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Types of Light Bulbs and How to Choose the Right One

When choosing the suitable light bulb for a specific indoor space there are a number of factors to consider. Many people don’t know how to choose the appropriate light bulb because they don’t understand what the options are.

The atmosphere and mood of any room is strongly influenced by the lighting, so choosing the right bulb can have a genuine impact on the ambience of the room. Let’s take a detailed look at light bulbs and how to make the appropriate lighting choices for your home.

What is the Best Type of Bulb?

There are different types of bulbs on the market, but there’s no doubt that the best choice for energy efficiency and longevity is LED (light emitting diode) lighting. However, you may still have older bulbs in the home so it’s worth taking a glance at all common types available.

  • Incandescent – This type was the most common bulb for decades. It is a thin wire filament inside a bulb which is heated when current flows through it. The heat causes the filament to glow. Traditional incandescent bulbs will be harder to find in stores nowadays. Incandescent lights are not energy efficient and should be replaced with LEDs.
  • Halogen – A halogen bulb is also an incandescent bulb but it has a tungsten filament. The filament is sealed in a cocoon that is filled with gas and halogen. These can produce a brighter, more intense light but they do get extremely hot. Halogen bulbs are not very energy efficient either.
  • Fluorescent – Fluorescent CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs use mercury based gas. When electric current flows into the bulb it ignites mercury gas vapours, which produces the light. These are energy efficient and last a long time. The danger is if CFL bulbs are broken you risk being exposed to mercury. When fluorescent lights burn out, they should be disposed of properly by taking them to a local hardware store.
  • LED – A light emitting diode is a semiconductor that emits light when current flows through it. Not only are LEDs the most energy efficient and longest lasting bulbs, they don’t give off heat like incandescent and halogen bulbs, reducing the strain on your electrical system. LEDs are available in all styles and, at this stage, are the future of residential lighting.

Matching Light Bulbs with Light Fixtures

One of the most important factors to consider is the type of light fixture that the light bulb is being matched with. For a start, you will want to get a suitably sized bulb for the light fixture along with the correct connection.

Different sized bulbs will be required for recessed lighting than the many styles of pendant lights or track lighting.

There are two main types of connection – the screw-in bulb (Edison) and the connection with two prongs which is pushed in with a clockwise turn (GU10). Within these different types of connections there are also different sizes. A standard bulb will be larger than a candelabra bulb’s connection.

How is Light Bulb Power Measured?

It’s not possible to judge the power of a bulb on wattage alone. The power of a bulb needs to be measured in lumens, which determines the brightness of the bulb.

For example, a 300W (watt) incandescent or halogen bulb produces a powerful 5800 lumens, while a 45W LED bulb or an 85W fluorescent CFL produces the same amount of light.

You can see a chart on wattage/lumens on the Lighting Tutor website, which will give you an idea of what kind of power you might need.

What Does Light Colour Temperature Mean?

The colour temperature of light bulbs is measured in kelvin units. Essentially, the lower the kelvin temperature the more yellow (or warm) the light will be. The higher the kelvin temperature, the more blue (or cold) the light will be.

This means that less powerful bulbs are lower in kelvins while a brighter bulb is higher in kelvins. For example, a 2700k bulb is at the yellow light (or warmer) end of the scale while a 6500k bulb is as bright as daylight (cold light). Light bulb packages should show what colour temperature the bulb is.

Where Will the Light Bulb Be Used?

It’s not only important to match the bulb with the fitting but also with the room that you’re illuminating. Different rooms and spaces require different powered bulbs, and this is where the kelvin measurement comes into play.

If you’re planning to upgrade the lighting in any of your rooms, make sure you seek professional advice. Let’s shine a light on the most suitable bulbs for different rooms:

  • Kitchen – This is a room which needs a lot of light, so the kelvin temperature should be about 3500. You might have more than one form of lighting in the kitchen (e.g. recessed lights with pendant lights), so make sure they match as much as possible.
  • Bedrooms – Bedrooms usually require a warmer light, around 3000k or bit less bright for lamps. You might like to have a brighter bulb for reading lamps (about 4000k).
  • Bathroom – The bathroom requires a brighter light, around 4000k or more, because you want to see clearly in the mirror when you’re shaving or applying make-up. However, the power of the bulbs will depend on what style of lighting you’re using.
  • Living room – There are a number of ways to light the main family room or living room. It will depend on the height of the ceiling and how much you use lamps and other light fittings. You’re probably aiming for a warmer glow, particularly for TV viewing, and this is the ideal room for light dimming. Remember that not all bulbs are compatible with dimmer switches.
  • Garage – Another space which needs to be bright and requires a decent amount of light. A light temperature of around 5000k is recommended, whether it’s for working or just seeing clearly when you’re searching for something.

The Key Elements of Choosing Light Bulbs

In summary, here are the main things to consider when shopping for light bulbs:

  • Type and size of bulb
  • Type of light fitting
  • Light temperature required
  • Where the light is being used

That guide should make shopping for light bulbs easier and, in turn, lead to the ideal ambience for the rooms you want to illuminate.


Published: 2022-09-13

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