It used to be that buying a light bulb was simple. You either get incandescent or fluorescent. Make sure the wattage was appropriate for the lamp or fixture it was going in.

Now, it is not quite as simple. So, here is a quick guide to the five most common types of light bulbs.

Incandescent bulbs
Incandescent bulbs are the old standard that have been around forever. They come in all sorts of sizes and voltages. This is what you have used for lamps, ceiling lighting, etc. They are generally the least expensive. But they only last 700 to 1,000 hours, are very inefficient and only emit a soft light.

Fluorescent lamps
Fluorescent lamps are those long, tubular lights that are very common in laundry rooms, kitchens and other utility spaces. They use less energy and can last as long as incandescent lights. But they are difficult to dispose of because of their mercury filling.

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)
CFLs were designed to replace incandescent bulbs. They look like incandescent bulbs but come in a spiral-shaped design. They can produce the same amount of light with less power. In fact, they can last up to 10,000 hours, more than 10 times the amount of incandescent lights. But like fluorescent lamps, the mercury makes in hard to dispose of them.

Halogen lamps
Halogen lamps consist of a filling of a small amount of Halogen combined with an inert gas. This combination results in an increase in brightness and lifespan of the bulb. They are appropriate for both indoor and outdoor flood lights.

Light emitting diode (LED)
LED lights have become the industry standard because of their ability to produce a brighter light with less energy. Even though they may be more expensive, their long life expectancy and energy efficiency make them a worthwhile investment. They are also made without hazardous materials.
The following table provides a nice summary of the types of bulbs. But first, here is a primer on colors. Note that the color of the light is measured in

Kelvin values (K).


Avg. Life


Energy Usage

Color Temp


1-2 years



Soft white


2-7 years



Soft white; bright white; daylight


1-2 years



Soft white; bright white


7-9 years



Soft white; bright white; daylight


9-22 years


Very Low

Soft white; bright white; daylight