Buying Guide: Light Bulbs

We're all aware that the standard incandescent light bulb is now part of history.  New regulations have obsoleted it in favor of new technology - brighter, more energy-efficient, longer-lasting bulbs.  There are CFLs, LEDs and halogen bulbs to choose from now.  All three have advantages and disadvantages and each type has uses that it is better for than the others.  And now, instead of being measured in watts, we use lumens.  Watts were a measure of power, whereas lumens are a measure of brightness.

Oh Great and Mighty Wizard, I'm confused - which bulb shall I choose?  If I click my heels together three times, will I find the answer?

Probably not.  

You'd be better off to read the rest of this blog.

Bulb Comparisons

CFL - The advantages of CFLs are that they are cheaper, they fit in a standard light socket and they look a lot like the incandescent light we're used to.  They use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last 8-10 times longer.  The disadvantages are that they operate off of a delayed start - they need to warm up, so they're not instantly at full brightness.  Additionally, they contain mercury, which we all know is a dangerous metal. It's a bit of a hassle if you break a bulb - proper cleanup and disposal is critical.  Never put a broken CFL in with the rest of your trash.  You'll need to contact your local waste management authority for instructions on proper disposal procedures.  CFLs work well in table lamps and fixtures for illuminating rooms.  Typical life is 10 years.

 CFL

CFL

LED - These are the longest-lasting, most efficient bulbs.  That being the case, you'll buy fewer bulbs over time.  LEDs fit in a standard light socket with no need for any adapter.  They have an instant start - not delayed like the CFL, so you'll have full brightness right away with an LED.  They're cooler to the touch and, like the CFL, use up to 75% less energy than incandescents.  LEDs provide directional lighting, so they work well for outdoor lighting, under cabinetry or to create decorative effects, but don't work as well in table lamps.  Another down side to these bulbs is the cost.  They are a lot more expensive than CFLs. Having said that, the average life span of an LED is 10-25 years, so even though your initial outlay is greater, in the end you'll spend less because you'll buy fewer of them. 

 LED

LED

Halogen - Halogen bulbs are 10-20% more efficient than incandescent bulbs, but are the least efficient of the current choices.  They produce a bright, crisp light and work well for display lighting if you want to spotlight artwork or photos.  They also work well for bright outdoor lighting. One of the main disadvantages is that they are very hot and overheating halogens can be hazardous.  It's important to replace them immediately if you spot a malfunction.  They also have a very short life span.  I read one article that said they last about 6 months and another that said 1-2 years.  Either way, you're spending a lot of time and money  replacing them so frequently.

 Halogen

Halogen

At the beginning of the article, I mentioned that bulbs are now rated in lumens instead of watts.  To help you choose your lumens, consider:

  • 400-599    Cozy, relaxing
  • 600-1049   Comfortable, inviting
  • 1050-1489  Fresh, energizing
  • 1490             Strong, vibrant

By looking at lumens, energy use and typical lifespan, you can determine the choices that offer better performance and efficiency.  Have questions?  Call us at 877-795-2600.  We're here to help!