Shining Light On Light Bulbs
by Azure Graham
Buying a new light bulb can be a complicated process in this day and age. You need to know which type of bulb to get, what color to get, what size, etc. All of this is something you need to consider when purchasing a light bulb. Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Don’t worry we’ve done a lot of the leg work for you so you don’t have to go stumbling in the dark that is the world of light bulbs.
With there being so many types of light bulbs in the world, it’s important you know which light bulb is right for you. Here we’re going to cover the most common bulb types you can find in most homes: LED bulbs, CFL bulbs, fluorescent bulbs, halogen bulbs, and the good ol’ incandescent bulb.
LED bulbs are green, energy efficient, and extremely long-lived with their lifespan expectancy being 9-20 years. They can be used in fancy smart lighting fixtures as well as your regular light fixtures around the house, and even outdoor applications like porch lighting. If you decide to purchase an LED bulb for your home check for the amount of lumens it has on the packaging, not watts. These bulbs have a much lower wattage than other bulbs so lumens are used to measure the brightness. The only real downsides to LED bulbs is their price as they’re usually more expensive than other bulb types.
A cheaper, yet still green alternative to LED is CFL lighting. They are not as efficient nor as long-lived as their LED cousins, only with an expectancy of 7-9 years, but they have more power for less wattage than other lighting types. Known by their iconic coiled design these bulbs are more affordable than LED and cheaper to replace, and make a good choice for bulbs in lamps and lighting fixtures around the house. While they don’t heat up as much as other bulbs, it can take CFL bulbs a little longer to achieve their full brightness so keep that in mind when deciding where to place them in the home.
Fluorescent bulbs are long and tube-shaped, usually seen in kitchens or garages in strip, or linear, lighting applications. They provide bright, flood lighting for low energy making them ideal for places like basements, laundry rooms, and other utility rooms around the home. They have a lifespan of 2-7 years so you don’t have to worry much about replacing them too often.
Halogen bulbs are very bright, but short lived. They have the same wattage as incandescent bulbs, but are more energy efficient. They provide very bright flood lighting to areas, making them ideal for outdoor applications like spotlights, porch and driveway lighting applications. Halogen bulbs get very hot however, which causes them to burn out quicker than other bulbs. As such they only have a life expectancy of 1-2 years of regular use.
And lastly we have the pride of Edison himself, the Edison, or more commonly known today, incandescent bulb. Incandescent bulbs are cheap and easy to replace, but at the cost of a short lifespan of 1-2 years and being energy inefficient. They are susceptible to changers and temperature and aren’t as bright as other bulbs. These bulbs are mostly used for appliances like ovens, refrigerators, some automotive applications, and decorative purposes.
Now that you know about the kinds of light bulbs there are, you need to know about light bulb bases. There are two types of light bulb bases commonly used inside homes and apartments: screw bases and pin bases.
Screw bases come in three different types: the candelabra base, the medium or standard base, and the intermediate base. The candelabra base is smaller than standard and intermediate bulbs and is used for decorative lighting fixtures like chandeliers and sconces. The standard base is used for most common things like lamps, overhead lights, and ceiling fan lights, and it can be found in most home goods stores. Lastly, the intermediate screw base is smaller than the standard base but larger than the candelabra base. These types of bulbs are used inside appliances like ovens, microwaves and refrigerators.
The second kind of bulb bases are known as pin bases. For most homes we only need to know about bi-pin bases. Bi-pin bases are used for linear fluorescent bulbs that can be found in kitchens and other utility spaces like garages and basements, as well as the MR16 halogen bulbs used for driveway and back porch lighting.
Choosing the proper light bulb for your fixture is important, because choosing the wrong type can potentially damage your lamp or other light source. The first step in choosing the right bulb is making sure that the bulb base matches the lighting base. For instance, if your lamp has a threaded (screw) base, then the bulb needs to be a screw base type bulb. The second step is to check the limit of watts that your fixture can safely support. If your fixture states that it can only support 60 watts, then you need to get a bulb with 60 watts or lower. Another useful tip is to use bulbs designed or rated for enclosed fixtures for enclosed lighting fixtures, as enclosed fixtures cause bulbs to get hotter than usual and may shorten their lifespan.
Buying light bulbs isn’t as hard as it might seem at first. This covers the basic things you need to know when buying light bulbs, and illuminates some questions and confusion surrounding them. With enlightenment in the language of light bulbs, you won’t be going in blind for your next purchase.
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