would look dull, lifeless, and yellow. It really became noticeable when I got the new settee in the music room. During the day with just natural light — even the relatively little natural light the music room gets compared to the living room — it was a beautiful, vibrant color. At night when the lights were turned on, it looked dull and way too orange.
The whole lighting issue really got to me the other day when I was trying to take pictures of the finished living room. I took those pictures in the mid-morning (probably around 10:00am) on Wednesday. And while it has been rainy and cloudy here lately, the living room was still filled with beautiful natural light. It was diffused light because of the cloudy weather, but it was still so pretty, so I took all of those pictures using only natural light.
(Note: If you’re reading this post on any website other than Addicted 2 Decorating, that means you’re reading on a site that is stealing my blog content. I hope you’ll consider joining me on my actual blog by clicking here.)
But there were a couple of angles I wanted to photograph that included rooms that didn’t get as much (or any) natural light, like the kitchen and the hallway. Our hallway has absolutely no direct natural light, and the kitchen gets indirect natural light through the breakfast room windows. That means that on cloudy days, those rooms can still look pretty dark. So I wanted to turn on the lights in those areas so they would show up nicely where they were included in those angles.
Here’s what I ended up with…
You can see how beautiful the natural light looks in the living room, where all of the colors are bright, true, and not yellowed at all. And then there’s the kitchen, where everything has a yellow/amber look and the colors are dull. That’s with GE Reveal bulbs in the main center light fixture, and recessed lighting (the kind with the trim kit and bulb all one piece) in a different brand, but all of those were around 2850K.
So I ended up turning off the kitchen lights altogether, which looked like this…
It’s not horrible, but I sure did want my kitchen to show up more in the photo. But with only natural light, even though it’s dark in there, you can see that my cabinets have absolutely none of that yellow/amber hue to them. They’re a pretty clear mid-range teal color.
The same thing happened when I tried to take a picture from an angle that showed the hallway. The hallway had GE Reveal bulbs in the ceiling fixture. I ended up deleting that picture and avoiding that angle, but you can imagine my bright living room with the clear colors with a glowing yellow/amber hallway in the background. It was awful.
So yesterday, I decided that it was time to find a solution. After doing some reading online, I came to the conclusion that my only option was to use daylight bulbs.
Ugh. Daylight bulbs. The rooms I’ve been in where daylight bulbs are used feel so sterile and lifeless, and they generally have a very fluorescent lighting feel to them. The light is so harsh and bright that it’s almost blue. The idea of putting that throughout my house didn’t sit well with me at all.
Another consideration was that I wanted to use the same brand and same color temperature throughout the main areas of the house, which limited my options. I wanted the same brand of bulbs in my lamps and ceiling fixtures, as well as the recessed lighting. And since I really didn’t want to buy separate bulbs and trim kits, I needed that brand to have the trim kit/bulb combo.
Well, that led me right back to GE. Their Reveal bulbs are what I had been using, but they had a daylight bulb called Refresh that came in all of the options I needed. (The recessed bulb/trim kit combo is actually Relax/Refresh, which means it can be set to 2700K, which is a warm light, or to 5000K, which is daylight.) I decided to go for it, and I have to say that not only am I pleased with the light (it doesn’t feel too harsh or sterile or blue at al to me), but I can’t believe the difference they have made in the colors in my rooms! The colors under these lights look so true, and they look just like they do with natural sunlight.
Let me show you what I’m talking about. And to be very clear, I edit all of the photos that go on my blog for overall brightness and fill light (i.e., adding light to shadows). So all of the pictures below have been edited for those two things. But 99.999% of the time, I also have to edit pictures for color and white balance (i.e., correcting for the yellow/amber lighting so that colors will show true).
I did not edit the pictures of my finished living room for white balance in yesterday’s post, and I did not edit any of the photos in this post for color or white balance. Every one of these will show the colors that came right out of my camera. So let’s look at some comparisons.
