It can be a strenuous process deciding on which bulb to choose for your fixture. Since the 1970’s the lighting industry has steadily manufactured improvements for bulbs, sockets, drivers, and adaptors in order to keep up with the changing technologies. This large variety of light bulbs available at your disposal can be overwhelming.
Have you ever been to a local hardware store and bought the wrong bulb? Don’t worry, this dilemma is actually quite common. There are tons of things to consider before buying a bulb for your lights and we are here to inform you of the things you need to know!
How to Choose the Best Light Bulb
First things first, check for any labels on the bulb and socket of your fixture. If the writing isn’t too worn, you should be able to find valuable information. The labels should tell you the color temperature of your bulb, the base type, wattage, and voltage. If you are looking at the socket of your fixture, you’ll see that there is similar information including the model number. These items are important for figuring out the basics, but what about the shape of your bulb? Take a look at our list of different bulb shapes and see if yours is a match!
Light Bulb Shapes
1. Mercury Lamp
Mercury Vapor Lamps are ideal for both residential and commercial landscape projects. They can also be used for spotlights in sports arenas or other overhead lighting applications. They give off a warm white light or even a green tint that is perfect for landscape lighting applications. These lamps are phasing out since they tend to have a shorter lifespan than LED versions, so get them while you still can!
A filament is heated until it glows and produces the light in these bulbs. These are being phased out so that more energy efficient bulbs will be produced instead, but they last about a year and don’t contain mercury. They also include the added benefit of having the capacity to be used with a dimmer switch, so you can easily control the brightness in a room.
The compact fluorescent lamp is a mini-tubular design that became popular in the 1980’s when manufacturers started designing lamps that would be more energy-efficient after the oil crisis in the 70’s. These tireless bulbs are extremely effective since they last for hours and give off little heat. However, this due cost more than incandescent bulbs.
The twisted style of fluorescent light bulb was perfected by Chinese manufacturers a decade after the CFL lamps became popular. Manufacturers all over the globe imitated the twisted design since they also exert less energy than incandescent bulbs and have a long lifespan. As a result of less energy being used, they increased in popularity for both residential and commercial use in the 2010’s.
The fluorescent tubes are a costly expense and are generally used for commercial buildings like schools, offices, and grocery stores. It’ll take a while to recover from purchasing these if they are ordered for a large installation project. Although they provide a great amount of light, it can be a hindrance at times since they aren’t dimmable. The greatest disadvantage is the lifespan of these tubes. Their short lifespan is the reason why many companies are retrofitting for LED tubes instead.
Globe-shaped LED bulbs resemble the traditional incandescent bulbs. Instead of using a filament inside, the LED powers the bulb and uses a lesser amount of energy. The globe shape is perfect for modern designed lighting fixtures. They look amazing in luxury condos or commercial, design-savvy offices.
Flame-shaped bulbs are perfect for fixtures like chandeliers or sconces. These bulbs usually come in a variety of warm color temperatures in order to create a cozy atmosphere. They are ideal for residential spaces or hotels and provide a warm and inviting atmosphere for residents or guests.
8. A19 LED Bulb
A19 bulbs are more expensive than your traditional household bulb, but they give excellent results! These bulbs are energy efficient and great for both indoor and outdoor applications, depending on rating. The A19 bulbs are difficult to break, therefore reducing the risk for potential fires or electrical issues. These also come in dimmable and non-dimmable options as well as cool white, neutral white, warm white, and residential warm white color temperatures.
These LED tubes are great for replacing your old fluorescent tubes. They provide even lighting, a longer lifespan, and are available in dimmable options. These lamps are for specific types of surface lighting and hanging bay lighting fixtures. There will be a pricey investment, but they’ll drastically reduce the energy bill of any warehouse or commercial building.
10. Spotlight Bulbs
Spotlight bulbs are used in recessed lighting type of applications. There are bulbs that can be used for indoor and outdoor use to brighten a space or provide effective atmosphere lighting in homes, lobbies, or offices. You can also order spotlight bulbs for landscape lights in order to accent trees and other landscape features. These bulbs are available in many colors to meet any entertainment or atmosphere lighting need. Ordering these in a dimmable version can give you various lighting options.
11. LED Panel
LED Panels are great for retrofitting step lights, pathlights, bullet lights, and some sconces. These panels are also great for replacing surface lights in commercial buildings. In order to find the right LED panel for your project, you’ll need to make sure you know the voltage and wattage of your fixture.
These bulbs use less energy than incandescent bulbs, but they are similar because they have a filament in them that is heated until it glows. They don’t contain any mercury and generally last about a year.
13. Corn Cob Lamp
Corn Cob Lamps are perfect for retrofitting your traditional lamp posts or other high wattage fixtures. Try using these to have well-lit exterior doorways for a barn, the entry to a shop, or for replacing traditional lighting in a wall pack fixture. These are sleek, energy-efficient lamps that’ll provide the easiest retrofitting project for your fixture!
These lamps are usually best for replacing traditional lighting in warehouses and superstores. LED retrofit lamps cater to these spaces because they have a high lumen count and can help reduce energy usage in larger commercial buildings. They are also easy to install since they do not need a ballast to power them.
Diode bulbs are ideal for lighting desk lamps or undercabinet fixtures. Their lifespan varies, but are easy to replace if you are looking to retrofit in order to replace xenon or halogen diode bulbs. These come in a few different color temperatures, but aren’t usually available in other colors.
