How to Buy the Best Light Bulbs?

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Light globes are not as simple as they used to be, light bulbs are much more complex these days, and with a plethora of different options on the market, how do you find the best one for your home? We’ll help you learn how to choose the best bulb for your needs. Below is our comprehensive guide.

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Leading Importing Countries of Lighting Fixtures and Fittings Worldwide
in 2021(In Million U.S. Dollars)

In 2021, the United States imported approximately 12.5 billion U.S. dollars worth of lighting fixtures and fittings from the rest of the world. Germany was the second largest importer of lighting fixtures and fittings, with an import value of about four billion U.S. dollars.

I. What type of light bulb should I buy?

Each type of bulb has its advantages and disadvantages.

1. LED

LED globe lights are the current technology for home lighting, and in recent years have rapidly transformed from an expensive new product to an everyday item. They are still a bit more expensive than CFLs. They are extremely energy efficient and long lasting, up to 10 times longer than CFLs, are instantly activatable and contain no mercury. LED globe light bulbs are a good choice for most lighting situations.

2. CFL bulbs

CFL light bulbs are fairly cheap, usually last a few years and provide good lighting. However, they tend to fade over time, and will wear out faster if kept on and off or exposed to extreme heat or cold.

They contain small amounts of mercury, so you must handle them with care. They sometimes take some time to warm up to full brightness and can be difficult to fit into smaller fixtures. They’ve now been largely replaced by LEDs, but are still commonplace in most homes and ubiquitous in shops.

3. Halogen light bulbs

Halogen lamps are a type of incandescent lamps. They are about 30% more efficient than older incandescent bulbs and last longer. They are likely to be used in the home as low voltage downlights and for various special purposes.

They can be a good choice when fixtures are likely to be hot for extended periods of time, as LED globe lights and CFL light bulbs are sensitive to high temperatures. Note that low voltage does not necessarily mean low energy consumption. A typical low voltage halogen downlight uses about 35W to 50W, with an additional 10W for the transformer.

4. Incandescent lamp

Incandescent bulbs are simple and cheap to make, but run very inefficiently compared to CFLs and LEDs, most of the electricity is converted to heat rather than light, so a 60W incandescent bulb can only emit as much light as an 8W LED. That’s why they’re mostly phased out now, but they’re still available for special purposes, such as oven lights, where no suitable LED or CFL replacement has yet been developed.

II. Power and brightness

Generally speaking, for two bulbs of the same model, the bulb with higher power will be brighter. LED bulbs use less electricity than CFLs, halogens, and incandescents.

When energy-saving lamps first became available, their packaging frequently included a “incandescent equivalent” chart to help customers select the best model, such as “60W equivalent”. Although incandescent light output is an imperfect indicator of light output, many people no longer care about it because incandescent bulbs have been largely phased off the market for years.

Lumens (lm), a more precise and practical unit of measurement as long as you understand the numbers, are currently used by most lights to indicate their light output.

Lumens vs. Watts - A Rough Guide

What is the relationship between lumens (lm), incandescent wattage, and actual LED/CFL wattage? Here’s a rough guide:

  • 420lm = 40W
  • Incandescent = 6W LED/ 7W CFL (for desk or floor lamp)
  • 800lm = 60W
  • Incandescent = 8W to 10W LED/12W CFL (for lighting small rooms)
  • 930lm = 75W Incandescent = 10.5W LED/ 15W CFL (to light a medium sized room)
  • 1300lm = 100W Incandescent = 13W LED/20W CFL (for large rooms or work areas that require very bright light)

Here are the lumens to watts conversions for each bulb:

  • LED: 500-700 Lumen = 5-7 Watt
  • CFL: 500-700 Lumens = 11 Watts
  • Halogen: 500-700 Lumens = 50 Watts
  • Incandescent: 500-700 Lumens = 6 Watts

Here are the lumens to watts conversions for each bulb:

  • LED: 500-700 Lumen = 5-7 Watt
  • CFL: 500-700 Lumens = 11 Watts
  • Halogen: 500-700 Lumens = 50 Watts
  • Incandescent: 500-700 Lumens = 6 Watts

III. Features and specifications

About the technical specifications and characteristics of light globes, and how lamps can shorten their lifespan.