First up, let’s go back to that living room picture with the kitchen in the background. This is with natural light in the living room, GE Reveal bulbs in the ceiling fixture in the kitchen, and about 2850K lighting (same as the GE Reveal) in the kitchen recessed lights. (Please excuse my messy kitchen counters. 🙂 )
The recessed lights above the peninsula are on a different switch, and I didn’t have them on for the picture above, but since they’re the same color temperature as the rest, having those lights would have increased the brightness, but the colors with the dullness and that yellow/amber would have been the same.
And below is a picture I took just this morning with the new GE Refresh daylight bulbs in the kitchen. Look at the huge difference in the cabinet color!
This is the first time I’ve EVER taken a picture of my kitchen cabinets and had them show up true to color without editing the picture for color and white balance.
Again, not a single one of these have been edited for color or white balance. Edited for overall brightness and fill light? Yes and yes. Edited for color and white balance? No and no. Isn’t that amazing?!
I have an advantage in the kitchen because those lights are on dimmers. That means that I can dim the lights (which are very bright on full strength) to match the natural sunlight coming through the windows in the living room and breakfast room on a cloudy day like today. None of my other lights are on dimmers, but that will soon change.
Next up, here’s the hallway, music room, and kitchen with the old lighting. This is with GE Reveal in the hallway, music room, and kitchen light fixtures, and a different brand recessed lights with very similar color temperature in the kitchen.
This next picture is with new lighting (GE Refresh) in the music room and the old lighting (GE Reveal) still in the hallway. This was taken last night around 10:00pm. Keep in mind that the walls in both rooms (the stripes in the hallway and the trellis stencil in the music room) are painted with the same colors — Behr Polar Bear and Benjamin Moore Classic Gray. But they sure don’t look the same at all!
And finally, here are all three areas — hallway, music room and kitchen — with all new GE Refresh. I can’t believe how true these colors are right out of my camera with absolutely no editing for color or white balance! Look at how clear the colors are on my kitchen cabinets. And that gorgeous color on the settee!
I definitely want to add a dimmer to that music room chandelier. Light that bright is a bit jarring at night, but I’m loving the color temperature and the fact that the colors in these rooms are so clear and true.
This is another “before” picture of the same area. I used the native wide angle setting, which is why things look a little distorted, but that’s not important. Take a look at the lighting colors from one side to the other. The living room is natural light only, while the music room and the kitchen are mostly GE Reveal (with recessed lights in the kitchen the same color temperature as the GE Reveal). Both rooms do get some indirect natural light from the living room and the breakfast room, but you can see from the right to the left, the rooms get progressively more yellow/amber. You can also see that the floor also goes from a true medium brown on the right to orange on the left.
Next let me show you the kitchen. Here’s the back wall of the kitchen with the old lighting. Pay attention to the upper cabinet color. You can see here that it looks pretty dull. The recessed lights aren’t GE Reveal, but they are a similar color temperature (around 2800K), and the main light fixture has GE Reveal bulbs in it. So this is the original.
Here’s a comparison of the old and new. The recessed light on the far left has the new GE Refresh (daylight 5000K) bulb with trim kit, which is a 65 watt equivalent. And the left sconce has a new daylight bulb as well. The other two recessed lights and the right sconce are the original lighting. See the difference in the cabinet color? I wish I had turned off the undercabinet lights, because that’s a warm white as well. But if you just look at the upper cabinets, you can see a huge difference.
And here it is with all new lights. I also put the new daylight bulbs in the sconces. Again, that warm white undercabinet lighting is throwing off the color of the tile and the lower cabinets, and it looks even yellower with the new daylight bulbs above. But you can still see a huge difference on those upper cabinets.
And next, I’ll show you the peninsula lighting. This is the original lighting, and while my camera didn’t pick up a whole lot of the yellow/amber color, pay attention to the color of the whites (tile and trim) in the kitchen compared to the living room. This was taken about 11:00pm last night. See how the whites look the same in both rooms?
