It’s great that there are many different types of lights to choose from but it’s also frustrating. Our house, built in the 1980’s has all kinds of different lights which requires all different types of light bulbs. Whenever I need to change a bulb, I need to go to the hardware store and try to figure out which one I need. On more than one occasion I’ve bought the wrong bulb… in fact this happened recently, which got me researching this topic.
The plus side is our 3 year old loves going down the lighting aisle in our local hardware store. He loves all the different lights so every time we go there, we gotta stroll through the lighting aisle at least once in the store’s fun truck cart.
I wasn’t surprised that there would be so many light bulb options. In an effort to try and simplify the light bulb puzzle, we put together a series of custom light bulb charts that illustrates shapes, bases and sizes. We set all those charts out below and then describe each type of bulb.
We hope this extensive light bulb guide helps you with both selecting lights for your home as well as when you need to buy light bulbs.
Table of Contents
- Types of Light Bulbs (Illustrated Chart)
- Light Bulb Shapes
- Types of Light Bulb Bases
- Light Bulb Sizes
- Light Bulb FAQ
- How long do incandescent bulbs last?
- How long do LED bulbs last?
- Can light bulbs be recycled? If so, where?
- Can light bulbs expire?
- Which light bulbs work with Google Nest?
- Which light bulbs work with Alexa?
- Which light bulbs work with Hive?
- Which types of light bulbs contain mercury?
- Why do some light bulbs buzz? Which types are known for this?
- What are smart light bulbs?
Types of Light Bulbs (Illustrated Chart)
We kick of our light bulb buying guide with our extensive chart that illustrates all the different types of bulbs organized by shape, base and size. Below this chart we set out each chart individually and describe each type.
Next we break down each type by shape, base and size.
Light Bulb Shapes
Shaped like incandescent bulbs using LED technology instead of filaments, these bulbs are a great replacement for older ones in your home. They use a lot less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and will greatly lower the cost of lighting for your home or business.
Twisted Fluorescent Lamp
These bulbs use a lot less energy than incandescent bulbs and will last for a very long time, resulting in large savings during the lifespan of these bulbs. They work well in both homes and businesses and have brighter or dimmer variations.
A filament is heated until it glows and produces the light in these bulbs. These are being phased out so that more energy efficient bulbs will be produced instead, but they last about a year and don’t contain mercury. They also include the added benefit of having the capacity to be used with a dimmer switch, so you can easily control the brightness in a room.
Compact Fluorescent Lamp
These bulbs will last for thousands of hours and put off very little heat. Because of the way they are constructed and how they work, they do tend to cost more than incandescent lamp bulbs. However, they will use less energy over the period of their life.
These bulbs are very energy efficient, last for an incredibly long period of time, and produce high quality and bright light. They’re great for overhead lighting, outdoor lighting, and for use as spotlights in sports complexes or other places.
Tube Fluorescent Lamp
These bulbs are generally more expensive to buy. However, since they have such a long lifespan, they tend to pay for themselves over time. They do provide a strong source of light, but you can’t dim them. Unfortunately, as they age, they may begin to flicker and will need to be replaced.
Flame Shaped Bulb
These bulbs are great for use in chandeliers or lamps that have the appearance of candlesticks. This bulb type creates a cozy look and feel of actual flames due to their shape. Some can be dimmed, but others can’t, so it’s important to consider if you’ll need to dim the lights. The interesting shape and design adds a lot of complexity to your lighting.
These bulbs are expensive to buy, but inexpensive to use. They put out very little heat, are rugged and difficult to break, and have a lower risk of starting a fire. You can’t always dim them, and sometimes they do not produce the same amount or quality of bright white light that incandescent bulbs do.
Dimmer switches are a great way to have more control over the brightness in your home or office. They usually replace the light switch that you already have and can be quickly wired into the wall to give you instant control over the output of light in your home.
These bent light bulbs offer the same benefits as fluorescent bulbs in your favorite lamp. They’re a very strong and reliable source of light and will keep your workspace nice and bright so that you can see clearly. Due to their unique shape, they can’t be used in every application but will work perfectly in the right lamps.
These strong bulbs are generally used in a spotlight by both homeowners and business owners. You can use them to brighten up the space where you work.
These lights are ideal if you want constant light without the concern of flickering or accidental dimming. While they can be used in kitchens, they are most often used in offices, retail stores, and schools.
These bulbs use less energy than incandescent bulbs, but they are similar because they have a filament in them that is heated until it glows. They don’t contain any mercury and generally last about a year.
