Light Bulb Buying Guides

Light Bulb Comparison Guide

There’s never been more energy-efficient ways to light your home or business, but it can be difficult to keep up as the technology continues improving and older products are phased out.

With that in mind, we’ve created a guide comparing the most commonly used bulbs. Let’s start with a brief overview of the three main options:

  1. Incandescent and halogen bulbs
  2. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)
  3. Light emitting diodes (LEDs)

Incandescent & Halogen

Average Rated Lifespan

Dimmable?

Average Cost

1,000-2,000 hours Yes £1 – 6 (Incandescent)
£1 – 12 (Halogen)

Incandescent

Incandescents are the most recognizable and most prevalent light bulbs, and are the type you probably had in your home growing up. They’re called “incandescent” because they use a filament, usually made of tungsten, that is heated by electricity until it becomes incandescent (glowing). That’s why these bulbs get hot to the touch and should not be handled or placed near flammable items until they’ve had time to cool.

Compared to other bulbs, incandescents are inefficient and easy to break. As a result, governments around the world have been phasing them out, and many manufacturers have already stopped producing them, making them difficult to come by much earlier than their mandated phase-out dates:

Incandescent Phase-out Timeline

DateProducts Phased Out
September 2009Clear 100W+ incandescent bulbs
Frosted finish bulbs that don’t have an A energy rating
September 201075W clear incandescent bulbs
September 201160W clear incandescent bulbs
September 2012Remaining clear incandescent bulbs under 60W
February 2016Phasing out special purpose incandescents
September 2016Directional mains-voltage halogen bulbs (ex. GU10)
September 2018Non-directional halogen bulbs (i.e. candle, GLS, globe, golf ball)

In spite of its inefficiencies, this bulb is much beloved by those who are finding it difficult to part with the classic shape, colour and glow of the original light bulb. The good news is that incandescent bulbs have not yet been outright banned, and they are still available to purchase while supplies last. So, if your heart is set on incandescent, now’s the time to stock up.

Most incandescent bulbs you find now will be specialty bulbs, such as candle and other decorative bulbs, or rough service bulbs designed to withstand use in appliances. This is because these bulbs have not yet been adequately replaced by newer technologies.

Shop our full selection of incandescents.

Halogen

Halogen bulbs are a type of incandescent bulb. They work the same way as standard incandescents, but use less energy and last longer because they contain halogen gas, which helps extend the life of the tungsten filament.

Shop our full selection of halogen bulbs.

Learn more in our guide to buying halogen bulbs.

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)

Average Rated Lifespan

Dimmable?

Average Cost

8,000 hours Select products £2 – 13

Compact fluorescent bulbs were the first contender for replacing incandescent bulbs.

Instead of relying on a filament, these bulbs operate like fluorescent tubes: two ballasts on either end conduct an electric current through the tubes, which are filled with gas and lined with a phosphor coating. The current reacts with the gas and produces ultraviolet light, which becomes visible light as it passes through the phosphor coating.

In spite of their improved efficiency and lower operating costs, CFLs didn’t hit the ground running. Slow warm-up times and cool colour temperatures made the adoption of this type of bulb slow and sporadic, but they have greatly improved over the years and are now available in warmer colours, dimmable options, and with faster warm-up times.

CFLs are more durable, longer lasting and more energy-efficient than incandescent and halogens, making them a viable alternative for replacing your bulbs without breaking the bank. However, there are some drawbacks to keep in mind:

  • Turning CFLs on and off quickly shortens their lifespan.
  • Unless specially marked, they don’t perform well in outdoor conditions – especially cooler weather.
  • Some CFL bulbs still suffer from a delay between switching the bulb on and full brightness.
  • They contain a small amount of mercury, which can be dangerous to handle and means they have to be recycled somewhere that accepts hazardous waste. Learn how to dispose of your used bulbs.

Shop our full selection of CFL bulbs.

Read our CFL guide to learn more.

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)

Average Rated Lifespan

Dimmable?

Average Cost

25,000+ hours Select products £2 – 12

An LED is a type of diode that emits photons as light instead of heat.

LEDs have been in the works for a long time – since the early 1900s! It took over a hundred years and a number of inventors, engineers and innovators for a commercially viable LED bulb to hit the shelves. The first LEDs were green, but in the mid-90s, high-brightness blue LEDs were introduced. This resulted in the invention of white LEDs suitable for use in light bulbs, which first became available commercially in 2002.

Now that the technology is better understood, LEDs are quickly overtaking their predecessors in terms of popularity. They were met with hesitance at first because of their cool colours and unusual shape, but LEDs have since become a superior technology and now boast a number of benefits you won’t find in other bulbs.

Extremely efficient, long-lasting, and capable of replicating a number of colours and colour temperatures, LEDs are an environmentally-friendly option that should be at the top of your list when looking for light bulbs.

To learn more about LEDs and how they work, check out our guide.

Need something specific? Browse our full selection of LED bulbs.

Which Bulb is Better?

You may already have a clear winner in mind, but to make it easy for you to directly compare these light bulbs, we’ve created a table that looks at several key factors, including:

  • Environmental Impact – watts, CO2 emissions, heat generation
  • Aesthetics – dimming, colour temperature
  • Convenience – replacements, warm-up time, disposal, durability, weather sensitivity
  • Expense – initial purchase, cost of electric

COMPARE: A Single 700 Lumen Light Bulb Operating 8 Hours/Day

TypeIncandescent
CFL
LED
Watts60W14W10W
Average Rated Lifespan1,000-2,000 hours8,000 hours25,000+ hours
Initial Cost£2-6£2-13£2-12
Dimmable? (select bulbs only) (select bulbs only)
# of Replacements in 25,000 Hours15-2030-1
Colour Temperature RangeWarm whiteWarm white to daylightWarm white to daylight
Cost Per Year to Operate£23.88£5.07£3.60
Heat GenerationReleases 90% of energy as heat radiationNoneBeam emits no heat
Heat SensitivityNoYesSome
Cold SensitivityNoYesNo
Moisture SensitivitySomeYesNo
CO2 Emissions per Year172.68 kg44.02 kg28.80 kg
Warm-up TimeInstantaneousSlight delayInstantaneous
Impact of Switching On/OffSome effectShortens lifespanNo effect
Physical Durability- Fragile filament
- Glass bulb
_ No filament
- Typically made of glass
+ No filament
+ Often made of durable plastic
Disposal
  • Treat as normal household waste
  • Should not be recycled
  • Contains mercury, lead, and cadmium
  • Considered hazardous waste
  • Must be recycled at a proper recycling site
  • Does not contain hazardous materials
  • Can be recycled
Additional Features+ Coloured bulbs (gels)+ Coloured bulbs (coating)+ Coloured and colour changing bulbs (light)
+ Smart home-compatible
+ Capable of supporting greenhouse production

A Bright Future

While personal preference accounts for a lot and can have a major impact on what bulb you ultimately select, LEDs are unquestionably the best choice you can make. They offer the most benefits and features – as well as the fewest drawbacks – of any light bulb.

If you need any help selecting the right light bulb or have any questions, reach out to us at +44 (01869) 362222 or enquiries@thelightbulb.co.uk.

Sarah is a long-time employee of the Lightbulb Company, with a background in hospitality and a keen awareness of the important role lighting plays in our everyday lives. She has worn many hats at our company over the years, developing an extensive knowledge of lighting and the lighting industry. She is passionate about working with customers, understanding their needs, and providing them with the best possible solutions.

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