Cheap LED screw bulbs are making our homes look gray and depressing

If you buy an LED screw bulb, already the default on many store shelves, it will likely be a piece of junk presenting a low color spectrum and inferior longevity. The mix of colored diodes in the bulb will superficially appear to give out a white of a certain warmth or coolness, but the poor color index is revealed in the color of everything it lands on. With restrictions on incandescents kicking in, get ready for an indoor world that looks bleak, sickly and gray unless you're prepared to fork out for expensive high-CRI bulbs. Speaking of which, manufacturers are happy to game (or lie) about Color Rendering Index: the 90+ CRI bulb you bought on Amazon is likely as bad if not worse than the honest crap you can get at the store.

If you don't mind spending extra money — say, three or four times as much per bulb, plus a $60 controller — and fooling around inside an app, you can get color-tunable lightbulbs today. They have different colored LEDs inside, instead of simply phosphor-treated blue ones. The Department of Energy notes that programming the bulb controls "may not be intuitive," that tunable whites won't necessarily match any other whites, and that colors may come out "cartoonlike." And they won't save as much electricity. The LED industry is still trying to develop an efficient green LED to go with the red, blue, and amber ones. Royer remains hopeful and is encouraged by the continued search for improvement. Tunable LEDs may overtake phosphor-converted bulbs in efficiency by the 2030s.

Until then, there's amber nail polish. Ordinary, transparent amber from the drugstore. "I highly recommend every person who reads this story buy this nail polish and start painting it on their LED bulbs," said Robin Standefer.

An interesting wrinkle for those with sleep quality problems: the blue diodes in LED light bulbs may be keeping you alert even when its hidden in the orange glow of a "warm" bulb. The simplest way to deal with this is to not use LED lights at all after sundown, but the science behind it is complex and up for argument.