Lighting in the home and workplace is something we take for granted, yet a lot has happened in the last couple of decades in terms of lighting technology. The traditional, instantly recognizable incandescent light bulb has been the staple of home lighting systems for so long that it seemed it was here to stay. However, competition from halogen bulbs and, in later years, many forms of LED lights means that there is plenty of choice.
Which is the best sort of light bulb for you and your home? Let’s have a look at each of the three main types – incandescent, halogen and LED – and highlight what they do and the benefits of each.
Incandescent Light Bulbs
The incandescent light bulb has been the mainstay of home lighting systems for more than a century, yet has always been an inefficient and relatively expensive method of creating light. This is because of the way it produces the light. The glass bulb includes a simple filament that is heated by passing electricity across it. This in turn produces light. Thus, most of the energy from an incandescent bulb is actually in the form of heat, rather than light.
The filament, as it takes a lot of energy and heat through during its lifetime, will eventually break, so you need to replace incandescent light bulbs on a regular basis. Such is the energy usage these bulbs need in comparison to other methods of lighting that they are not available for use in some states of the USA, and in some other countries.
Here are a few facts about incandescent light bulbs that you should consider:
- Only 10% – at most – of the energy output by an incandescent bulb is light; the vast remainder is heat that is effectively wasted.
- The lifespan of such a bulb is at most around 1200 hours, and we will see later on that is considerably less than alternative types of bulb.
- Incandescent bulbs produce a large amount of ultraviolet (UV) and infra-red (IR) radiation; this can have the effect of damaging material on upholstery and affecting colors.
- The thin glass casing can break quite easily.
- The light emitted is a warm yellow light that is not as effective as some other types of bulb.
Such bulbs in 40 and 60-watt outputs are no longer sold in the USA or many European countries.
That’s the incandescent light bulb, now let’s talk about the halogen bulb.
Halogen Light Bulb
The halogen bulb was hailed as a revolution upon its introduction and is often found used in cars and other vehicles (although it is slowly losing the market to modern LED bulbs), in which it is entirely suitable. It works in a similar way to the incandescent bulb, but in addition to the filament, the casing – which is quartz rather than glass – contains halogen gas. This allows for the filament to burn at a much higher temperature, the result being a brighter light output.
There is still the problem of excess waste heat, however, and there are a few further factors that come into play when we are talking about halogen bulbs, too, so let’s have a look at some of them:
- Halogen bulbs last as long as 3600 hours, which is three times the lifespan of a standard incandescent bulb.
- The quartz bulb is quite fragile, and it has been discovered that these bulbs are sensitive to the oils we produce via our skin, so they should not be touched at all if possible or they may burst.
- They burn at very high temperatures, so may cause burns to the skin if touched.
- Halogen bulbs also produce a large amount of UV and IR radiation and therefore will cause colors in fabrics and artwork to fade.
- This type of bulb will produce a brighter light than an incandescent bulb, but may also be affected by cold temperatures thanks to the need for higher heat.
So, as we can see, the halogen bulb has some advantages – longer life and brighter light – yet is still inefficient in many ways. Now let’s consider the third type – the LED light bulb.
LED Light Bulbs
LED – light emitting diodes – light bulbs are the latest form of home and commercial lighting, and can be found in use in a wide range of applications. They come in a wide range of sizes and types, and with different color light outputs, and work in a completely different way to the above two. Put simply, a pair of semiconductors – one containing electrons, the other not – have a current passed over them, and this produces photons. The photons are the light you see.
The LED bulb has a wealth of advantages, so here are a few factors you should consider:
- LED bulbs are low heat; this means they are safer and last longer than either of the above two alternatives.
- They last a very long time – as much as 50,000 hours – and consume far less energy than halogen or incandescent bulbs. In fact, it takes 80% less energy to produce the same level of light from an LED than from an incandescent bulb.
- Standard LED lights produce little to no IR or UV radiation.
- The casing is stronger, is resistant to shock, and contains no fragile filament.
- They can be found in many different levels of white light, and various colors, and contain no gases or toxic elements.
In short, an LED bulb may cost you more to buy than the alternatives above, but as it will last considerably longer and use less than a quarter of the equivalent energy – and there is no waste heat – this is the way forward for lighting in the home. The LED is the safest and most cost-effective method of providing light, and with incandescent bulbs being routinely phased out in many countries due to inefficiency, it is clear that LED lighting will only become more popular. Check out the different available light levels, and make sure that your home is lit beautifully at less cost.