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Guide to Light Bulb Types

12/16/2016 11:26am ET | Updated December 17, 2017
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Learn all about the different types of light bulbs in our handy guide.

In decades past, the light bulb aisle at your local big-box store was a pretty simple place: incandescent bulbs as far as the eye can see, with a few specialty types at the end, and no decisions more complicated than the choice between 40-watt and 75-watt bulbs.

Now you're confronted with a dizzying array of choices of types of light bulbs. Compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs led the way with their curvy twisted-tube design, and as soon as you got accustomed to them, light emitting diode (LED) bulbs became all the rage, and that's before you get into fluorescent tubes, halogen light bulbs, high-intensity discharge and whatever a Type S light bulb is.

Never fear! Here's a look at some of the more common different types of light bulbs, their pros and cons, and some basic terminology to help you sort out your home lighting choices.

Here's a look at some of the more common different types of light bulbs you'll come across when lighting your home.

Incandescent light bulbs

The traditional, tungsten-wire, Thomas Edison-style light bulbs of your youth are harder to find now. Because they're so poor at energy efficiency compared to newer models, they've been entirely phased out of production and the only incandescent bulbs you can now purchase come from the existing stock.

Although their loss takes some adjusting, you're not missing out. They lasted an average of 1 year and wasted energy like crazy. Your home and your electricity bill are better off with almost anything else.

Types of fluorescent light bulbs
Ten years ago, you might never have heard of a CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulb. But the little curvy twisted bulbs have become much more common in recent years, to the point they probably have largely overtaken your local store aisle. They cost more than incandescent bulbs, but their energy efficiency makes it worthwhile over the long term. Because they create light by exciting gases rather than heating up a wire, they're less prone to breaking or going out. This gives them a nine-year life span, so that upfront cost pays for itself over time.

There are, of course, different fluorescent light bulb types. The CFL is common, of course, as is the familiar old fluorescent tube that you still see in many schools and workplaces... (Continued here)

To read more about light bulb types, read the original article Guide to Light Bulb Types here. This article originally ran on Angie's List and is part of a series on the topic of lighitng. For more information about Angie's List, visit AngiesList.com.