These bulbs are best for when you need very bright light but want to save money over traditional high wattage bulbs. They are ideal for outdoor lighting as well as for a shop or barn.
These bulbs work really for desk lamps, lighting under cabinets, and task lighting. They vary in lumens and how long they will last.
Adapters are the best way to help maximize how much lighting you can have in your home without having to install more lights. They are very safe to use and easy to wire and install. Both polarized and non-polarized versions are available for purchase.
Circular Fluorescent Lamp
These bulbs give off the brightness of a fluorescent light in an even circular shape.
These bulbs come in high and low pressure options. The high pressure sodium bulbs produce light that is reddish-yellow in color, while low pressure ones produce a more balanced white light. Sodium in an excited state creates the light in this bulb.
The silver surface on these bulbs works to direct light to a specific area. These are the best bulbs to use if you want to have spotlights installed in your home because they are designed to project light in one direction.
LED Strip Light
Not only will you save money by using LED technology, but you will also be able to enjoy plenty of direct light for the tasks that you are working on. They provide even light distribution thanks to the acrylic lens and can be used in a number of applications, such as parking garages, garden centers, and even loading docks.
Types of Light Bulb Bases
These small bulbs have a base of 10 mm and are great for lanterns, flashlights, and decorative optical fiber lights. While the bulb life varies, they will generally last for about one thousand hours.
E11 Mini Candelabra
Having a diameter of 12 mm, these types of light bulbs are considered smaller. They are generally used for night light bulbs but can also be found in some decorative bulbs used over the mirror in your bathroom or in a chandelier.
There are a number of lightbulbs that you can buy with this base, although it is not nearly as popular as the E26 base. If you need this kind of bulb but can’t find it in a local store, you can either shop online or buy an adapter that will allow you to adapt another bulb to the right size.
This light bulb base is not very common and most often found on much smaller bulbs. You can find this base on bulbs such as the T6, S11, and R12, but you will have to do a lot of searching to find these bulbs. Some common bulbs that use this base are appliance bulbs or desk lamps.
This is the most common light bulb base that you can buy and is used in HID, CFL, CCFL, halogen, and incandescent light bulbs. Most of the light bulbs that you buy in stores or online are going to have this kind of base.
A little larger than the common E26 medium base, this bulb base can still be used in most applications. E27 bulb bases are nearly the same as E26.
Most residential customers won’t ever need an E39 mogul base. These are commonly used in high-wattage lamps or in street lamps.
These bases are generally for use in large outdoor bulbs and spotlights. They are much larger than other bulb bases, which will limit the ways which you can use them. They won’t fit into regular lamps and lights, so most people must buy and adapter to use this type of bulb.
EX39 Extended Mogul
With a diameter of 39 to 40 millimeters, the bases on these bulbs are very large.
Light Bulb Sizes
These bulbs are considered the classic bulb shape and are generally used for most lighting purposes in both commercial and residential applications. They are pear-shaped and have a base that is called an Edison screw. You can tell the width of the bulb by looking at the number that follows the “A”. This will be measured in 1/8 inches in North America. The most common “A” series bulbs are A19, which are used in all lamps, and A15, which can be used in ceiling fans and in appliances.
It’s easy to remember the shape of B series light bulbs when you remember that the “B” stands for “blunt,” as these bulbs are slightly rounded and have just a small tip on the end. They are decorative bulbs and are generally used for chandeliers and other lights.
Flame bulbs are very decorative, and while C-7 bulbs take the shape of a candle, they do not have all of the detail that is so common in F series bulbs. Some people prefer bulbs to have the outline of a flame, but if you want more detail in your bulb, then you will need to buy F series bulbs to use in your home. C series bulbs have blunt and bent tip variations.
S series bulbs are commonly used in outdoor signs. You will see them at theatres, casinos, restaurants, and even hotels.
The trick for remembering what F series bulbs look like is that “flame” starts with “F” and these bulbs look like a flame. These are used only for decorative indoor lighting since they are unable to stand up to the elements the way that other bulbs are. They aren’t built for bad weather, high humidity, or extreme temperature fluctuations, but they are great for adding a little additional interest to a lamp or chandelier in your home.
These globe-shaped bulbs vary widely in size, from the smaller G-25 to the much larger G-40. You can find some floodlights that are in the G series, which makes for a very attractive appearance in your yard. However, you will most likely want to use them as ornamental lighting. They look great in bathrooms around the mirror or around a vanity mirror in the bedroom. No matter where you use them, they will add some drama and flair to the area.
