Light bulbs are a part of everyday life and it’s always good to have some spares around the home. There are many different shapes and styles of light bulbs available on the market today but the choice can be confusing. From traditional incandescent bulbs to innovative energy saving LEDs, not to mention the number of different shapes and fittings, how do you choose the right light bulb for your needs?
When choosing light bulbs it is helpful to know the different characteristics and benefits of each type of bulb.
Incandescent light bulbs
Also known at tungsten bulbs, these are the traditional style bulbs that most people are familiar with. Incandescent bulbs contain argon gas and a fine filament. Electricity passes through the filament which heats it up and makes it glow, reaching a temperature of over 2000 degrees centigrade. This heat creates a warm yellowish white light.
Incandescent light bulbs are great value for money and come in a range of sizes, shapes and watts. They come with screw or bayonet caps and are fully dimmable.
However, incandescent light bulbs use around 95% of their energy to produce wasted heat, so they are not very energy efficient. They also have a relatively short life span of around 1,000 hours and need to be changed often.
Incandescent light bulbs are currently being phased out by a government initiative with the aim to use more energy efficient light bulbs.
Energy saving CFL light bulbs
Unlike traditional bulbs, CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs use energy to create light, not heat. This makes them much more energy efficient and around 80% cheaper to run. Energy saving CFL bulbs can take a while to reach full brightness, but they typically last around 8 times longer than traditional bulbs, so you need to change them less often.
CFLs are an economical choice for your home and create a warm, bright light that is perfect for most spaces. CFLs are ideal for rooms where the light is left on for long periods of time, but they are sometime affected by low temperatures so are not suitable to use in very cold areas.
Fluorescent light bulbs
A fluorescent bulb consists of a glass tube that is filled with a small amount of mercury and two coiled metal filaments. When an electric current is passed through, UV light is created, which is then turned into light by a phosphorus substance on the inside of the glass.
Fluorescent bulbs are available in many specialist shapes including circular and tube. Fluorescent lights produce less heat, so they are 4-6 more times efficient than a traditional incandescent bulb and have an average lifespan of 10,000 hours.
Because it produces a bright white light, fluorescent lighting is often used in practical rooms such as kitchens and offices, or spaces where there isn’t much natural light.
Halogen light bulbs
Halogen bulbs use a filament that is heated until it glows, in the same way as incandescent light bulbs. They are more expensive than traditional bulbs but last up to three times longer and are up to 30% more efficient.
Halogen bulbs are fully dimmable and produce a bright white light that is similar to daylight. However, halogen bulbs create a lot of heat energy and become very hot to the touch, so they need to be handled with care.
LED light bulbs
LED is the latest innovation in home lighting. Although the technology has been around for a while, LED lighting in the home has recently grown in popularity because people are realising its many benefits.
An LED (or a light emitting diode) uses a semi conductor, which contains electrons. When an electrical current is passed through it, the electrons move around and the LED emits light. LED lights don’t include a filament, so they produce much less heat than other type of light bulbs. As a result, they consume a very low level of electricity.
LEDs are up to 90% more energy efficient than traditional tungsten bulbs, so switching to them can significantly reduce energy bills. Although LED bulbs are more expensive than traditional bulbs, the price is reflected in their lifespan. LED bulbs can last 10-20 years.
Learn more about LED lighting with our Guide to LED Lighting.
How to choose a light bulb fitting
Once you know what type of bulb you are looking for, you need to match the light bulb cap to your existing light fixture. Before buying bulbs, make sure to check the type or code of the cap you need. There are three main varieties of light bulb bases.
Screw in: Often known as the Edison screw, this is probably the most common type of light bulb cap. The two main types of screw in bulbs include the standard E27 Edison screw (27mm) and the smaller E14 Edison screw (14mm). Screw in light bulbs have a metal screw base that simply twists into place.
Pin: Pin light bulbs have two metal prongs that push into the light fitting. Types include the GU10 (10mm) and GU5.3 (5.3mm). Litecraft also supply G9 (9mm) and G4 (4mm) bulbs. Pin bulbs are often used for specific light fittings such as spotlights and down lights and are most commonly used for halogen bulbs.
Bayonet: Bayonet light bulbs have a metal base with two pins on each side. The bulb is inserted into the fitting and twisted to secure the pins in place. Bayonet bases are often used in smaller fittings and lamps. Our bayonet light bulbs come in the large B22 (22mm) variety as well as the smaller B15 (15mm).
Which light bulb shape is best?
The shape of a light bulb doesn’t just come down to how it looks. The shape of a bulb can actually determine how far and in which direction the light source is directed. Arbitary (or A line), stick and spiral bulbs give off light in all directions, so are perfect for ceiling lights, pendants and lamps. Candle bulbs have a broad spread of light and are often used in table lamps. Reflector bulbs are most commonly used in recessed ceiling fittings because they direct light downwards.
Watts or lumens?
When choosing a bulb, it is important not to exceed the recommended wattage of your light fitting. It is also important to think about how bright a bulb will be and how the brightness will affect the mood of a room.
Light bulbs are traditionally measured in watts (e.g. 40 watt, 60 watt), which is a measure of how much energy a light bulb uses. However, most modern light bulbs such as LEDs are now measured in lumens, the actual measurement of how much light a bulb produces.
As a guide, a standard 40 watt bulb will produce around 415 lumens. However, energy saving bulbs use less energy to create light, so they can produce more lumens for less watts. An LED bulb which emits around 470 lumens only uses 7 watts.
By comparing lumens and wattage of different bulbs, you can choose a bulb that uses the least amount of energy for the brightest result. Litecraft display the watt and lumen value of each bulb, to make things easier for you.
Now that you know exactly what you’re looking for, take a look at the huge range of light bulbs available at Litecraft here.