All About Light Bulbs

Get the basics on light bulbs for your home, including tips on types, efficiency, and care.

This is the original filament-style light bulb that has been around for decades and is readily available at retail stores.

The color of the emitted light is warm and flattering, mimicking natural light. The light level is easily controlled with a variety of different wattages, and bulbs are also available in various decorative shapes.

Where white bulbs are the most common, and soften the light to help prevent eyestrain when reading, colored bulbs are also available for mood lighting.

Special use anti-vibration bulbs (also known as overhead garage door bulbs) are a good choice for high-traffic areas in multistory homes, where the bulb on one level is jarred by people walking above.

Fluorescent bulbs offer true light, although the light is not as pure and friendly as incandescent. They are more expensive but last much longer and are more energy efficient.

Over time, they generally save money. Because fluorescent bulbs are long-lasting (some up to seven years), they are ideal for hard-to-reach areas.

In addition to the long tube and original ring-shape bulbs, fluorescents are also available as screw-in bulbs that fit many lamp and ceiling fixtures.

Before purchasing a fluorescent bulb for a light fixture, check that it fits the socket and does not extend beyond the shade.

The newer bulbs on the block boast a crisp white light that intensifies the colors of the room. Halogen bulbs are more common and less expensive than they were in the early 1990s, but they are still pricey compared to incandescent bulbs.

They are designed to be long-lasting, but common variables (such as finger oils, airborne oils, and dust) can shorten their life considerably.

To make halogen bulbs last longer, wear plastic gloves or a small disposable plastic bag over your hand when handling new bulbs. Avoid touching them with bare hands, since oils can reduce the life of a bulb.

Also, be sure to dust halogen bulbs frequently with an untreated feather duster or canned air that has no additives. Do this only on bulbs that are completely cool.

Safety Tip: Halogen bulbs get very hot. Allow the bulb to cool completely before removing or handling it!

Incandescent: Classic for warm, soft light or for light tinted by colored bulbs, the easy-to-find bulbs are used for lamps and overhead fixtures.

Three-Way: Used for lamps with three-way switches, these bulbs are an easy way to create mood lighting without dimmers.

Halogen: In fixtures and lamps, these bulbs provide clear white light. Do not use in homes with small children; the bulbs get quite hot.

Xenon Bulbs: New on the market, Xenon is becoming popular for accent lighting and undercabinet lighting because it provides a clear white light. The bulbs are a variation of the halogen bulb, but are cooler-burning than halogen and use less energy.

Fluorescent Bulbs: Chosen for long life and energy efficiency, the bulbs are manufactured for newer lamps designed for fluorescents.

Tubular Bulbs: With a candelabra base, these are used to highlight art and sheet music. They also are used in some small accent lamps.

Find more types below.

Chandelier: These candle-shape bulbs, which may be displayed without a shade, are made for chandeliers and some sconces and lamps.

Globes: Clear or white, these round bulbs are sized for lighted vanities as well as decorative indoor and outdoor lantern-type lighting.

Full-Spectrum Bulbs: This type of lighting is a close match to natural daylight. It is a pleasant, natural, and bright light that many people prefer.

Fluorescent Tubes: Cool, long-lasting, and energy-efficient, these tubes are practical for overhead lighting in utility areas.

Compact Fluorescent: Designed for under counter spaces and tight spaces. These generate less heat and last longer than incandescent bulbs.

Reflector: Designed for ceiling or wall track lighting and recessed fixtures, these coated bulbs provide directional light.

Krypton Bulbs: Brighter than ordinary light bulbs, krypton bulbs are often used in flashlights and car headlamps. They are now also available for home use from Web sites such as

More Information: All About Lighting


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