And this is with the new lighting in the kitchen and the old lighting in the living room. Check out the difference in the whites from the kitchen to the living room. The whole living room now looks aged and dull.
I think that’s amazing!
And finally, I haven’t switched out the living room lights just yet, but I can show you the natural light compared to the warm white bulbs. Here’s the room with the natural light. Pay attention to the rug colors and purple chairs. See how bright and true those colors are?
And here they are at night under warm white (not GE Reveal) recessed lights. Ugh…so dull. Except notice the curtain panel by the lamp on the side table. See how true that pink is? It looks almost identical to some of the pictures in the living room before and after post that were taken in all natural light. That’s because that lamp has a new (although too bright, which is why it’s glowing 😀 ) GE Refresh bulb in it.
But these colors just look dull and depressing.
So anyway, I feel so much better about the lighting in my house now, and I love that I can flip on a light without the colors getting all dull and lifeless. Now I flip on a light, and the colors stay vibrant and true. And I LOVE that I have an actual plan now, and that I can go buy new bulbs with confidence.
My plan from now on will be this: Only GE Refresh daylight bulbs in all main areas of the house. (I’ll probably stick with GE Reveal for bedrooms, though.) For recessed lighting, the only option is 65 watt equivalent, which is plenty bright. For ceiling light fixtures, I’ll use 60 watt equivalent, but ALL of them will need to be on dimmers so that I can match the brightness of the natural light coming into the rooms that get a lot of natural light. I really think that’s key in not having a room feel cold and sterile, although as I said earlier, I don’t feel like the GE Refresh is as harsh as other daylight bulbs I’ve seen, and I don’t see any of that cool blue light that some have. Anyway, and then for table lamps and wall sconces, I’ll use 40 watt equivalent unless those are on dimmers, or unless the table lamp has a three-way switch.
I have a plan now. I like the feeling of not being lost or intimidated on the light bulb aisle anymore. 😀
Addicted 2 Decorating is where I share my DIY and decorating journey as I remodel and decorate the 1948 fixer upper that my husband, Matt, and I bought in 2013. Matt has M.S. and is unable to do physical work, so I do the majority of the work on the house by myself. You can learn more about me here.
I hope you’ll join me on my DIY and decorating journey! If you want to follow my projects and progress, you can subscribe below and have each new post delivered to your email inbox. That way you’ll never miss a thing!
eileen from texasMay 21, 2021 at 12:47 pm
This may be the most helpful and instructive blog post I’ve ever read on light bulb color temperatures. I’m going to bookmark this page so that I can refer back to it. Thank you for taking the time to take all the photos showing the difference in the temperatures. The contrast between the old GE Reveal yellow tones and the GE Refresh daylight tones is truly startling. I know what you mean about the dullness, it gets to you after awhile.
Donna AMay 21, 2021 at 12:52 pm
Wow! What a start contrast!!
Marianne in Mo.May 21, 2021 at 1:12 pm
I’ve never understood all the numbers associated with the new lighting. I just know I don’t like the cool white for Christmas lights! LOL! I *think* you’ve educated me a bit more than I knew yesterday!
MargaretMay 21, 2021 at 1:19 pm
Thank you, I thought I was confused by Covid brain when I tried to ‘grab some new bulbs’. The ones I’m used to were gone and too many new choices I didn’t understand. I’ve never heard of the temperature part. I appreciate this explanation!
CathyRMay 22, 2021 at 12:07 am
What a difference! Your kitchen ceiling looked pink with the old bulbs and with the new ones even the dishwasher is whiter. Again, I am flabbergasted at the difference. This was a time consuming post to get out and I’m beyond thrilled you took the time to put it together. A thousand thanks
JuliaMay 21, 2021 at 1:22 pm
This was a VERY informative post! I will now be shopping for new bulbs, the Refresh daylight ones.
