A Guide to Light Bulb Types


The Workbench Life: Baby Blogs

By Jason Carpenter for The Workbench Life

Q: Light bulb shopping has gotten so complicated. What are the differences between the various bulbs on the market today?

A: With so many kinds of light bulbs on the market, the trick is to find one with the characteristics that are most important to you. Whether you want the lowest energy burn, the brightest light, or the cheapest solution, you’ve got choices.

Incandescent bulbs are your classic, run-of-the-mill light bulbs. These are by far the most common bulbs on the market and are usually the least expensive. Most incandescents give off a warm, yellowish hue, but are not very energy efficient. They will probably last you anywhere from several months to a year, depending on how often you use them.

CFL Light Bulbs
A compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) uses 75 percent less electricity and lasts more than 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb, but can be 3–5 times more expensive. CFLs are available in different degrees of warmth, which are measured in Kelvin ratings. The lower the Kelvin rating number, the warmer the light. If you can’t find the bulb’s Kelvin rating and you want a warm light, look for packages marked “warm white” (and avoid the cooler “daylight” bulbs).

LED Light Bulbs
LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs are very energy efficient, but they have their drawbacks. An LED produces light through a tiny electrically charged chip encased in plastic or glass. Since the lights are so small, several of them are usually used to form a larger bulb. LEDs produce directional light, which means they aren’t the best for illuminating entire rooms, but are perfect for Christmas tree lights or flashlights. While the cost of LEDs has decreased, they still start at around $11—significantly more than an incandescent bulb. But they last up to 25 times longer, which certainly helps defray the cost.

Halogen Light Bulbs
Halogen bulbs are a variation of incandescent bulbs. They last about twice as long, burn hotter, and cost slightly more than regular incandescents. In fact, they burn so hot that a small amount of oil from your fingers can cause the bulbs to heat up and pop. Care should be taken not to touch the bulb directly.

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Jason Carpenter (yes,
that’s his real last name) loves to tackle DIY projects on weekends; his work
has appeared in
This Old House, Men’s
Health, Consumer Reports and other publications that appreciate good
tips and tools. Jason is a frequent contributor to
The Workbench Life

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For the last 20 years, David Novak has appeared in newspapers, magazines, radio, and TV around the world, reviewing the latest in consumer technology.His byline has appeared in Popular Science, PC Magazine, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Electronic House Magazine, GQ, Men’s Journal, National Geographic, Newsweek, Popular Mechanics, Forbes Technology, Readers Digest, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Glamour Magazine, T3 Technology Magazine, Stuff Magazine, Maxim Magazine, Wired Magazine, Laptop Magazine, Indianapolis Monthly, Indiana Business Journal, Better Homes and Garden, CNET, Engadget, InfoWorld, Information Week, Yahoo Technology and Mobile Magazine. He has also made radio appearances on the The Mark Levin Radio Show, The Laura Ingraham Talk Show, Bob & Tom Show, and the Paul Harvey RadioShow. He’s also made TV appearances on The Today Show and The CBS Morning Show.His nationally syndicated newspaper column called the GadgetGUY, appears in over 100 newspapers around the world each week, where Novak enjoys over 3 million in readership. David is also a contributing writer fro Men’s Journal, GQ, Popular Mechanics, T3 Magazine and Electronic House here in the U.S.