1. Color temperature

The lamp and its package both mention the color temperature in Kelvin (K), which is a unit of measurement.

Colour descriptionKelvin rangeAppearanceTypical uses
Warm white2,700~3,300KSoft, warm light similar to traditional incandescent and halogen bulbsLiving areas and bedrooms requiring warm and comfortable light
Cool white3,300~5,300KNeutral white light, similar to that emitted by fluorescent tubesOffices, kitchens, bathrooms and other rooms that prefer whiter light
Daylight5,300~6,500KBlue-white light equivalent to outdoor daylight, may appear harsh and unrelaxingIdeal for bathrooms and laundry rooms

2. Color Rendering Index (CRI)

The capacity of the bulb to faithfully represent the color of nearby objects using strong natural light as a reference point is gauged by this metric. Perfect color appearance is indicated by a CRI of 100, whereas very poor color rendering may be zero or less. While a bad CRI could lead to strange red or blue tinges, a good CRI should render its surroundings in the same hues you see in strong sunlight.

Most CFL bulbs and LED bulbs have a CRI around 80 to 90. 90 and above are generally considered excellent, but for average home use that doesn’t require precise color rendering, 80 should be fine. 

Note that CRI is not considered a perfect measurement for CFL and LED lights.

3. Shape

LEDs are usually in the shape of a light bulb. CFLs are tubes, spirals, or bulbs. The shape of a bulb isn’t a major factor in its brightness, but it does determine where most of the light falls. Folded tubes get most of their light from the sides and should be installed in portrait orientation with the sides facing out or down.

The spiral emits light from its ends and sides, so it will fit most fixtures, but they may be too bulky for some fixtures. Some bulbs, especially LEDs, only emit light from the top half and/or end of the bulb, so they are also better suited for downward or directional lighting.

IV. Price and lifespan

LED bulbs can seem expensive, especially when you’re old enough to remember buying incandescent bulbs for less than a dollar. Are LED bulbs worth the money? The short answer is yes.

Here’s a quick comparison of four types of light bulbs (LED, CFL, Halogen, and Incandescent) and their costs for a year of operation. We assume 5 hours of usage per day and an electricity price of 30c/kWh. The light output of these bulbs is roughly equivalent.

 LEDCFLHalogen lampIncandescent lamp
Wattage used5~711506
Operating costs$5.48$6.57$25.19$32.85
Lifespan50,000 hours10,000 hours2,000 hours1,0000 hours
Annual energy use18.25kWh21.9kWh83.95kWh109.5kWh

Conclusion: Even with a slightly higher initial price, LED and CFL bulbs pay for themselves quickly with much lower running costs.

Keep in mind that halogen and incandescent lights usually only last a year or two. CFL claims typically have a life expectancy of 6,000 to 15,000 hours (assuming 5 hours of daily use, about three to eight years).<br><br>
LED lights claim to last from 15,000 to 35,000+ hours (approximately 8 to 19 years). Both types will fade over time, CFL more so than LED.

To get the best life from your LED bulbs, avoid keeping them in enclosed small light fixtures, as trapped heat will cause them to deteriorate faster.

V. What to do with old bulbs?

Light globes should not be placed in household recycling bins. The glass is likely to break, and CFL light bulbs contain small amounts of mercury that are a health hazard. CFL bulbs can be safely recycled at local council recycling centres, for example to recover the mercury and keep it from going to landfill. If you have a broken CFL bulb in your home, you will need to carefully clean up the broken pieces because of the potential for exposure to mercury.

LED globes contain some electronic parts and should be disposed of as electronic waste. They can also be recycled at council recycling centres.

Incandescent and halogen light bulbs can also be disposed of at recycling centers, but they can be safely disposed of in normal household waste if desired. Just wrap them in paper to keep the broken glass out of the rest of the trash.

There are commercial light bulb recycling schemes, and some larger stores such as IKEA have in-store recycling points where customers can dispose of other items such as light bulbs and old batteries. Some businesses have dedicated waste disposal bins on their premises for employees to dispose of these items.

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