LINDAMay 21, 2021 at 1:23 pm
I will tell you another great thing about using those daylight bulbs: if you have any depressive episodes during the wintertime due to dull, gray days – these bulbs will help immensely with that. And they are so low electrical usage, I leave them on all day on the gray days and don’t have the “blues” like I used to. Great bulbs. And you can find them in long lasting bulbs too. Love them.
chiflipperMay 21, 2021 at 1:32 pm
Kristi, may I have your permission to paste a link to this page? Houzz users would really benefit from seeing your comparison photos.
KristiMay 21, 2021 at 4:24 pm
Please feel free to do so! I wish I had this info a few years ago. It would have saved me a whole lot of money. 😀
Dawn M YeagerMay 21, 2021 at 1:34 pm
WOW!! What a difference in lighting. I love how you explained it all too!!! Think I’ll be out getting new lightbulbs!!! PS. Do you have a link for your chandy in the music room?? It is gorgeous!!!
KristiMay 21, 2021 at 3:25 pm
Yep! It’s from Horchow, and I bought it on sale. Looks like it’s on sale again right now. Here’s my affiliate link to it. Mine is the gold, but it comes in other colors: https://bit.ly/3hXuimT
V. CappsMay 21, 2021 at 1:43 pm
Thank you so much for showing us the difference in bulbs. I recently went to the internet to find out what type of lamp lighting was recommended for the living area. I thought I was crazy, it just seemed so dingy.
TessMay 21, 2021 at 1:46 pm
I have had similar problems too! Glad you found your fix! My problem that I’ve been unable to solve using LEDs is that at even the lowest-temperature-without-yellowing LEDs, are still too bright for my light sensitive eyes. I prefer a warm look in my rooms. Especially in my bedroom and open living/kitchen area which for the most part has a cozy library vibe to it. So for now, I still have to scramble for those hard to find incandescents until they quit making them altogether!
Theresa PennellMay 21, 2021 at 1:47 pm
Thanks for this information = I do not need any new light bulbs = when I do
I will purchase the GE Refresh – I really appreciate your in sight.
My home was built in 1980 and is really dark and this would help with brighting my rooms up.
Cheryl S-BMay 21, 2021 at 2:01 pm
Wow, what a huge difference! I’m going to look for one for my easel, as I have been struggling with the colors on an oil painting because of the lights! Thanks for the help! Love your blog!
Sherry LeggettMay 21, 2021 at 3:36 pm
Thanks so much for this post. I am staging my house to sell and I had intended to replace all the led daylight bulbs so I could take the expensive ones with me instead of having to replace them in the new house. This post is so (revealing) lol, that I will leave them because the correct lighting will help to sell the house.
KayMay 21, 2021 at 2:49 pm
We did the same thing a few years ago. What a difference! It’s not as depressing with white daylight bulbs. Our children have done the same thing after seeing ours. You did a great service to people who prefer clean looking spaces.
Mon WMay 21, 2021 at 3:06 pm
I’ve explained the color numbers to folks who remember those old fold out makeup mirrors with the different color tints; office, outdoors, candlelight. I’ve explained it with white balance on camera settings, too.
Most hardware and paint stores show the bulbs with a booth for you to see the tint on your hand or the paint sample.
After moving to this house with the family room without windows, I’ve embraced the three way bulbs in the three way sockets in our lamps for time of day and seasons. I need more light for my eyes as I age.
Guests have positively commented on the lovely light in the windowless room, no matter the season or time of day.
Connie FosterMay 21, 2021 at 3:19 pm
I love how you have shown the contrast between the lights in your photos, so thank you for that! As an artist, I rely on my “daylight” bulbs for my art studio on those dreary TX days in a room with only one window and didn’t realize I could also get similar “daylight” bulbs for my entire house like that! Thanks for sharing all this valuable information! Bookmarking this page 🙂
MarieleMay 21, 2021 at 3:32 pm
Heeehhh. My apartment looks like your afters. My secret? Fluorescent lights. 😛 Everyone rags on them, but I think they’re gorgeous and mimic natural sunlight. I also have layered warm lighting in lamps, which help create a more varied and lively atmosphere, but the overheads are all daylight fluorescents.
cydMay 21, 2021 at 3:43 pm
I may have missed it, but what is the Kelvin (K) of the new Refresh bulbs?
