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Light bulb buying guide

Guide written by:
Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff

Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff

22 guides
Are you looking to light your home or workplace, but choosing the light bulbs makes your hair stand on end? Between halogen, energy saving, and new LED bulb technology, which one best suits your needs? To help enlighten you, let’s shed some light on the subject.

Important features

  • Culot
  • Energy consumption
  • Number of hours
  • Color temperature

Choosing a light bulb for every use

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The types of bulbs can be divided into four large families. With identical wattage, they are distinguished by their energy efficiency and lifespan. Here is a quick overview:
 
  • Incandescent bulbs:  Until recently, these were the most widespread, but as it is less energy efficient than other models, it is becoming less and less common. It is, however, still commonly used in decorative light bulbs.
 
  • Halogen bulbs:  These have become a common alternative to incandescent bulbs. They are found in similar shapes, sizes, and wattages but are more energy efficient. They can produce very bright light which leads them to light large spaces, halls and passages, or use in meticulous work. Because they can endure the cold, they are also useful for outdoor lighting. If you select an energy efficient brand, you can reduce your consumption by up to 30% compared with conventional bulbs. It has a lifespan of 1,000 and 5,000 hours. Another benefit: immediate ignition.
 
  • Compact fluorescent bulbs:  These bulbs save a great deal of energy with a consumption rate 5 times lower than incandescent bulbs and a lifetime of 6,000 to 12,000 hours. Because they take a few seconds to reach full brightness, they are better suited to rooms where they will be regularly switched on and off, such as kitchens or living rooms. They come in a variety of shapes, colours, and sizes and some models can be used with dimmers. Possible disadvantage: not ideal for use at a distance of less than 30 cm.
 
  • LED bulbs:  Energy efficiency is the biggest perk of these bulbs. They last 5 times longer than a compact fluorescent bulb, with a lifespan of as much as 30,000 hours. They are highly versatile, perfect for frequent and intensive use as well as indoor and outdoor use and high and low temperatures.
 
  • Specialized bulbs:  Household appliances, like ovens and refrigerators, and devices such as night lights and torches, often require specialized bulbs. It is not likely to find a variety of options for these devices. You may have to settle for whatever varieties you can readily find.

Watts or Lumen?

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Wattage is not the only factor to consider with light bulbs. When considering luminosity, the lumen (lm) also comes into play. Wattage determines the amount of energy the bulb draws. Usually, the more powerful the bulb is, the less efficient it is. In any case, the power of the bulb has to match the power of the lamp, otherwise, you sacrifice the lifespan of the bulb and risk burning it out. 
 
On the other hand, if you want to know the amount of light emitted by a bulb, its luminous flux, you need to look at the lumens it produces. The more light the bulb produces, the higher the lumens. Higher efficiency bulbs will produce the same number of lumens while consuming fewer watts to do it.
 
To give you an idea of how wattage and lumens translate to energy efficiency, here is a quick comparison. A standard 60 W incandescent bulb produces around 900 lm.  By comparison, a 60 W LED bulb, which is much more efficient, produces nearly 6,000 lm. To produce 900 lm, an LED bulb only requires about 15 W of power.

What should I know about candelas?

To quantify how the light spreads in a given direction, we speak of luminous intensity which is calculated in terms of candelas (cd). A candle emits about 1 candela.
 
This intensity depends on the radiating angle of your bulb. A wider angle of illumination spreads the light over a larger area which results in a lower luminous intensity.

Other important information

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Beyond the measurements discussed above (W, lm, and cd), there is additional information on the packaging of the bulb that can help you in your choice:
 
  • The temperature of the colours:  different bulbs are able to produce several colours of light which are noted in degrees Kelvin. At higher temperatures, the light produced will be colder. Lighting above 4000° K creates a cold white/blue light. Lighting of temperatures less than 3000° K creates warm yellow/orange light.
 
  • The colour rendering index (CRI):  a scale from 0 to 100 which evaluates how much light produced by the bulb alters the colours of its environment. The higher the CRI number the closer the bulb is to producing natural light. A CRI of 80 is enough for functional lighting.
 
  • Energy consumption:  light bulbs can be classified from A (Economical) to G (energy-intensive). As you may expect, classifications nearer to A are preferable.
 
  • The ignition cycle:  this is the number of times a bulb can be turned on and off before it no longer functions. For toilets and corridors, which will be frequently lit and extinguished, choose a light bulb with a long ignition cycle.
 
  • Heating time:  this is the amount of time the lamp takes to reach its maximum illumination level. For stairs, toilets, and entrances favour a light bulb with a short heating time.

