What you need to know about light bulbs

Choosing a light bulb used to be easy – there was only one kind available. Now you have the choice of incandescent, halogen, fluorescent or compact fluorescent (CFL). The following information will help you understand the types of bulbs available.

Something as simple as selecting the right light bulb can reduce energy bills and reduce the amount of heat produced by the light. Certain types of light bulbs, such as compact fluorescents, are up to four times more energy-efficient as standard incandescent bulbs.

Why do standard incandescent bulbs use so much more energy? Well, for one, they’re producing quite a bit of heat along with the light. Fluorescent bulbs, on the other hand, are much cooler. Operating costs for the different types of lights are very different, and the most expensive is the incandescent.

Types of light bulbs

To choose the right lamp, you should consider the best bulb to get the job done. There are three commonly used bulb types:

1. Incandescent

The most common bulb used in lamps today because they are inexpensive, dimmable and widely available. Common incandescent bulbs vary from 15 to 150 watts and produce a warm, soft yellow-white light, emitted in all directions.

They are generally available in clear, frosted, or coloured. Incandescent bulbs are great for standard ambient lighting and higher wattages are good for task lighting. Never exceed the maximum wattage recommended for your lamp!

2. Halogen

Many of today’s lamps use halogen bulbs, which produce a bright, crisp, white light. They are the best at replicating the colour spectrum of the sun. Halogen bulbs have a longer life and provide more light (lumens) per watt than regular incandescent bulbs. Their small size and intensity make halogens great for task lighting. Since halogen bulbs burn hotter than other types, they require more caution. When changing a halogen bulb, be sure to wait until the bulb cools to touch it. Always use a clean rag to handle a halogen bulb, as oils from your hand will cause the bulb to burn hotter and can greatly reduce the life of your bulb.

3. Fluorescent

A very energy efficient bulb, using 20-40 per cent less electricity than standard incandescent bulbs, and can last up to 20 times longer. Many new compact styles make fluorescent bulbs practical for task lighting. Screw-in types can be used in place of incandescent bulbs in standard lamp sockets. Fluorescent lighting features a soft, diffused light.

3.1. Compact Fluorescent

Compact fluorescent bulbs are four times more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs and provide the same lighting.

CFLs are expensive, but they usually end up costing you half of what you would have paid if you used a normal light bulb, because they last much longer and use much less electricity for the same light output. Each CFL installed saves about 500kg of carbon dioxide emissions over its lifetime by using less electricity.

Use compact fluorescent bulbs in all the portable table and floor lamps in your home. Consider carefully the size and fit of these systems when you select them. Some home fixtures may not accommodate some of the larger compact fluorescents, as they are bigger than normal bulbs and may not fit into normal bulkhead-type fittings. Use the 11 or 12W compact fluorescents for this purpose.

When shopping for new light fixtures, consider buying dedicated compact fluorescent fixtures with built-in ballasts that use pin-based replacement bulbs.

For spot lighting, consider compact fluorescent lamps with reflectors. The lamps range in wattage from 13 watt to 32 watt and provide a very directed light using a reflector and lens system.