KristiMay 21, 2021 at 4:31 pm
They’re 5000K. I was shocked to find that GE doesn’t have anything between the Reveal (2850K) and the Refresh (5000K). I was hoping there would be a happy middle point — somewhere in he 4000-4500 range, but I couldn’t find anything like that. I’m very pleased with the Refresh, though. It’ll take a little time to fully get used to it since I’ve only ever used warm light, but I don’t think it’ll take long. I’m just loving all of the true colors in my home.
ChrisMay 23, 2021 at 1:37 pm
It’s amazing the difference color temperature and lumens make. I never cared for 2800K lights because they make everything look so light amber; I use 4000K LED bulbs and love the color. If anyone wants to give them a try I can recommend the Great Eagle brand on Amazon.
Alexsandra ThompsonMay 21, 2021 at 3:58 pm
I have Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter months and found out about daylight bulbs years ago. It was life-changing! When I changed all my light bulbs to a daylight type, not only did it help in the winter months, I found I preferred the daylight type bulbs over anything else. They really do make colours more true.
PMLMay 21, 2021 at 4:05 pm
Light bulbs nowadays really are the worst 😂 I’ve got so many expensive light bulbs that I don’t like and some are too dim or too yellow or practically blue. I’m about to change my kitchen recessed ones out and I think I’ll be really happy with it. No more yellow cabinets!! Your choice looks great.
Karen MMay 21, 2021 at 5:49 pm
I changed the globes in my home to daylight a few years ago at the recommendation of my optometrist. I was sure I needed new reading glasses but he said they were fine and suggested the switch. It’s amazing how much clearer things are and it makes reading ingredient lists on packets so much easier, before I was taking everything to a window to see it more clearly.
Joan HornungMay 21, 2021 at 6:21 pm
Kristi, Thank you for taking the time to do this experiment! And thank you so much for sharing. The differences are stunning. I absolutely love your cabinet color and it is so muted with that other bulb I can hardly believe it! I will be changing some out myself now, and since we are working on plans for a downsized home I know what to look for now. I would rather have less wattage but still true colors than the yellowed out dull look anyday.
CynthiaMay 22, 2021 at 12:05 am
Maybe it’s just a trick of the photography, but the kitchen shots with the new lights hurt my eyes. Literally cause me to shrink back a bit. Yes, the colors are vivid and true, but I don’t see depth, nuance or shadow now, no suggestion of sunset, candlelight or firelight — nothing signaling that it’s evening and time to turn on the lights and experience the house more intimately. The new bulbs create a beautifully illuminated exhibit, like a gallery, but some of the soul of your rooms seems to get lost a little in all that hi-def, color-true brightness. Maybe the dimmers will make the difference. I hope so, because I’ve liked the FEELING of your rooms as much as their looks.
Vicki BucyMay 22, 2021 at 11:20 am
Very interesting. I’ll be changing my bulbs out as I need to. On another note, what is that floor cleaner in the picture of the music room? Is it a buffer or something?
I love your site and look forward to every post.
EdwinaMay 22, 2021 at 11:23 am
A big thank You!! I am sold.
Betsy NickelMay 22, 2021 at 12:08 pm
Please note that daylight LED bulbs attract flying things at night. It can be quite impressive. I like the warmer LED bulbs in the bathroom for a better look in the mirror! I have a sewing/desk lamp that not only dims but changes color temperature as needed. I think the future is going in that direction. Some in-ceiling (can) lights can be changed in color temperature according to your mood. One has to run to keep up! Remember when halogens were the thing? They were so hot they could burn you, and the light is just like daylight LEDs.
Rochelle BlackfordMay 24, 2021 at 8:05 am
what a difference! WOW. Thanks for that info. And I have to ask, where did you get those birds that are hanging on the wall??? I just love those!!!!
