Lightbulbs don't need to be complicated...

Image shows a white wall, white bed and a white bedside table with a copper effect table lamp on top.

Why is buying a lightbulb so complicated?

There was a time when your options were a 60W bulb or nothing.

Now you walk into the lightbulb department and you’re met with lumens, watts and voltages.

Trust us, it doesn’t need to be confusing.

We’ve put together this easy to follow guide to make it easier for you when you just want to buy a lightbulb. We’ve explained the essentials when it comes to lightbulbs to make life a tiny bit easier.

1. THE MAIN TYPES OF LIGHTBULBS

There are 4 main types of lightbulbs: incandescent, energy-saving halogens, compact fluorescents and LEDs.

So, what are they?

Incandescent bulbs= otherwise known as “old-fashioned” bulbs. Traditionally these bulbs go up to 200W- so if you thought your parents were being dramatic saying “it looks like Blackpool Illuminations in here” when you switched the light on, believe us, those bad boys are bright. Incandescent bulbs heat up which means they blow quickly. Not only that, but they use a lot of energy to run on. For example, if you have a 100W bulb then it will run on the full 100W- not very efficient in the long run. You might find it tricky to buy these as they have been phased out now and have instead been replaced by bulbs with newer technology.

Energy-saving halogens= similar to incandescent bulbs in the way that they heat up, however they use less energy. For example, energy-saving halogens may say 28W on the front of the box but this would be the equivalent of a 40W incandescent. Obviously it depends on the brand, but generally the energy-saving wattage will be displayed on the front and you should be able to find the wattage equivalent on the back. Like incandescent lightbulbs, these are being phased out but they’re still worth knowing about.

Compact-fluorescents= otherwise known as the ‘original’ energy-savers, compact fluorescents use 60-80% less energy than incandescent bulbs. They’re the bulbs that look like a spiral- these are also gradually being phased out and are best replaced with an LED.

LEDs= LED bulbs are by far the most common type of lightbulbs available to buy off the shelf. A lot of people can be put off LED lightbulbs because of the initial price, however it is true that you save money in the long run. Instead of using 100W incandescent lightbulbs which will use the full 100W of energy to run, switching to a 100W LED lightbulb means you’ll only be using up to 20W of energy.

2. LIGHTBULB FITTINGS

There are 4 main types of lightbulb fittings: BC, SBC, ES and SES.

BC= Baynoet cap (B22)

SBC= Small bayonet cap (B15)

ES= Edison screw (E27)

SES= Small edison screw (E14)

Other common fittings include: G4, G9, GU10 and MR16.

G4= these bulbs are often found in smaller spaces such as display cabinets, generally available in 10W and 20W. They are small in size and have two metal prongs as the fitting.

G9= similar to a G4 bulb, just slightly large. Instead of pins, G9 bulbs have two metal loops so you can tell the difference easily.

GU10= these bulbs are predominantly found in spotlights. They have a flat surface where the light emits from, with a small neck and two metal prongs. These bulbs are available in 20W, 35W and 50W.

MR16= very similar to the GU10 bulb, however an MR16 bulb has two metal pins instead of prongs. Generally available in 20W, 35W and 50W.

We’ve covered the most common bulbs, but wait, there’s more…

3. WATTS AND LUMENS

Don’t let information about watts and lumens overwhelm you…

Watts= the amount of power consumed by a lightbulb

Lumens= the amount of light emitted by the lightbulb

Although watts do not tell you how bright a lightbulb is, you can generally use them to estimate how bright an incandescent bulb will be. The higher the wattage, the brighter the bulb will be.

MISC LIGHTBULBS

These bulbs you’ll find around the home, just not in common places like the living room or in a bedside lamp.

Fluorescent tubes- often found in kitchens and garages, these are long glass tubes which come in a range of sizes. If you’re buying a new one, make sure you know the wattage and size. They’re usually measured in inches or ft from pin to pin.

Pygmy bulbs- usually found in appliances such as fridges, ovens and sewing machines. These bulbs are usually available in 15W or 25W and have an SES fitting.

Linear halogen bulbs- short glass tubes most commonly found in outdoor security lights. They are usually a few different lengths, usually 78mm or 117mm. With these bulbs use a soft cloth to take it out the box and to fit it- when oils from your skin come into contact with the bulb it can cause the bulb to blow quickly.

COMMON QUESTIONS

Why do my lightbulbs keep blowing?

The most common reason lightbulbs blow is because the wattage of the lightbulb is too high for the fitting. For example, you shouldn’t put a 100W lightbulb into a 40W fitting as this can actually melt the fitting and insulation wires. This is one of the reasons lightbulbs that heat up are being phased out and being replaced with safe, LED alternatives.

Why are my lightbulbs different colours?

Lightbulbs emit a variety of different colours. Warm white, cool white and daylight are the most popular choices. Warm white lightbulbs give the feeling of a traditional lightbulb as they emit a warm, yellowy light. In contrast, cool white lightbulbs emit a bluey white light- they can be put anywhere depending upon the ambience you want to create in your home.

Daylight lightbulbs are growing in popularity as they give the effect of natural daylight- they’re usually white with a slight hint of blue. Daylight bulbs are recommended for reading so they’re a popular choice for offices and reading lamps. Smart bulbs are also becoming increasingly popular as they allow you to change the light of the bulb to any colour! Be sure to check the packaging before purchasing lightbulbs- the colour will always be written on the box!

We hope you found this guide helpful! You can read our other blog posts here for more interiors inspiration and tips.