These bulbs are unique with their circular shape and still give off a bright white light that fluorescents are known for. These bulbs are traditional lighting used for dome surface lights on office and school ceilings. This circular lamp is increasingly being replaced by circular LED panels.
17. Sodium Lamp
High-pressure sodium lamps are some of the more traditional lamps used in outdoor lighting. These lights give a warm and sometimes a red tone of color temperature for lamposts, landscape lighting, and parking lot lighting.
Low-pressure sodium lamps have a more balanced white light. These tend to burn out pretty quickly because of weathering and frequent use. There are innovative LED lamps that are being used to retrofit these.
Reflectors have a silver steel or aluminum material that is made to help direct light towards a designated area. These are typically found in bulbs made for landscape lighting or sports arena lighting. In order to decide how many lights you will need for your project, consult with a lighting designer and an electrician. These lights have strong beams so you’ll want to be careful not to overlight an area for your project!
19. LED Strip Light
LED strip lights are some of the most diversified lighting you can purchase. These can be used for lighting interior and exterior applications. They are also available in a myriad of colors and you can purchase connectors if you need to extend the lighting for a large project. You can use them to provide atmosphere lighting for your studio, living room, or garage.
How to Care For Your Light Bulbs
Similar to the rest of the appliances in your home, you’ll want to perform maintenance on your light bulbs. If you have candelabras or MR16 bulbs, check for dust or other particles that may be coating your bulb. Dusting your bulbs periodically will ensure that you have maximum quality available for your light.
If you notice your bulbs are flickering or burning out quickly, you’ll want to uninstall it and double-check the specification of the bulb and fixture to make sure you have correctly matched the voltage. This could also mean that you have a defective bulb.
In that case, check for the warranty on your bulb so you won’t spend more than you have to! There are also many different light bulb bases suited for each fixture. If your bulb is loose or falling out of the socket, you might have purchased a bulb with the wrong base. Take a look at the different types of base to find out which one is the right one for your project.
Types of Light Bulb Bases
20. E10 Mini Screw
Bulbs with an E10 base are about 10mm in diameter and are ideal for installing in lanterns, fiber lighting, and flashlights. These tend to have a long lifespan, lasting for up to 1,000 hours!
The candelabra is a design-oriented bulb. These are smaller and have a diameter of 12mm. These are ideal for installing in sconces and chandeliers. You’ll want to check the ratings for these bulbs to make sure they match your desired application.
22. E14 European
The E14 European bulb is available in several designs and rivals the E26 base. They are ideal for residential lighting projects and can be installed in lamps or other older household fixtures.
23. E17 Intermediate
These intermediate bulbs are also commonly known as C9 bulbs. These bulbs are great for using on string lights! You can decorate your patio, balcony, or even order them in an arrangement of colors in order to decorate your home or commercial space for the holidays. They can also be used on select desk lamps for your office.
24. E26 Medium
These light bulbs can be used to replace your traditional halogen or incandescent bulbs. They usually are sold in the A19 bulb shape and can be used for several applications. Try these bulbs in your room fixture or install them in your favorite reading lamp. You can find these in several colors or color temperature options!
25. E27 Medium
E27 Medium base bulbs are a little larger than the E26 base. They can be used for the same applications as the E26, but they don’t serve as many project needs. You’ll want to check the labels on your fixture and take pictures of your socket if you aren’t certain this is the size you need. If you bring the old bulb or a picture of the socket to a local hardware store, someone will be able to help you find what you need!
26. E39 Mogul
These bulbs aren’t usually used for residential applications due to their high wattage. You’ll want to use an E39 base for street lamps, parking lot lighting, or even wallpacks.
Light Bulb Sizes
27. B Series
The “B” stands for “blunt” for this light bulb size. These bulbs are rounded in shape and have a tip at the end, similar to candelabra bulbs. These decorative bulbs can be used for chandeliers or other household lighting fixtures.
28. C7/F Series
Flame bulbs can also be used for more decorative lighting projects like sconces or chandeliers. The detail used in these bulbs add a special charm to your project! C7 Bulbs are often shaped like candles and give a comforting lighting atmosphere to any room. These bulbs are usually a smoother texture and can be used for holiday lighting projects.
29. S Series
These miniature bulbs have a smooth base. These are typically used to install in outdoor signs, vehicle lights, and casino fixtures.
30. MR Series
The MR Series sizes are mainly used for track lighting for indoor lighting projects or accent lighting for landscape lighting projects. This variety makes them available in various price options and wattage options. Use the MR Series bulb for your residential or commercial projects and you’ll have a well-balanced beam spread for your showroom, living room, or banquet hall!
These bulbs are straight, tubular-shaped bulbs that can be used for several ceiling fan fixtures. You can also use these for lighting desk lamps or landscape fixtures. The specifications for these bulbs can be difficult to match, so make sure you do your research before purchasing one for your project.
32. AR Series
The AR Series bulbs are mostly used for landscape lighting projects. These are available in various beam spread options and color temperature options to meet your needs. These usually come in low-voltage, but for a higher price, they can be found on 120V as well. Use these bulbs for inground lights or floodlights.
Light bulbs come in many different shapes, sizes, and color temperatures. Some bulbs can last for 50,000 hours while others have a shorter lifespan. When deciding on which bulb to use, make sure you know whether you want to upgrade your fixture to LED or stick with your traditional lighting option such as halogen, incandescent, or xenon bulbs.
You’ll need to know what the specifications are made for your fixture in order to choose the right bulb for your lighting needs.
As always, DO YOUR RESEARCH! You’ll want to know what price range you’re looking at before you take a trip to the hardware store or purchase anything online.