Published on August 28th, 2014 | by Peter Young


A Guide To Understanding Modern Light Bulbs: Style

light bulbs

If you were to walk down the lighting isle of your local hardware store, how many different types of light bulbs do you think you’d find? 10, 15, 20? A quick google search of the Home Depot website for “non specialty bulbs” produced over 1200 results! So while it’s hard to say just how many different types of bulbs there are, it’s safe to assume that there’s a lot.

If you’re like most people, you’d likely end up buying the wrong one unless you knew exactly what you’re looking for. So to help you navigate your local hardware store’s lighting section, we’ve come up with a guide to understanding modern light bulbs. After all, using the proper light bulb can make all the difference when it comes to saving money on your monthly electric bills.

This guide will cover the following topics:

Modern Light Bulbs: Style

Today there are four basic styles of light bulbs that can be used to illuminate your home:

  • Incandescent
  • Halogen
  • Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL)
  • Light Emitting Diodes (LED)

Incandescent Light Bulb

Incandescent – This is probably the most common style of light bulb in use today. It generates its light by heating a tungsten filament with electricity to 4,172 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point the filament begins to glow. Unfortunately, these bulbs aren’t very energy efficient. In fact, 90% of the electricity these bulbs use is turned into heat rather than visible light.


Halogen Light Bulb

Halogen – These bulbs work via a combination of a tungsten filament, much like an incandescent bulb, and halogen gas. However, this style of bulb can produce the same amount of light with a much smaller sized bulb and wattage, making them more energy efficient and longer lasting than there incandescent counterparts. These bulbs are roughly 30% more efficient than incandescents, but still markedly less efficient than CFLs or LEDs.


Compact Florescent Lamp (CFL)

Compact Florescent Lamp (CFL) –  This style of bulb is likely the second most common one found in homes today. It generates its light by using electricity to heat up a combination of argon and mercury vapor which is contained inside the bulb’s spiral tube. When it comes to producing equal amounts light, this style of light bulb is 75% more efficient than their incandescent counterparts.


Light Emitting Diode (LED)

Light Emitting Diode (LED) – These are the most energy efficient and longest lasting style of light bulb available on the market today. This style of bulb produces light by moving electrons through holes in a semiconductor material, which in most cases is a rod of aluminum-gallium-arsenide. The resulting reaction creates photons which we see as light. Even though these lights might be a little more expensive, they’re 90% more energy efficient when compared to their incandescent counterparts, and can last up to 50,000 hours. This is more than 50x some other models of bulb, meaning that you don’t have to replace them, and can save money not only on energy but also on replacement purchases.

Just by switching the lightbulbs in your home from incandescents to either a CFL or LED, you can see significant savings on your monthly electric bill. Also, be sure to check out some of our green home improvement projects: Green Living Ideas, after all, is a top 20 home improvement website!

Photos courtesy of Feit Electric, Wise Geek, Direct Industry, Traders City, Lamp Tech,

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About the Author

graduated from Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) with a degree in journalism and has made sustainability and eco-conscious living mainstays of both his professional and personal life. It was during his time at PLU that he began his journey with sustainability and it's what has led him to writing for Green Living Ideas. He currently resides in Honolulu and works for Pono Home, an energy efficiency company focused on reducing carbon emissions and promoting a healthier, greener lifestyle.

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