What are the different shapes of LED bulbs?

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LEDs come in a variety of shapes and offer a wide range of bases (only some bases are available on other types of bulbs). 
 
You can easily switch from classic lighting options to an economical version without much difficulty:
 
  • B22: this bulb works with the older B22 system base, something you might find at your grandmother’s.
 
  • E14: it has a fine appearance and a 14 mm screw cap which correspond with most conventional low power lamps (3 to 7 W). They usually provide a luminous flux oscillating from 150 to 500 lm. It can be used to replace the old bulbs of your supplementary lighting such as bedside lamp.
 
  • E27: equipped with a 27 mm screw cap, this bulb is standard for most lamps. It provides a strong light and works well for interior decoration.
 
  • E40: an innovative bulb, designed for outdoor use - often in public lighting – which adapts well to existing lamps.
 
  • G4: rather than a screw-base, these bulbs have a base with two 4mm prongs. It is reserved for low-energy (12 or 24 V), small fixtures for use in places such as your kitchen, the bathroom, and even your camper.
 
  • G24: with a rotating base, this ceiling light fixture can be easily adjusted to the precise angle of lighting you desire.
 
  • G9: despite its small size and capsule shape, it works in 220V. You can opt for it for your chandeliers and conventional lamps alike.
 
  • GU5.3: a low voltage bulb (12V) that offers a flexibility of use and the option for use in wet rooms. Since it is adjustable, offering angles between 30° and 120°, it is also coveted in targeted lighting.
 
  • GU10: also useful in targeted lighting. Well suited for use as a small spotlight for tasks such as illuminating artwork.
 
  • GX5.3: because it is recessed, it has a small profile and allows you to light even in small areas, as long as you can provide access to a 220 V power supply.
 
  • MR16: these bulbs can easily replace your halogen MR16 bulbs which are less economical than the LED version. Its compact size fits into many devices and most discreet spaces without impacting the range and direction of its light beam. Similar to many of the G category bulbs above, they are adjustable.
 
  • R7: with its elongated shape, it emits a powerful light flux (up to 44,000 lm, depending on the model) designed for illuminating large spaces.
 
If you want to adjust the light output of your bulbs, use dimmable light bulbs which allow you can adjust the intensity of the light.

Widely used and speciality bulbs

These are the most widely used bulbs:
 
  • B22 - has a tapered, pointed shape
  • E14 - small screw-base
  • E27 - large screw-base
  • GU10 – used for directional or spotlight
 
Beyond these bulbs, there are a couple speciality bulbs you will likely need to replace:  the refrigerator and the oven. If the bulbs are all the same, you can always use an oven-specific bulb in the refrigerator. 
 
However, the reverse is not possible as a bulb intended for your refrigerator will not be able to withstand the heat in an oven. In any case, there is no need to panic.
 
Appliance lamps use a standard size base (E14). Just make sure there is room to accommodate the glass bulb in the device as well.

What is a donwnlight?

Downlights are lamps recessed into the ceiling. If you want a good diffusion of light over a large area, turn to one of these. Downlights often have a swivel head which is very useful.
 
Regarding the bulbs, as low consumption become increasingly more common, there is nothing to prevent you from choosing a model that can accommodate halogen or LED bulbs.

And the LED tube?

To make it simple to understand, the LED tube is similar to a neon tube (secured with a 2-pin base and equivalent lighting power), but much more economical thanks to the LED technology.
 
If you plan to substitute an LED tube for your old neon tubes, you just have to choose the diameter you need: a T8 LED tube with a 26 mm diameter or a T10 LED tube with 30mm diameter.
 
If your neon flashes, consider changing the starter. It is a small cylindrical electrical appliance. There are different types, take note of the letter and the number combination before replacing it - it’s written on it.

A final recommendation

It seems obvious, but pay attention to the size of the glass and the type of base. If they don’t match, your bulb won’t fit.
 
The heating time is not to be neglected, nothing is more annoying than a corridor that takes too long to turn on.
 
While it’s not strictly necessary, it’s recommended to cut off the power before changing your light bulbs.


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Guide written by:

Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff 22 guides écrits

Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff

First of all, my studies have nothing to do with decoration or DIY as I was specialised in management.

My passion in DIY started 5 years ago (very recently!) Everything started when we bought a house to renovate from floor to ceiling. As I’m a self-taught person, I started working on different house project both inside and outside. My husband helped me but the student soon overtook the teacher!

And as there are a lot of green spaces in Creuse, gardening tools have no secrets for me. My friends and family often come to me for advice when it comes to DIY. Today, I want to share this with you!

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