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Lighting 101

What's with LED bulbs? Which bulbs work best for different tasks? How much light will a bulb produce?

From the Editors of Lighting

Let’s face it: Many of us are confused by all the bulbs available. That’s because when you pick a bulb, you’re picking not just the bulb, but the light level, light color, energy consumption, and bulb type.

But there’s one change coming that might help simplify things for consumers: Compact fluorescent bulbs are slowly coming off shelves as designers and manufacturers move toward LEDs. LED has sprinted toward more and more adaptability to different fixtures and colors, as well as compatability with dimmers. “The change is all LED and nothing but LED,” says Brian Brandes, senior vice president, SATCO Products.

And advances in home electronics have benefited advances in home lighting. “LEDs are used in so many things, such as smart phones and TVs, so more capability and volume have also equaled lower cost and economies of scale,” says Kathy Sterio, general manager of product management and marketing for GE Light. Some manufacturers like GE are creating packaging and specially curated bulb recommendations for particular spaces. 

LED can now also reliably replace both the familiar shape of incandescents with filament bulbs, says Brandes. And there’s nothing that can beat the cost savings lifespan of LEDs. “They last on average 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs,” he says.

Shown: Vintage One Light, Satco Products/Nuvo Lighting

Filaments are in CFLs are out, say lighting experts. Swap bulbs you use often—bathrooms, outdoor flood lights—with LED versions. 

How to Replace Your Bulbs

Technology has definitely caught up with LED bulbs for household use. There’s a bulb for virtually every fixture. Here are the types you’ll see on the shelves:

  • Omnidirectional: Think of this as your standard replacement for an old-fashioned incandescent bulb; it’s got what’s sometimes called the Edison base—meaning it screws in.
  • Globe: Often used in bathroom fixtures, these are more circle-like, and also have a traditional screw-in base.
  • Candelabra/flame: These resemble candles and have their own distinct, narrow base.
  • Track: These bulbs typically have a flat top and a base with two pins or points.
  • Flood: Also referred to as PAR bulbs, these flat-topped options also have a screw-in base.

Our Handy Bulb Guide