You're sitting at the kitchen table, enjoying a nice dinner, and all of a sudden a light bulb goes out on you. As you rummage through the house to try and find a replacement, you realize that you're completely out. A trip to the hardware store greets you with a few different types of light bulbs, and now you're not sure which one will work best for you home. Don't worry, we have you covered!

There are only a few different light bulb types out there for indoor lighting, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't know the basics about them. We're here to break down the facts so that you can make an informed decision and take this information with you when you need to restock.

Types Of Light Bulbs

Incandescent Bulbs

an incandescent bulb on a white background
  • Lifespan: 750 - 1000 hours

Incandescent bulbs cost the least and are most often seen in homes. Given their low level of light and capability to be used with dimmers, they offer a warmer glow to the room and keep things a bit more relaxed.

However, even though you see these the most often and would probably see dozens of incandescent bulbs for sale in hardware stores, they're not exactly the most reliable. Their wattage is pretty low, which means they don't have a huge lifespan and need to be replaced quite a bit. Incandescent bulbs need to be replaced just about every year, which makes them inefficient compared to others. It's also worth noting that these probably won't be on shelves for much longer, due to the high level of inefficiency.

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

a fluorescent bulb on a black background
  • Lifespan: 6,000 - 15,000 hours

These bulbs last ten times longer than an incandescent bulb does and use only a fraction of the energy. They also don't get nearly as hot. CFL bulbs are versatile and can be used anywhere that you once had an incandescent bulb shining. Unlike incandescent bulbs, though, they tend to give off more of a cooler light as opposed to a warmer look. So, depending on the look you're going for in your room, these bulbs might be best in a kitchen or a bathroom.

The only thing you really need to be careful about is the mercury. CFL bulbs, unlike incandescent bulbs, contain a small trace of mercury so you'll need to ensure you're careful so they don't break and using caution when you're disposing of them.

Remember that CFL light bulbs use about a quarter of the wattage to produce the same light from an incandescent bulb. So, for example, if you're using a 100-watt incandescent bulb, you should be finding a CFL bulb with a wattage between 23-26 to emit the same amount of light.

Light Emitting Diode Bulbs

an LED light bulb on a checkered background
  • Lifespan: 50,000 hours

An LED light bulb is your best bet for an energy-efficient light source that's long-lasting and versatile.

These are the bulbs you should be aiming to place in hard-to-reach places or in flashlights because the bulbs don't need to be replaced for a very long time. They're not necessarily the kinds of bulbs you should be using to light up an entire room, but they work well in more compact spaces because they give off directional light. You also don't need to worry about waiting for these types of bulbs to reach their peak brightness because they don't need any warm up time!

These light bulb types also don't contain any mercury, so you don't need to worry in the same way you do with CFLs. Don't be fooled by their lifespan, though. These bulbs definitely last for a long time, but you should still be aware of the fact that their brightness will dim as time goes on.

Halogen Bulbs

an isolated halogen light on a white background
  • Lifespan: 450 - 1000 hours

Halogen lights can be used in headlights or in the home. These types of light bulbs aren't the most popular, but they do have something to offer the home if you're looking for new light fixtures. For example, they might not last the longest, but they do give off more light while using the same amount of electricity as an incandescent bulb.

These light bulb types tend to emit a whiter light, which means that they do better in kitchens or even in an office lamp or under cabinets. However, these are the lights that are typically used outdoors.

Something you should be careful about with halogen bulbs is how hot they can get. Don't keep them close to any curtains or exposed in places where you're likely to inadvertently run into them. Also, even though they use less energy than incandescent bulbs, they also cost a bit more, so that's something else to be aware of.

Quick Tips

hanging bulbs from a ceiling

Lumens And Wattage

A few things you should keep in mind when you're purchasing new bulbs is to look at the lumens, not the wattage. The lumens found in a light bulb equals the amount of brightness you'll be getting. Because incandescent bulbs are already being replaced by more energy-efficient bulbs, you should be aware of how to replace your incandescent lights with an LED or CFL bulb.

Here is a quick scale you should be following:

  • Replace a 100-watt incandescent bulb with an energy-efficient bulb that gives you about 1600 lumens.
  • Replace a 75-watt incandescent bulb with an energy-efficient bulb that gives you about 1100 lumens.
  • Replace a 60-watt incandescent bulb with an energy-efficient bulb that gives you about 800 lumens.
  • Replace a 40-watt incandescent bulb with an energy-efficient bulb that gives you about 450 lumens.

Keep in mind that a light bulb's wattage is essentially just the amount of energy it uses. If you're opting for a light bulb that has lower wattage then you'll yield less light.

What To Look For

The kind of light you're looking for really all depends on the room that needs a new bulb and how much energy you'd like to save. You can save more money in purchasing incandescent bulbs, but you'll also be wasting more energy and spending more in the long run with constant repurchasing. However, an LED and CFL bulb will give you more bang for your buck with energy, but they offer a different kind of light that might not flow super well with particular rooms.

Depending on the look you're going for in your home, light bulbs also come in a variety of colors, especially LED lights. Check in with your local hardware store to see which colors are available and add something new to your space.

Consult with the professionals and see what they say about wattage, brightness, and the color of light!

light bulbs on a string outside

Now that you know the general basics of each light bulb, you can select which one is best for you, your home, and your personal tastes. The professionals will always be there to answer any additional questions and help you make the best decision for you and your home!

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