Light Bulbs

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

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 Lights

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:

 

LED

FLUORESCENT

HALOGEN

INCANDESCENT

EFFICIENCY

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)

50,000

10,000

1,000

1,000

ANNUAL OPERATING COSTS

Low

Medium-Low

Medium

High

LIGHT OUTPUT (WATTS/800 LUMENS)

6-8W

13-15W

45W

60W

COLOR TEMPERATURE

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)

Warm (2,700K)

COLOR RENDERING INDEX (CRI)

80-90+

Most are 60-70+

100

100

DIRECTIONALITY

Directional

Multidirectional

Multidirectional

Multidirectional

DIMMABLE

Most

Few

Yes

Yes

 

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:

 

What are the different light bulb shapes?

The most common light bulb shapes are:

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.

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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