Part of saving money is being able to fix problems yourself. After all, if you can fix something yourself, you don’t need to pay another company/person to do it for you.
Now I’m not a handy guy. I have friends that are, and I am not one of them. Even something as simple as replacing a light bulb seems daunting to me.
What is a watt?
Is fluorescent better than incandescent?
Will this bulb burn my house down?
So I figured I would light bulbs were a good place to start. This article breaks down everything you need to know about replacing a light bulb
Let’s get to it.
Dimensions of Light Bulbs
Light bulbs can be evaluated across many dimensions. This is similar to how you can describe an apple by its sweetness, color, or size.
Some dimensions of a light bulb are critical to it functioning properly and safely. Others are more subjective and mainly for aesthetic purposes. The main dimensions used to evaluate a light bulb are:
- Base Shape
- Bulb Shape
- Energy Usage
Luckily, it is actually very easy to evaluate most/all of these dimensions for any light bulb you purchase. This is because the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) implemented the Energy Labeling Rule strict and standardized requirements for what information must be included on a light bulb’s packaging. You can read a summary of the rule’s requirements here, and see a sample image below.
Below is a brief description of each of these dimensions.
1. Base Shape
The base of a light bulb is the part that inserts into the light fixture. If you buy a light bulb with the wrong base shape or size, it won’t work. The most common base type in the US is the “Edison screw base” and the most common size is 26 millimeters.
Below is a chart of the most common base types.
2. Bulb Shape
The light bulb itself can come in many different shapes and sizes. This is important because you must choose a light bulb that will fit your light fixture. The shape can also have an impact on the style of decor you are aiming for.
Below is a chart of the most common light bulb shapes and sizes.
Energy usage is how much energy a light bulb requires to function, and is measured in watts. A light bulb that is energy-efficient can give off more light per watt of energy used.
Energy efficiency varies highly depending on the type of light bulb you are using. Depending on the type of light bulb, it can take anywhere from about 5 – 60 watts to produce enough light to brighten a room!
Be careful when purchasing a light bulb to make sure that it doesn’t exceed the maximum amount of watts that your light fixture can safely handle. For example, don’t put a 100-watt light bulb into a fixture that can only handle 60 watts. This is called “overlamping” and can damage your light fixture or even cause a fire. Any light fixture should come with a label saying how many watts it can handle. Using energy-efficient light bulbs can usually avoid this problem.
You also want to pay attention to the voltage the light bulb is built for. You should make sure the light bulbs you buy are built to operate at the same voltage of your light fixture and outlet. In the US, most outlets are 120 volts. This is usually not an issue, as most light bulbs for sale in the US are built for 120 volts, but it’s always best to double check.
Lifespan is how long a light bulb will last, and is measured in either hours or years. This is usually inversely correlated with how energy-efficient the bulb is. Higher efficiency = longer lasting.
The standard used for calculating how long a light bulb will last assumes 3 hours of usage per day. For example, if a light bulb is expected to last 1,100 hours, the package might say it is good for 1 year (1,000 hours / 3 = about 1 year).
Lifespan varies highly depending on the type of light bulb you are using. Depending on the type of light bulb, its lifespan can be anywhere from around 1 year – 20+ years!
Brightness is how much light the light bulb gives off, and is measured in lumens. The more lumens a light bulb is capable of giving off, the better it will light up a room.
A standard candle gives off about 12 lumens. A standard 60 watt incandescent light bulb is capable of giving off around 800 lumens.
Temperature is the color of the light the light bulb gives off, and is measured in Kelvins. In the visible band of the electromagnetic spectrum, red is the lowest energy and violet is the highest energy. Thus lighting with low energy appears red and lighting with high energy appears blue. Ironically, low-energy light (red light) is called “warm lighting” in everyday language, and high-energy light (blue light) is called “cool lighting.”
