Interior Lighting Tips: Comparing Light Bulb Types

Did you know that one type of bulb can knock off a considerable sum from the monthly utility bill? Or that one popular bulb will more than likely be banned worldwide by 2014? This article will explain the most popular indoor light bulbs and outline the advantages and disadvantages of using each one.

Incandescent Bulb

Incandescent Lamp

The fat bulbs that most of us have been using for general lighting in bedrooms since childhood are known as incandescent light bulbs. These lamps have been the standard for a long time due to the natural, warm light they produce and their undeniable low price. These bulbs are also very easy to put on a dimmer control in comparison to other lamp types.

The main problem with incandescent bulbs is that they consume two to three times more energy than the alternatives. This coupled with a much shorter lifespan (up to 1,500 hours) than its competitors makes incandescent bulbs an expensive option. This has led to a worldwide movement to ban their use before 2014 for the sake of energy. Some countries, including those in the European Union, have already begun this ban.

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Halogen Bulb

Halogen Lamp

Halogen bulbs are a type of incandescent lamp that produce an intense light with higher color temperatures than non-halogen incandescent lamps. Halogens are most often used in track lighting systems, ultramodern light fixtures, and, believe it or not, headlights. The intensity of the light makes halogen lamps a good choice for task lighting. Halogen light bulbs tend to initially cost more than non-halogen incandescent bulbs but make up for the difference with a longer lifespan (2,000 to 2,500 hours) and higher energy efficiency.

The trouble with halogen bulbs lies in the fact that they produce a lot of heat. This makes halogen lamps a bad choice for workspaces in close proximity to a halogen lamp or for children's rooms due to safety issues. Note that you should never touch a halogen lamp with bare hands or leave flammable materials nearby. It is best not to leave with these lamps on for an extended period without someone close at hand.

Fluorescent Bulb

You more than likely associate fluorescent lamps with the long fixtures found in kitchens, laundry rooms, and garages. The fact is that fluorescent lamps comes in many different shapes and sizes and can be used for diverse purposes and in various light fixtures. Fluorescent lamps produce a large amount of white light that reveals detail without producing excess heat. This together with a low operating cost makes fluorescent bulbs a ideal choice for work areas. The lamps themselves tend to cost more than both incandescent and halogen bulbs since a ballast is required for the function of a lamp. However, fluorescent lamps last ten to twenty times longer (up to 25,000 hours) than incandescent lamps and is the most energy efficient of these three types, though the life of fluorescent bulbs may lessen if it is turned on and off frequently. Note that the life of a fluorescent bulb should be indicated on the packaging.

One downfall for the fluorescent lamp is that it produces a very white light that does not seem as natural or warm as an incandescent bulb. This light has also been connected with the fading of paintings since it contains a high amount of UV rays. You may also notice that the bulbs become dimmer towards the end of their life and may not turn on in extremely cold temperatures.

Fluorescent bulbs have also been accused of being harmful to the environment due to the mercury and phosphor materials contained inside. Because of this used fluorescent lamps typically cannot be disposed of as regular trash. The disposal procedure is usually regulated by local government agencies.

Compact Fluorescent Bulb (CFL)

Compact Fluorescent Lamp

This type of fluorescent bulb has been offered as a replacement for the incandescent bulbs that may be banned by 2014. They are closer to incandescent bulbs in size but retain the energy saving properties.The two most common shapes are U-shaped and spiral. Recent developments have also led to a light that is more natural and similar to the light produced by incandescent bulbs.

Making the Switch to CFL Bulbs

There are a few things that you should consider when converting to compact fluorescents.


Though smaller than standard fluorescent lamps, compact fluorescent bulbs are nevertheless larger than incandescent bulbs. It is important to consider this since a compact fluorescent bulb might be to large for some of your fixtures.


A fluorescent lamp produces five times more light than an incandescent of the same wattage. So if you are using a 100-watt incandescent lamp to light a room, a 20-watt compact fluorescent will produce roughly the same amount of light.

Light Temperature

The light produced by fluorescent bulbs typically has a bluish white quality that may not seem as natural as light from incandescents. You can get an idea of the color by taking a look at the color temperature indicated on the package. Light from an incandescent bulb typically has a color temperature of 2,700 K, so if you want a more natural light, you should purchase a compact fluorescent lamp of that same temperature. Bulbs with a temperature of 3,000 K to 3,500 K produce a neutral white light. Anything above 4,000 K will be closer to daylight.

In Conclusion...

There are actually many more types of light bulbs than the three described here. However these are the most popular for interior lighting. Less common types include LED (light emitting diode) and HID (high intensity discharge). Choosing the right light bulb is all in all a matter of preference and savings. Well, that goes for all but the ill-fated incandescent bulb...

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Ray East III
Published: April 2010