How to Pick the Right Light Bulb - A Buyer's Guide
Need help figuring out which bulb works best for each application? Each different type of light bulb has their pros and cons, and certain bulbs work better in different spaces of a home or commercial area. Our light buying guide takes a deeper look at the different bulbs to see where each should be used:
LED stands for "light-emitting diode." This lighting technology is extremely energy-efficient, and it's the one you're most likely to find at the store these days. LEDs can provide both directional and diffused light, making them great for under-counter task lighting as well as overall room illumination.
Prices are competitive with most other energy-efficient technologies, but LEDs are still more expensive than many task-specific incandescent bulbs such as nightlights and appliance lights. While these bulbs usually last longer than incandescents, non-dimmable bulbs may burn out more quickly in areas with frequent power fluctuations. As such, you may want to err on the safe side and purchase dimmable bulbs. In addition, you can now find WiFi-enabled LED bulbs that work with Google Home, Alexa and other "smart" devices that allow you to brighten and dim lights - and even change their colors - just by speaking.
Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs)
Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) consume a quarter of the energy that incandescent bulbs do and last 10 times longer. Unlike the old fluorescent lights, CFLs are quiet, instant-on and have warmer, color-corrected tones. They can be used anywhere you would use a typical incandescent light bulb. CFLs contain trace amounts of mercury, a harmful substance. Although the bulbs contain far less mercury than other household items, care needs to be taken to prevent breakage. Also, when CFLs burn out, they should be recycled.
Fluorescent Light Bulbs
The typical fluorescent bulb gives a flat, cold light that's often bluish and harsh. It is a daylight-equivalent and cannot be put on a dimmer. There are many types of fluorescents on the market: warm ones, cool ones and special-colored ones, and they typically produce more light and last longer than incandescent. Fluorescent bulbs work well to light large areas like basements or attics.
Incandescent Light Bulbs
Formerly the most common type of bulb, incandescents produce a warm, inviting quality and are very complimentary to skin tones. Incandescent bulbs usually last between 700 to 1,000 hours and can be used with a dimmer; however, they're not as energy efficient as other options. Household incandescents are becoming harder to find, but they're still available as specialty bulbs for vanities, nightlights, ceiling fans, etc.
Halogen bulbs are a type of incandescent that gives a close approximation of natural daylight, known as "white light." Colors appear sharper under halogen light and the bulbs can be dimmed. They're a little more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs, but they're more expensive and burn at a higher temperature. Most often halogen bulbs are used in under-cabinet lighting, pendant lights and recessed cans. Remember not to use bare hands when changing the halogen bulb. The smallest residue of oil from a human hand can rub off on the bulb, creating an atmosphere where the bulb warms too quickly when the lamp is turned on, which can cause the bulb to explode.
Light Bulb Type Comparison Chart:
Uses up to 80% less energy than an incandescent
Uses up to 75% less energy than an incandescent
Uses up to 30% less energy than an incandescent
90% of energy is wasted as heat
AVERAGE LIFE SPAN (HOURS)
ANNUAL OPERATING COSTS
LIGHT OUTPUT (WATTS/800 LUMENS)
Varies by product; select high-quality LEDs for consistency
Ranges from warm (3,000K) to cool (6,000K)
Ranges from warm (2,700K) to cool (5,500K)
COLOR RENDERING INDEX (CRI)
Most are 60-70+
What to Consider when Buying LED Lighting
Shopping for LED light bulbs? The lighting experts at lighting and supplies want you to find the exact LED bulb you're looking for. To help with this LED bulb buying adventure, here are the main considerations worth noting before choosing the right bulb:
- Efficiency: Compared to conventional incandescent lamps, LED lighting lasts longer, is more durable, and is over five times more efficient. LED bulbs typically use only 2 to 10 watts of electricity.
- Brightness: LED lighting is measured in lumens, not watts.
- Cost: LED lighting fixtures have a higher upfront cost, but will have a greater lifespan in the long run.