R series light bulbs are used in track lighting as well as recessed lighting. Due to their shape, they do a great job at helping direct the light forward so that it is not lost through the sides of the bulb. This will allow homeowners and business owners to use these lights to have a little more impact or effect in their home or store. They’re great for drawing attention to something that you want to show others.
These lights, while they come in a wide variety of sizes, are used only in track lighting or accent lighting. The size of bulb that you get will depend on what kind of track lighting you have and how much light you want to get out of your bulb. They can be used in both commercial and residential applications.
These bulbs are tubular and have a single contact on them. They can be used in many different ways, including for lighting in boats, in medicine cabinets, and in bathroom fixtures. While some are made of glass, it is possible to find others made from more flexible plastic. Depending on your unique needs, this may be something that you are interested in.
Tungsten Halogen Double Ended
These straight tube bulbs are used in desk and wall lamps and sometimes for landscaping lighting. The type of bulb that you buy will determine what kind of light it emits as well as if it is rated for outdoor use, indoor use, or both.
Pear straight bulbs are longer than regular P series bulbs and have a greater diameter than A series bulbs. They have a number of indoor and outdoor uses and provide great ambient lighting. While they can be used outdoors, they are generally used for ceiling fixtures, portable lamps, wall mounted fixtures, vanities, and even commercial applications. Outside, they are generally used for security, to light power lines, in radio towers, and even to show high tension wires.
Low voltage halogen light bulbs are specifically designed to give out low voltage lighting for landscaping. You can opt for different beam angles, including wide, narrow, and very wide, allowing you to focus the light as much or as little as you would like. They work great as spotlights, well lights, and flood lights.
Aluminum reflector bulbs have a very large top with a small base, allowing them to easily project a lot of light forward, making them ideal for spotlights and flood lights. They can generally be used in both residential and commercial applications and do a great job keeping the outside of a home or garden lit up during the night when you want more security. Different bulbs will have varying amounts of lumens and will last for differing amounts of time, making it important to research the bulb before you buy it, so you can be sure that you’re getting the best option for your use.
Bulk reflector lights have been coated with a silver lining to ensure that all of the light that the bulb produces is directed toward one direction and doesn’t spread out. This makes them ideal for showcasing something in a garden or for providing a lot of light from a flood lamp. They are used as a substitution for incandescent R lamps and were created following a mandate that said reflector bulbs need to be more efficient. The change in the neck of the bulb helps to redirect light that would otherwise be lost and use it to increase the lumen output.
There are two main kinds of T series bulbs. Incandescent and fluorescent bulbs can easily be bought online or in local big box stores, but how they are used is completely different from one another. Fluorescent T series bulbs are used in hospitals, parking garages, retail outlets, and offices and can be up to 8 feet in length. Incandescent T series bulbs are used for appliance and showcase lighting, as well as stairway and exit signs.
RP, MB, BT
These three series light bulbs are often more decorative than other choices that you can buy on the market, but that does not limit how well that they work. The RP series bulbs are the smallest of these decorative bulbs and can’t be used in larger sockets such as in lamps or other lighting. They have to be used in much smaller sockets such as a nightlight or chandelier, while the MB and BT series bulbs are typically larger and have larger bases to fit into average sockets. These bulbs function exactly the way that other light bulbs do and are a great way to add a little extra interest to your lighting by updating and changing the appearance of the bulb itself.
Sealed beam bulbs are permanently sealed together and have at least one filament and a parabolic reflector. They were originally created to be used for headlamps in cars, trucks, and vans, although they now have more use than originally intended. These bulbs are expressed in 1/8 inches and come in a number of different sizes and voltage ratings. When the bulb breaks, the whole thing must be replaced due to its design. However, their hard shell is made of tough glass that can easily withstand damage. In addition to being used in headlights for vehicles, sealed beam bulbs are becoming more and more common for aircraft, lighthouses, and even stage lighting. The beam spread on these lights will be stamped on the bulb itself and can be VNSP (very narrow spot), NSP (narrow spot), SP (spot), and FL (flood).
Bulged tube lightbulbs have a few applications–including canopy lighting, sports arenas, industrial applications, and car dealerships. They not only produce a lot of high quality light, but are also very reliable. They can be used as a replacement for incandescent bulbs.
Ellipsoidal bulbs come in a variety of sizes, but their shapes all remain relatively the same. There can be shorter, fatter E series bulbs as well as ones that are much longer and skinnier. The shape and size of the bulb that you buy will vary depending on the application.
