Light bulb guide: How to choose your lamps
There are many different types of light bulbs for the various light fittings on our website. The guide below will describe the differences between each lamp and help you choose the right bulbs for your project. For expert lighting advice on any light bulbs or fittings on our website you can email us or give us a call on 01592 747980.
Halogen capsule lamps
Halogen capsule lamps are commonly used in modern decorative fittings. Halogen light bulbs produce a crisp and clear light output and although they are not technically energy saving bulbs they are more efficient than most standard light bulbs. Mains voltage (240v) halogen capsule lamps can be easily dimmed while low voltage (12v) capsule lamps may require a more specialist dimmer switch.
Halogen GU10 lamps
Halogen GU10 Lamps are mains voltage (240v) lamps, most commonly found in ceiling spotlights and downlight fittings. GU10s produce a crisp and clear light output and standard 50w and 35w bulbs are easily dimmable. You can also get retro-fit LED GU10s that are compatible with all standard GU10 fittings. GU10 lamps are known for their energy efficiency and long life span, although most LED GU10s are not dimmable.
Dichroic lamps are usually found in spotlight or track fittings. Dichroic lamps are low voltage (12v) and require a transformer. Usually you are able to dim dichroic lamps but it does depend on the transformer that you are using. Dichroic lamps are available with different beam angles from narrow spot lights as small as 7° to wide flood lamps of 60°
Golfball lamps can be found in a multitude of different light fittings. Small and shaped like a golfball (hence the name!) these lamps are available in several different types and wattages. Standard golfball lamps will last approximately the same amount of time as an ordinary light bulb, however the new halogen, CFL and LED golfballs will last much longer and run at a lower wattage saving on electricity.
Candle lamps are most commonly found in decorative fittings such as wall lights or centre lights and chandeliers. Standard candle lamps last for between 600 and 1000 hours, however we generally advise most customers to purchase the new halogen saver, CFL or LED candles which last much longer. Standard and halogen saver candle lamps are both easily dimmable and come in a variety of styles, including fancy decorative finishes such as twisted tip.
Linear Halogen lamps
Linear halogen lamps come in two different sizes - 78mm and 117mm. Sometimes you might see the 117mm lamps described as 118mm – don’t worry about this. These are the same size bulb, some manufacturers just like to round the size of the bulb up to 118mm while others prefer to round down to 117mm. From a practical point of view it makes no difference to the customer! Linear halogens are most commonly found in exterior flood lights and some ceiling and wall fittings. They provide a strong, bright light and are easily dimmable. Modern linear halogens are more efficient than the older types and provide the same wattage while using less energy.
GLS lamps (“normal” light bulbs)
GLS stands for General Lighting Service (Lamp) and these are the most common type of light bulbs found in houses and businesses in the UK. The incandescent GLS lamp is currently being phased out by the EU but there are lots of different replacement options available including halogen savers, mini spiral lamps and LED versions. The halogen version of the GLS lamp gives the same bright warm light while using less energy and still allowing the product to be easily dimmed.
2D lamps are very efficient energy saving lamps. They are most commonly found in flush fittings and are very popular for commercial installations such as offices, mainly due to their low power consumption and long life (the lamp life is generally 10,000 to 15,000 hours). 2D lamps are dedicated energy saving lamps which means that less efficient GLS or halogen lamps won’t fit into a 2D fitting. 2D lamps come in different wattages and can be 2 or 4 pin. They are not dimmable with standard dimmer switches.
CFLs, or compact fluorescent lamps, are probably the most common type of energy-saving light bulb. They are most commonly used as energy-efficient replacements for traditional incandescent lamps which are being gradually phased out. On average they use around 60-80% less energy than incandescent bulbs. CFLs work by using electrical currents to excite gases within the lamp which causes the phosphorous coating on the inside of the glass to glow, producing light. Unlike incandescent lights they have no filament which means that energy is not lost through heat to the same extent. CFLs generally come in stick or spiral shapes, but new styles are also available that look just like traditional light bulbs, and they are popular because the light they emit is similar to that of an old-style incandescent. They have a lifetime of around 10,000 hours and cost between £2.50 and £6, which means that they start to pay for themselves very quickly. CFLs were sometimes criticised in the past because they took quite a long time to ‘warm up’, but technology is advancing all the time and this has improved greatly. Nevertheless, they might not be ideal for areas where you instantly need quick, bright light, like a cupboard, for example, or a staircase or bathroom. CFLs are not designed to work in cold temperatures so are not ideal for outdoor use. LEDs are a better alternative for your garden or outdoor spaces.
LEDs are a stylish and energy-efficient alternative to most household light bulbs. They typically use around 20-30% less energy than halogens, 60-80% less energy that CFLs (compact fluorescents) and up to 90% less than incandescents. LEDs work by emitting light when an electrical current is passed through a semi-conductor which emits light energy. They are instantly bright, take no time to ‘warm up’ and work well in low temperatures, making them ideal for outdoors as well as indoors. While LEDs cost a little more than most alternatives, this cost is offset by the fact that they can last for up to 30 years (50,000 hours), and their low energy qualities mean that you could make back the money you spent via energy savings in just a few months.
What LEDs to look out for
- GU10s can be used in downlights, spotlights and outdoor fittings.
- GU9 capsule lamps can be used in decorative fittings.
- G4 capsule lamps can be used in low-voltage light fittings and cabinet displays.
- LEDs can also replace incandescent candles, GLS and golfball lamps for use in pendants and table lamps.