With the variety of options available, it’s useful to have some knowledge when replacing light bulbs. The options span type, size, and brightness level. With this guide you will be able to narrow down a good option for you and have your own light bulb moment.
1. Choose a bulb with the right fitting
This can be the most confusing part of household lighting. There are a large number of fitting types that can be standard within any home. To help avoid buying a bulb you won’t be able to use, firstly check your bulb against the image below to make sure you’re looking for a bulb with the right fitting. If you’re buying online, check your existing bulb for a part number to search for. Some bulbs will have different names but the same fittings, for example GU5.3 and MR16 have the same fitting but can be different shape bulbs. This is why we would always recommend having the old bulb in front of you before purchasing a replacement.
This is best described as how much you want to spend up front against how much you want to save long term. The general rule is; the more you spend up front, the more you’re going to save in the long term, LED bulbs will even pay for themselves in energy savings in their first year of use. Excluding old fashioned incandescent bulbs, there are three main types of regular light bulbs. CFL’s (commonly known as “Energy Saving Bulbs”) halogen bulbs and LED light bulbs.
For a quick guide, we’ve listed how much a standard 800 lumen bulb would cost you per year based on an average use of 4 hours per day and how much you can save.
CFL – Annual running cost: £2.72
CFL Compact Florescent Lights or “Energy Saving Bulbs” are available in a large range of size, style and outputs. When they were initially launched they were slow to brighten, this is still the case. As CFL technology has improved over the last 20 years they are now four times as efficient as standard incandescent bulbs and pay for themselves in energy savings quickly.
Halogen – annual running cost: £11.23
A halogen bulb gives off a similar light in terms of colour and quality to the old fashioned incandescent bulbs as they both use a tungsten filament. Halogen bulbs are significantly more expensive to run than energy saving bulbs and with a much lower life span (under two years), a halogen bulb is unlikely to pay for itself before it fails. However they do look good.
LED’s – annual running cost: £2.28
LED lights are the best, long lasting, low energy alternative to halogen bulbs. They use almost 90% less energy than an old fashioned incandescent bulb making them the most energy-efficient type of lighting available. Up front they are the most costly to buy, however the cost is dropping year on year and if you buy a high quality bulb you can expect it to last as long as 25 years. In the long term they are by far the cheapest option, however it can work out very expensive to move your entire house over from incandescent or halogen bulbs to LED bulbs. When considering energy savings made they would easily pay for themselves with one year of use.
|Energy Efficiency and Costs||LED Bulbs||Incandescent Light Bulbs (based on 60w bulb)||Compact Fluorescents (CFLs)|
|Life Span (average)||50,000 hours||1,200 hours||8,000 hours|
|Watts of electricity used||6 – 8 watts||60 watts||13-15 watts|
|Kilo-watts of Electricity used**||329 KWh/year||3285 KWh/year||767 KWh/year|
|Annual Operating Cost**(approx)||£20/year||£200/year||£46.50/year|
|Contains Mercury||No||No||Yes – Mercury is very toxic to your health|
|RoHS Compliant||Yes||Yes||No – contains 1mg-5mg of Mercury|
|Carbon Dioxide Emissions**||451 pounds/year||4500 pounds/year||1051 pounds/year|
|Sensitivity to low temperatures||None||Some||Yes – may not work under -23 degrees or over 49 degrees|
|Sensitive to humidity||No||Some||Yes|
|On/Off Cycling||No Effect||Some||Yes – can reduce lifespan drastically|
|Turns on instantly||Yes||Yes||No – takes time to warm up|
|Durability||Very Durable – LEDs can handle jarring and bumping||Not Very Durable – glass or filament can break easily||Not Very Durable – glass can break easily|
|Heat Emitted*||3.4 btu’s/hour||85 btu’s/hour||30 btu’s/hour|
|Failure Modes||Not typical||Some||Yes – may catch on fire, smoke, or omit an odor|
*British Thermal Unit
**Based on 30 Incandescent Bulbs
3. Brightness and Colour
Now we’ve established the correct fixtures and fittings you have, and the different types of bulbs available to reflect your budget choices, we’ll look at the brightness and colour of the lights.
The standard measurement for the brightness of old fashioned incandescent bulbs was watts. Wattage is a measure of power so the more power going through the bulb, the brighter it would be. With the introduction of low power CFL and LED lights, wattage is no longer a reliable measure of brightness. Light output is now measured in Lumens which is a measure of the volume of light given off from a source.
To give an example, a bed side lamp would only need 400 lumens, but a central light in a large living area of a house would need between 1000 and 2000 lumens in total (from more than one bulb).
Colour Temperature (Kelvin scale)
Modern lightbulbs all display a “colour temperature” on their packaging. This is the measure of the colour of light or where it falls on the Kelvin scale. The warm, yellow tinged light given out by old fashioned incandescent bulbs is 2700 on the Kelvin scale. The midday sun is around 5500k, sunset or sunrise lighting is around 2500k and a candle would be around 1700k.
The colour of light you require can be determined by use, kitchens and bathrooms may need a brighter light for a living area, you may want a warmer, whiter light. Going over 7000k in a house can look harsh or clinical and the light will have a blue tint.
Lightbulbs come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes. Remember the fitting of your new bulb will be the same, however the new bulb may be a different size which will have a noticeably different spread of light to the old bulb.
Each different shape provides a different spread of light, this ranges from a near 360 degree spread of a globe or golf ball bulb to the narrow beam of a spotlight. This decision is down to personal preference and where it will be used. It’s also worth considering what they’ll look like when switched off, for example you wouldn’t use a globe light under your kitchen cabinet because it’d protrude and you don’t need a 360 degree spread of light under your kitchen cabinet.
5. Buy the best quality
With all the above information, you’re in a great position to make an informed purchasing decision for your lightbulbs. The only other advice we can offer is the higher quality you buy, the longer it will last and the better quality of light it’ll produce.
If we can be of any further assistance, please drop us a line here