Light bulb shopping might not be something that you think needs much consideration in advance, but actually, there's more to it than you think.
Choosing between the different types of light bulbs on offer can often be a difficult task. What makes them stand out from one another? How do you know which one is the most appropriate for your needs? What about energy efficiency? Everything you need to know is covered below.
Knowing what you're after
If you're on the lookout for new light bulbs for your home, it's worth learning about the most common types of light bulbs available on the market today- of which we have highlighted our top five. That way, you can feel reassured by the fact that you are making a good investment in something that's going to be useful to you on a long-term basis.
Each type of light bulb has different features that make it unique in its own right. Their main differences usually come down to aesthetics and energy usage. Some bulbs, for example, may produce a bright, white light, but may use more energy as a result. Being clear of your own priorities in a light bulb will help make shopping for one easier.
With that in mind, one key consideration to make when choosing a light bulb is its energy efficiency. In recent years, the older, standard bulbs have slowly started to be phased out, in replacement for low-energy bulbs that are friendlier to the environment. If you are keen to ensure your household is as energy-efficient as you can make it, opting for a low-energy light bulb is a good idea.
It's also worth bearing in mind that some light bulbs contain small amounts of mercury, which, if accidentally released from a smashed bulb, can be toxic to the human body. However, this need not be a huge concern of yours- mercury is only harmful in large amounts, and at a very close range. But if the idea of owning a mercury-containing light bulb bothers you, you can simply avoid purchasing one that requires mercury to work.
The five most common types of light bulb
If you are looking for new light bulbs for your home, but don't know quite where to begin, here is a good place to start. This article should help you to understand exactly what it is that you are after, by detailing the five most common types of bulbs below:
A halogen bulb is a type of bulb that uses halogen gas to improve light output. They are favored for their good quality of light and high efficiency. Light is created when tungsten evaporates from a burning filament in the bulb, and the halogen gas reacts with this tungsten to increase the output of light.
Halogen bulbs are relatively low-cost, and can be used in a number of different appliances in and around the home. They are commonly used in overhead lights, and were, for a long time, the favored lower-energy bulb until alternatives were invented. They are also frequently used in streetlights and spotlights, and, because of their compact size, can be used in smaller appliances, such as tools and projectors.
The halogen bulb is nearly the least popular bulb of today, having been banned from use in Europe in an attempt to reduce the carbon footprint caused by the bulbs. While they are still available for use in America, these days, the more energy-saving bulbs that release smaller CO2 emissions are preferred.
Perhaps even less popular than the halogen bulb is the incandescent bulb. In fact, long ago, halogen bulbs were invented to replace incandescent bulbs as their more efficient alternative, owing to the fact that they could produce a brighter light at the same energy usage.
Incandescent bulbs work by heating a tungsten filament until it is hot enough that it glows white, producing light. It can only work because the filament is located inside the bulb, a glass encasing, which stops oxygen from preventing the filament from burning.
These bulbs are versatile in size and shape, and cheap to manufacture, making them ideal for household use. They produce a bright, strong light; however, they are more costly to run than other light bulbs currently on the market, and their lifespan is relatively short.
As with halogen bulbs, incandescent bulbs are currently being phased out, in replacement for the more modern, energy-saving alternatives. It is advised that you prioritise these alternatives over using incandescent bulbs in your home.
Known in full as Light Emitting Diodes, LED bulbs are one of the most commonly used, favoured energy-saving bulbs available today. You might have previously known them to be used in torches and Christmas lights, but these days, they have become the next big thing in home lighting.
While they cost slightly more than traditional halogen or incandescent bulbs, LED bulbs save money in the long run because of their compact size and efficiency. It's easy to forget that lighting can account for a substantial part of a household's electricity bill, and by simply switching to LED bulbs in all appliances, energy use can be cut down noticeably.
LEDs are particularly favored for their use in dimmable lights. Their quality of light also makes them a good option for spotlights, and their variety in size and shape makes them ideal for smaller appliances. It's worth noting that LED light is directional, which means it's better for focused lighting, rather than lighting that casts a general spread of light, such as lamps.
Because of their overall efficiency, LEDs last far longer than standard incandescent bulbs, and have a high durability. They require less electricity to run, and don't cause a build-up of heat, as incandescent bulbs were known for doing. While they contain a small amount of mercury, which has been cited as a toxic ingredient, the risks associated with the chemical do not appear to be substantial.
Similar to LED bulbs, but with a higher wattage requirement and a lower energy efficiency, are CFLs. They give off a similar, all-over light to incandescent bulbs, but are far more efficient, lasting approximately ten times longer and using a far less percentage of energy.
There are multiple benefits to using CFL, or compact fluorescent, bulbs. Like LED bulbs, a good quality CFL is more expensive to purchase upfront, but will save you money in the long run. This is because CFLs require less electricity to run, helping to lower the cost of the lighting portion of your electricity bill.
CFLs are far better for the environment than standard incandescent bulbs. They release much less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over their lifetime, helping to cut down on the level of atmospheric greenhouse gases causing harm to the planet.
Despite their energy efficiency, CFLs still produce a high-quality light that is warmer and softer than the light from older bulb types. Unlike LEDs, they cast an all-over spread of light, making them ideal for use in lampshades, ceiling lights and outdoor porch lights. They are also versatile in shape and size, making them appropriate for almost every household appliance.
Like CFLs, linear fluorescent bulbs are energy-efficient bulbs that are relatively low-cost and long-living. While they are still considered bulbs in every sense, they are not the stereotypical tear-drop bulb shape: they are usually available as straight or circular tubes.
LFLs make a great, low-cost, long-lasting option for an energy-efficient household. While they can be used anywhere in the house, they are typically seen in kitchen ceiling lights, garage lighting and storage cupboards. They are also favored for industrial and commercial use for their high-quality light and durability.
LFLs share all the benefits of CFLs, including low CO2 emissions, making them ideal for the eco-conscious homeowner. While they are less versatile in shape, there are still a number of different designs available, so finding what you're after shouldn't be too difficult.
Which bulb is for you?
Ultimately, your light bulb of choice should reflect your requirements for your home lighting. If you're looking for spotlights for your kitchen, for example, LEDs may be the best option. On the other hand, if you're after a long-lasting, high-quality bulb for your table lamps, CFLs might be the best option.
While the non-energy-saving light bulbs are still available for purchase today, it is generally recommended that the more efficient bulbs are favored over these. Switching up your bulbs can not only help you save money on your energy bills but also enable you to reduce your own individual carbon footprint, helping you to do your bit for the environment.
Shopping for a bulb can be tricky even if you're aware of which type of bulb you're after. It's worth noting that whichever bulb you go for, the cheaper the product, the poorer the quality it tends to be. If you're after a long-lasting bulb that produces good-quality light, investing in a slightly more costly product from a trusted brand is a good idea.