- Design: The compact size of LEDs make them an ultra-flexible design element, which has allowed designers and manufactures to create shapes, silhouettes and technologies that simply weren’t possible before.
- Cool, not hot: LEDs convert electricity to light and do not cause heat build-up.
- Mercury free: No mercury is used in the manufacturing of LEDs.
- Slow failure: LEDs slowly dim over time at the end of their lifespan, rather than burning out abruptly.
- Dimming: In earlier years, LEDs did not “dim” in the way incandescent lights did, but they’ve come a long way. More and more fixtures now offer a “warm dim,” which not only lowers the light output, but also the color temperature.
What are the different light bulb shapes?
The most common light bulb shapes are:
- Standard Household – denoted with an A
- Candle or Decorative – denoted with a C
- Reflector – denoted with an R
- Mini Reflector – denoted with MR
- Parabolic Aluminized Reflector – denoted with PAR
- Globe – denoted with G
- Tubular – denoted with a T
The light bulb shape code will be listed on the packaging. The shape code consists of a letter that indicated the physical shape, followed by a number that indicates the size (measured in eighths of a diameter). For example, an “A19 bulb” means that that the bulb comes in a standard household shape and is 19/8 inches in size. A19 bulbs are the most common light bulb shape, so this is what you’ll see the most.
How Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs Compare with Traditional Incandescents
By replacing your home's five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with models that have earned the ENERGY STAR, you can save $75 each year.
Compared to traditional incandescents, energy-efficient lightbulbs such as halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and light emitting diodes (LEDs) have the following advantages:
- Typically use about 25%-80% less energy than traditional incandescents, saving you money
- Can last 3-25 times longer.
Today's energy-efficient bulbs are available in the wide range of colors and light levels you've come to expect. While the initial price of energy-efficient bulbs is typically higher than traditional incandescents, newer bulbs cost less to operate, saving you money over the life of the bulb. Many of the newer bulbs last significantly longer than traditional bulbs, so you won't need to replace them as often.
LED vs CFL Brightness
Are LED lights brighter than or equal to Compact Fluorescent (CFL) bulbs? The trick is to understand the technology. In short, LED and CFL as technologies do not have a difference in brightness intrinsically. Brightness is determined by lumens. Lumens is best described as the measurement of light. A single CFL and LED bulb might have the same lumen (brightness) output but vary greatly in the amount energy needed to generate that level of brightness.
Many LED bulbs in the past were not omnidirectional which gave the upper hand to CFL in various scenarios. For example, in a floor lamp, a CFL would perform better because of the light coverage was, at the time, much broader. In most recessed lighting (ceiling), however, the LED would have greater efficacy. Fast forward to new LED generations, and we see the little light-emitting diodes surpassing CFLs in overall energy consumption, color and even becoming more competitively priced in the marketplace.
What is the difference between E26, E27 and A19? (Light Bulb Base & Shape)
1.) Base Type
Screw in bulbs use a base called an Edison Screw or ES base. This base was developed by Thomas Edison for the first light bulbs and is still in use today.
There are four commonly used thread size groups for lamps and light bulbs:
- Candelabra: E12 North America, E11 in Europe
- Intermediate: E17 North America, E14 (Small ES, SES) in Europe
- Medium or standard: E26 (MES) in North America, E27 (ES) in Europe
- Mogul: E39 North America, E40 (Goliath ES) in Europe.
The number following the E indicates the size in mm of the external thread screw. Thus a E26 has a 26 mm base diameter.
You may see low cost LED bulbs using an E27 base on eBay and Amazon from foreign suppliers. While these technically will work in E26 bases, this is usually a sure indication that the bulb was not strictly designed for the US market and this bulb may lack a proper North American, UL or ETL safety certification and therefore should be avoided.
At lightingandsupplies.com, rest assured you will only be buying the highest quality light bulbs and light fixtures from the most reputable lighting brands in the US.
2.) Bulb Shape
Now that we have learned that E26 and E27 are terms used to describe the type of base used what does A19 or bulbs with an A designation mean?