Ellipsoidal dimple bulbs are very similar to E series bulbs and come in a number of the same sizes, although they are generally a bit larger and sometimes longer than E series bulbs. They do have a dimple on the end of them and their base is usually different. Their shape is used to house their special arc tube, and they are often used in car dealerships, industrial lighting, sports arenas, and parking garages.
Light Bulb FAQ
How long do incandescent bulbs last?
Usually, an incandescent light bulb will work for between 750 hours and 2,000 hours, but these estimates are under perfect laboratory conditions and may not reflect the lifespan of a household bulb. Under normal conditions, the filaments inside the bulb simply wear out and the light bulb will no longer function. Factors that adversely affect the longevity of an incandescent light bulb include heat, power outages, electrical surges, and the number of times it’s turned on and off. The most important factor, however, is the quality of the filament. A cheap, thin filament won’t last as long as an incandescent bulb that has a sturdier filament.
How long do LED bulbs last?
Under normal usage, the lifespan of an LED bulb can be as many as 50,000 hours. This can be more than 50 times longer than its incandescent equivalent, which means that if used for eight hours each day, an LED bulb can last as long as 17 years. If used for 12 hours each day, it can last up to 11 years. Advantages of LED bulbs over incandescent bulbs include lower energy use, so it will cost significantly less to operate an LED bulb. They also produce less heat than incandescent bulbs and can be used in most applications where an incandescent would be used. They don’t emit infrared or ultraviolet light and contain no mercury. They can be used for applications up to 100 watts, but quality varies, so a more expensive bulb will last longer than a less expensive bulb.
Can light bulbs be recycled? If so, where?
The older, incandescent light bulbs can’t be recycled. Energy-efficient light bulbs are a type of fluorescent light and should be recycled at a recycling center; you shouldn’t dispose of them in your trash. Some stores have recycling centers for light bulbs.
LED bulbs contain no hazardous waste, so they can be disposed of in your trash, but they are made of materials that can be recycled, so for a green approach, take your LED bulbs to a recycling center that specializes in consumer electronics recycling.
Halogen lights can be disposed of in your trash because they contain no hazardous materials. Although they’re recyclable, they require a specialized process and not all recycling centers accept them.
CFL and fluorescent bulbs contain small amounts of mercury, so they should be disposed of at a recycling center that accepts them.
Can light bulbs expire?
Incandescent bulbs have no expiration date. As long as the filament is intact, they should work. CFL bulbs don’t have a shelf life as long as they’re intact. If they break, however, you need a hazardous waste method of disposal since CFL bulbs contain mercury, which has been shown to cause health problems. LED bulbs have no expiration date, as long as they’re intact they should work.
Light bulbs, regardless of their classification, should be stored in a dry place that’s safe. Broken bulbs of any type won’t work, so maintaining their structural integrity is the key issue in their longevity.
Which light bulbs work with Google Nest?
Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance bulbs are compatible with Google Nest, as are LIFX bulbs, both of which are available at most home improvement stores. Various brightnesses are available, as are bulbs specifically designed for outdoor use.
Which light bulbs work with Alexa?
Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance bulbs are designed to work with Alexa, as are LIFX and Cree Connected bulbs, both of which are available at most home improvement stores. Various brightnesses are available, as are bulbs specifically designed for outdoor use. Greeni PRISMA, Sylvania SMART+, and Sengled bulbs for special applications are also compatible with Alexa.
Which light bulbs work with Hive?
Any type of light bulb that works with Google Nest or Alexa will work with Hive. Both systems are compatible with Hive, they simply need to be linked via the dashboard.
Which types of light bulbs contain mercury?
Fluorescent bulbs, including CFL bulbs, contain mercury, as do metal or ceramic halide bulbs, mercury vapor bulbs, neon, and high-pressure sodium bulbs.
Why do some light bulbs buzz? Which types are known for this?
Buzzing in light bulbs is caused by an interruption in the current. This causes the filament in the bulb to vibrate, and this causes the buzzing sound. Incandescent bulbs are the most prone to buzzing because they have a filament. Replacing an incandescent bulb with one that has no filament should eliminate the problem.
What are smart light bulbs?
Smart bulbs are LED bulbs that can connect to the internet in order to be controlled remotely. They have a lifespan of between 15 and 25 years because of their LED technology, but they won’t last quite as long as an LED bulb that isn’t equipped with the smart technology.