KristiMay 24, 2021 at 11:48 am
They’re from Amazon. I used two sets of them for that wall. Here’s my affiliate link: https://amzn.to/3bQb8vj
I originally found them at Ballard Design, but they sell a set of five birds for just under $100. Then I found them on Amazon where they have a set of six birds for $60. So I bought two and had twelve birds for my wall. 😀
MicheleMay 28, 2021 at 10:36 pm
I’ve used GE Refresh Daylight bulbs in my entire house for years. I LOVE THEM. If it looks too harsh, it’s because I used too bright of a bulb. I pretty much have it down now what brightness I need for every fixture in my home, but I had to make notes which seems so silly. They really did complicate our light bulb buying game (I remember the days when there was no “wattage equivalent” given and I had to do research to find out what I needed to buy… ack!), but the temporary aggravation was worth it! 🙂
designdreamerMay 31, 2021 at 11:00 pm
Da! I didn’t even know light bulbs had a temperature!
SandraAugust 13, 2021 at 1:50 am
WOW!!!!! You did a wonderful job explaining my exact lighting dilemma! I had no idea why my newly painted BM Simply White living room looked yellow/amber and ugh! I was going to spend so much money getting it repainted, but now I am going to try the GE Refresh daylight and see how that works. Thank you again for the time and effort put into such a thorough blog. Best to you and Matt.
Kimberly M FregiaNovember 9, 2021 at 12:22 pm
By far one of the most amazing post that actually showed me exactly what I was searching for.
WillyMarch 24, 2022 at 10:05 pm
Wait a minute. I’m stumbling around looking at new chip led recessed lighting for our kitchen which has eleven pot lights.
I only use reveal but the durability is absolute crap and I’m seeing very reasonably priced chip led lights that you can put a nighttime halo ring only on and I think that would make our kitchen look cool. Like this:
However, in my sloth like speed that I operate on with some things, I’ve continued to buy reveal bulbs. I’ve tried the GE Reveal LED version and it sucks for the color of our kitchen cabinets. The incandescent reveal bulb makes our honey oak cupboards come alive. The led version was horrific.
So for me, if I could just switch to the GE Refresh version and call it a day, that may be the best thing for me.
Which brings me to my question for you though, you stated a paid blogger got you into reveal bulbs. Are you being paid to promote the GE Refresh line? 🙂 Cause I’m pretty much sold and am going to do a comparison test. So kudos to you!
But the halo ring light at night has a real appeal for me and it’s led and pretty damn cheap and no bulb to replace. But there again, my sloth like speed comes into play! If the colors not right it’s a wasted exercise.
Thank you for an extremely illustrative post on this lighting issue. It was a tremendous read!
Kristi LinauerMarch 25, 2022 at 4:31 pm
No one paid me for this post, which is why I had to spend $507 out of my own pocket for new lighting. 🙂
Karen JacksonOctober 20, 2022 at 11:13 am
Thank you so much! You refer to yourself as “addicted 2
decorating”, I guess I could say that I am addicted to lighting. I was just about to order two GE Reveal lightbulbs for my bathroom, but after reading this I have changed my mind and will now by the Refresh instead.
Teri DavidsonJanuary 14, 2023 at 11:55 pm
Thank you so much for this article and all of the effort and work that went into the thorough reviews. Can you tell me what you have found to work when a 3 way bulb is needed?
Kristi LinauerJanuary 17, 2023 at 10:06 am
I don’t have any lamps that require a 3-way bulb, so I didn’t even look for one. It’s possible that GE makes a 3-way bulb that would be compatible.
PaulJanuary 31, 2023 at 11:03 pm
Lots of good info regarding color differences in the article Just something to keep in mind though … some have reported eye strain associated with daylight bulbs. Obviously it may depend on the person, but one more thing to consider. I’ll see if I can link one of the articles below. If not, Google “daylight led bulbs eye strain” for some info if it may be a concern.