A type describes a bulb that has a pear-like shape. The number that follows the "A" within the A series indicates the width of the bulb in one-eighth inch units or in millimeters.
The most commonly used A-series light bulb type is the A19 bulb which is 2 3⁄8 inches (60 mm) wide at its widest point and approximately 4 3⁄8 inches (110 mm) in length. This is the classic shape that most people are used to when shopping for a "Light Bulb".
Image Source: Earthled
What's The Difference Between An A19 Bulb And An E26 Bulb?
To add clarity to this comparison, the light bulb that most of us have used in our homes here in the States is an A19 bulb with an E26 base.
Lighting terminology can be confusing if you're not in the industry. And if you've seen what looks like the same type of light called both an A19 bulb and an E26 bulb, you might be wondering what the difference is.
Thing is, they might be the same thing.
A19 refers to the shape and size of the bulb itself. "A" stands for Arbitrary -- just the name of the shape that's familiar to most of us. "19" refers to the size -- in this case, 19/8" (or 2 3/8") across.
E26 refers to the type and size of the base -- the part that goes into the light socket. "E" refers to "Edison," which is the type of "screw in" style base people in the United States are most familiar with. 26 refers to 26 mm across. (This is also called a "medium" base.)
What are the different types of Light Bulbs?
The light bulbs have been illuminating our homes, offices, and buildings since Thomas Edison and Joseph Swan invented the first incandescent bulb in the 19th century. Two century after, the lights bulbs have seen tremendous development and significant improvement regarding efficiency, quality of light, density, and energy conservation. Even though, we still carry the basic image of a light bulb in our mind; the light bulbs are available in different shapes, sizes, voltages, and material. Lightingandsupplies.com offers lamps and light bulbs manufactured by LED lighting brands like EiKO, RAB Lighting, MaxLite, naturaLED, Westgate Lighting and more.
Here is the list of five most common types of Light Bulbs along with their respective advantages.
1. Incandescent Bulbs
Incandescent bulbs are the typical bulbs. In an incandescent bulb, a tungsten filament glows when the current passes through it, illuminating the bulb. The tungsten filament is surrounded by a vacuum or nitrogen gas. The bulbs are available in different sizes including GLS, globe, candies, mushroom. However, the sudden flow of current causes the filament to heat and burn out. Incandescent bulbs only work for 700–1000 hours and are cause energy waste.
The incandescent bulbs have been the most common type of bulbs in the buildings since the invention of bulbs and are only recently replaced by the newer form of technology including LEDs, Fluorescent and HID bulbs.
2. Fluorescent Lamps
The fluorescent bulbs are more complex than the incandescent bulbs. In a fluorescent tube, the electric current passes between the cathodes, exciting mercury and other gasses which are filled inside, radiating energy. The phosphorous coating at the outside converts radiant energy into visible light. The fluorescent lamps use less energy to produce the same amount of light and can last longer. But, these are difficult to dispose of due to mercury filling.
The CFL are designed to replace incandescent bulbs in homes and commercial building. Working on the principle of fluorescent lamps, the CFL produces the same amount of light with less power. It consists of multiple tubular loops, filled with mercury and has a resemblance to the incandescent bulb.
As compared to incandescent bulbs, CFLs have a longer lifespan up to 10000 hours, are more energy efficient, and have higher luminous efficiency. But, the mercury in the loops makes them difficult to dispose of.
Halogen lamps are an improved version of incandescent bulbs in which tungsten filament is wrapped with a compact transparent envelope. The bulb takes its name from the filling of a small amount of Halogen with an inert gas. The inert gas increases the brightness and lifespan of the bulb resulting in higher luminous efficiency. These lamps are also smaller in size as compared to the incandescent bulbs.
LED bulbs are becoming increasingly common because of their energy efficiency and a variety of light colors. LED is a semiconductor device in which the electricity is applied to the negatively charged diode, resulting in the flow of electron and release of the photon. The photons combine to emit light from the diode.
A LED bulb consists of multiple diodes producing the required amount of light. As a semiconductor, the LEDs are high energy efficient and can produce brighter light with less energy.
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