The temperature of light has a big effect on the mood or atmosphere of the room. Lighting that is around 2,000 – 3,000 K is usually called “warm” or “soft” and recommended for calm, intimate settings like a bedroom or restaurant. Lighting that is around 3,000 – 5,000 K is called “cool white” or “bright white” and is usually recommended for work spaces like a kitchen or hospital.
Some light bulbs come with no coating and instead just have clear glass. Clear light bulbs usually give off sharper light. But be aware, clear glass also cause much more shadows. Some people prefer clear glass in order to show off the filament and give a more industrial style
Many light bulbs are coated white. This is also called a “frosted” light bulb. It makes the light more evenly spread, softer, and easier to look at.
Some bulbs also have a smokey coating, or even a brightly-colored coating for parties.
Types of Lightbulbs
There are a few different types of light bulbs to choose from. Over the years, new light bulb technologies have advanced and emerged. Different types of bulbs are usually known for having certain characteristics. Below are the most common types of light bulbs.
This is the “original” type of light bulb, meaning it was the type that Thomas Edison invented. It works by heating a thin wire (called a filament) to such a high temperature that the filament begins to glow. Incandescent light bulbs are usually the cheapest of all the types.
Incandescent light bulbs are not very energy-efficient, converting only about 5% of the energy into visible light, while the rest is lost as heat. This is why they only last about 1-2 years. They come in a large range of brightness and tend to give off light that is warmer in temperature.
All incandescent light bulbs are dimmable.
Fluorescent light bulbs work by passing electricity through an ionized gas. They are usually midrange when it comes to price.
They are much more energy-efficient than incandescent light bulbs and can last 5-10 years. They are usually cooler in temperature, although, with new technology, fluorescent lights can come in warmer temperatures also.
Fluorescent light bulbs can take a couple of minutes to “warm up” and reach full brightness. Some fluorescent light bulbs are dimmable, but not all.
LED light bulbs work by passing electricity through a semiconductor that causes it to emit light. They are usually the most expensive type of light bulb.
They are even more energy-efficient than fluorescent light bulbs and can last 10-20 years or more.
Some LED light bulbs allow you to change the color of the light emitted. Some LED light bulbs have the LEDs arranged in the shape of fake filaments to mimic the style of incandescent light bulbs. These are called vintage-styled LED light bulbs.
Some LED light bulbs are dimmable, but not all.
Light Bulb Buying Checklist
- Base Shape & Size
- Ensures the bulb will insert into your light fixture
- The most common base shape is a “screw base”
- The most common base size is 26 millimeters
- If you can’t find this info, just bring your old bulb to the store to match
- Bulb Shape & Size
- Ensures there is room in your light fixture for the bulb
- As long as there is room, bulb shape is largely just for style
- Ensures bulb won’t damage/be damaged by your light fixture or outlet
- The most common voltage in the US is 120 volts
- You can usually find the voltage on your light fixture
- Ensures the bulb won’t run too hot for the light fixture and cause damage
- Less wattage = less energy used = lower energy bills
- You can usually find the maximum safe wattage on your light fixture
- It’s okay to use less wattage than listed, just not more
- Ensures the bulb will be the proper brightness for your needs
- This is measured in lumens
- A “standard” 60-watt incandescent light bulb usually gives off about 800 lumens
- Ensures the color of lighting is appropriate for your needs
- This is measured in Kelvins
- Lower Kelvins (2,000 – 4,000) gives warmer light, middle Kelvins (4,000 – 7,000) gives white light, and higher Kelvins (7,000+) gives cooler light
- Ensures the bulb matches your needs
- Clear glass bulbs usually give sharper light and shows the filament, but causes more shadowing
- Frosted bulbs diffuse the light more evenly and reduce shadowing
Wrapping Things Up
So, how many financial advisors does it take to replace a light bulb? Turns out, only 1 as long as you give him a few days to research light bulbs first!
Once you know what to look for on your light fixture and on the light bulb packaging, it’s actually pretty straightforward to find the right light bulb for your needs.
I hope this was helpful!