A Short Guide to Selecting the Best Bulb for Your Lamp

A Short Guide to Selecting the Best Bulb for Your Lamp

Lighting has come a long way. You now have more choices than ever, but that also presents a challenge when it comes to choosing what’s right for you. We’d like to walk you through some of the considerations that may help you choose the lighting source for your needs. Prepare for what you might find ‘too much information’, but when it comes to lighting, it’s better to know too much than too little.

What are the most common types of light bulbs and light sources? 

Thomas Edison introduced the first marketable light bulb in 1879, made possible by his innovative carbonized bamboo filament that was long burning and could last about 1000 hours. Known as the incandescent light bulb, it’s the classic lighting source that replaced gas lighting for generations to follow as the primary source of indoor lighting.

Only 2.2 - 5% of the energy used to power an incandescent light bulb is converted into light, which makes it highly inefficient. Yes, up to 95% is lost in generating enough heat to light the filament. But, the initial cost of incandescents is considerably cheaper than, for example, LED lights. But keep in mind that the filament in an incandescent light bulb typically burns out within a thousand hours. (That’s approximately 1.4 months.) 

Put simply, the halogen light bulb is basically a modified and improved version of the traditional incandescent bulb when it comes to energy use and lifetime. Let’s compare - In terms of energy use, a 60 W traditional incandescent is equal to a 43 W Halogen bulb. And, the halogen bulb produces a brighter and whiter light than an incandescent. One drawback of halogen lights is that they tend to “run hot”, but that’s also the reason they produce a brighter light. As with the traditional incandescent bulb, a halogen bulb also loses 95% of its energy as heat. Halogen bulbs have expected lifetime of roughly 2.000 hours - double that of the traditional incandescent bulb.

CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs)
CFL coiled light bulbs are more efficient than the standard incandescent bulb. Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) work by running electricity through gas inside the coils, exciting the gas, and producing light. These bulbs do not get quite as hot as incandescent bulbs, but way more so than LEDs. The lifespan of CFLs is significantly longer than incandescent and halogen bulbs at 6.000 to 10.000 hours. (8760 hours = 1 year)

LED (Light Emitting Diode)
Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs are all the rage today, because they create a lot of light, use very little energy and last a really long time. LED bulbs use an electrical current passed through semiconductor material to illuminate tiny diodes called LEDs. There is less heat generated, keeping the bulbs cool to the touch and 95% of the energy actually goes into producing light. Only 5% of the energy is lost as heat. This makes them more sustainable than most other bulbs. While they are more expensive in the beginning, in the long run they cost a lot less and you won’t have to change them as often as traditional bulbs. LEDs have a lifespan of +/- 25.000 hours. 

Good to know about dimmers

For decorative lights, or optional mood lighting, you may prefer your lamp to be dimmable. Incandescent and halogen bulbs will work with any dimmer. However, if the voltage is too strong, these bulbs may burn out quickly. For LED lighting, the packaging will indicate if it is dimmable.

Two things to think about when purchasing an LED bulb that you would like to dim

Dimmable lights have a different wattage, so when you buy a dimmer pay attention the range of voltage. Install a dimmer switch compatible with the wattage of the bulb you are using. 

When you connect multiple lamps on one dimmer switch, the total wattage of the lamps should match the wattage range of the dimmer.

Moving on from the technical aspects of how light is produced, let’s look at how you can assess the ‘kind’ of light that is produced. That’s more about the light that you live with, how you experience light around you and how you can choose the light source that works for you.

What is the difference between lumens and watts?

We’re used to thinking of brightness as a measure of watts. But, wattage only measures the energy used, and not how much light is emitted. Now that we have more lighting choices, it’s time to say hello to lumens. Brightness - or the amount of light emitted - is measured in lumens. The more lumens, the brighter the light. Bulbs may use the same number of watts, but it is the number of lumens that tells you which is brighter. At equivalent wattage, LEDs are much brighter than any of the other light bulb types. 

Difference between the bulbs in Watt and Lumens

The Kelvin Scale - Warm or Cool? 

Labels on the front of light source packaging now state a bulb’s brightness in lumens, instead of the bulb’s energy usage in watts. When shopping for your next light bulb, we suggest simply looking for the lumen output you prefer (the higher, the brighter) and go for the bulb with the lowest wattage (the lower, the better).

The Kelvin scale measures the temperature of light and that translates to the idea of warm or cool light. It has nothing to do with the heat generated by the bulb, but rather the color or tone of the light that you experience. On the Kelvin scale, the higher the temperature, the cooler the light, appearing more white or blue. On the lower end of the Kelvin scale, light moves towards a warmer, more yellow light. The visual scale for light bulbs runs from warm (candlelight is ~1,900k) to cool (a car headlight is ~6,000k). You could say, less Kelvin means a warmer ambiance.

For general purpose or ambient lighting, you can choose for up to 3000K. At Blom & Blom, we work primarily with light sources ranging from 2400-3000K, as these provide ‘warm’ light suitable for homes. Starting at around 4000K, light is considered ‘cold’, and is more suitable for ‘task lighting’ where sharpness of vision is critical.

The Kelvin Scale

The CRI 

CRI stands for the color rendering index and measures how accurately a light source reveals the colors of objects in its environment as compared to natural light sources. Sunlight which has a CRI of 100. Light sources with a high CRI are desirable in color-critical situations, such as art restoration where the restorer needs to see as accurately as possible the colors that are being used. With a CRI of 100, colors look exactly like they would under natural sunlight: bold, vibrant, and striking.

CRI values range from 0 to 100. For most applications, the higher the CRI, the better. A CRI of 90 or above is what we consider very good. In general, the higher the CRI, the more ‘true’ colors will look.

Which bulbs can you purchase in our shop?

In our shop, we offer a wide range of LED bulbs. Additionally, we also offer a selection of halogen and incandescent bulbs. The reason for this is that we want to provide our clients various options to choose from. We are strong supporters of the more environment-friendly LED bulbs, and in 98% of the cases, we would suggest LED as a lighting source. However, there are lighting fixtures better suited to an incandescent or halogen bulb. In our collection we offer several bulbs: Quadloop incandescent, LED Quadloop, Halogen or LED criss-cross.

We hope we have 'shed some light' on how you can find exactly the bulb you're looking for. 

Happy Hunting! The Blom & Blom Team