(NewsUSA) – In today’s health-conscious times, chances are you read the labels of grocery items at the store before tossing them into your cart. And if you’ve ever accidentally shrunk a favorite sweater, it’s a safe bet you check clothing labels before putting them in the washing machine. But when was the last time you checked the label when purchasing light bulbs?

“The labels on light bulb cartons are mandated by the Federal Trade Commission, and like food labels, they are designed with the consumer in mind,” says Terry McGowan, director of engineering and technology for the American Lighting Association (ALA).

Light bulb labels answer the question: What kind of performance should you expect from this light bulb when you buy it and install it in your light fixture? In addition to factors like brightness, energy costs and wattage ratings, bulb labels also focus on the light’s appearance, which is described in words such as “warm” or “cool” and also in Kelvins.

Kelvins Count

The color you see from light bulbs involves two components.

“The first component,” says McGowan, “is what you see when you look at the bulb itself — that’s the overall tint or tone of the light. You might look at the bulb and say that it looks ‘cool’ or ‘warm.’ That color characteristic is called ‘chromaticity,’ and for bulbs used for residential lighting, chromaticity is expressed in Kelvins, such as a bulb of 2700 Kelvins, or 2700K.

“The second component is color rendering,” says McGowan, “which is more subtle than chromaticity because it involves much more human judgment about what the eye is seeing. Color rendering, expressed as a number using the Color Rendering Index (CRI), describes how lifelike or natural people and objects appear.”

Natural daylight and standard incandescent bulbs have a CRI of 100, with all other light sources being measured against them. For example, if a bulb has a rated CRI of 80 or 90, that means the light from that bulb will not render the colors of objects or people as well as if they were in natural daylight.

New bulb technology, particularly with LED bulbs, means bulbs are available in myriad brightness levels and colors.

An ALA retailer can help you select the perfect light bulb to provide the best color and ambience for your home. To find your closest ALA-member store, go online to americanlightingassoc.com.