What comes to mind when you think about the size and shape of a light bulb?
For most people, the image that comes to mind is called an A-type bulb. It's what the standard incandescent bulbs of the past looked like, with a rounded shape and a metal screw-in fastener for connecting it to a fixture.
Light bulbs have evolved significantly over the years, allowing for several new shapes and sizes to be available. Today, they're separated into several categories divided by base type, size, and shape.
Although the sheer number of options available today can make the identification of the different shapes and sizes of light bulbs to be confusing or overwhelming, the principles behind each category are straightforward and logical.
This guide takes you through the information you'll need to choose an appropriate light bulb style for your home.
The modern light bulb works in several different fixture options. Each one provides a specific set of requirements for shape and size that you'll need to meet. If you try to force an incompatible product into the installation, you could damage the items or hurt yourself.
When you see a specific light bulb shape requirement on a fixture, it indicates the product you should purchase. The table below provides an overview of each option.
When you start shopping for light bulbs, you'll notice that each type gets separated into a diameter and length category.
Although it can be a little confusing, each diameter designation is given a number that reflects the inches of the light bulb's measurement in this area.
When you see the length measurement, you'll often see a short and a long category. Although the designation isn't always next to the number, an 8S bulb would be one inch and short.
If you saw a 38L bulb, that indicates the circumference would be 4.75 inches and long.
Light bulbs must screw into a fixture to operate. They're not like the ready-to-install LED options that you wire directly to the installation point.
The industry has standardized six different base types to use with light bulbs today. You must match up what your fixture requires to the light bulb design selected. It is not possible to mix-and-match bases unless you have some sort of adapter to use.
Here are the six base types you can find.
Each category has several specific base designs that might be necessary to find when shopping for new light bulbs. Different manufacturers can introduce new ones at any time, so the following list should be reviewed to ensure it is relevant for the fixture and bulbs you want at home or in the office.
Although all these screw bases exist for light bulbs today, only two of them are considered industry standard today: screw and pin bases.
Each base type works differently when looking at the main function, which is to connect the light bulb to an appropriate voltage to achieve illumination.
Screw bases for light bulbs are the most common design you'll find in the marketplace today. They're sometimes called “Edisons" because of the concept originality.
When you have a halogen or incandescent screw base, two contact wires link the base to the filament where the electrical voltage reaches the bulb. Since they're made in several sizes, you'll need to see what specific type is offered by reviewing the item description or product packaging.
The number found in the light bulb base reflects its diameter in millimeters. That means an A-type bulb listed as an E11 would be a standard globular design with an 11 mm base.
Most light bulbs with pin bases are MR16s, linear or plug-in compact fluorescents, or an HID design. The principle of this connection is significantly different from the screw-in style. The pins stick out of the base to connect the bulb to a voltage source.
Once the pin connection is established, the electrical current can pass through them to flow into the bulb. That process excites the filament to produce light.
Some fixtures allow you to plug in the pins, but then they require a lock and a twist to secure the bulb. You'll want to take that final step carefully if it is necessary to ensure the light stays where it should be. If you squeeze too hard during this process, there is a chance that the glass could shatter.
The light bulb filament is responsible for producing the illumination you receive when sending voltage to the unit. Today's filaments are broken into two categories: C or CC.
The “C" stands for “coiled," which means the filament wire is either deeply fluted or wound into a helical coil.
If you have a “CC" light bulb, that abbreviation stands for “coiled coil." The filament wire gets wound into a helical coil, and then that process is repeated.
Some light fixtures have specific filament shapes, designs, or voltage limitations that you'll need to consider.
When you think about the classic incandescent light bulb, the electrical filament is the small thin wire that sits between two longer ones that hold it up. The older designs use tungsten for this component because of the high melting point, although the first options were made from carbon.
If you upgrade to an LED bulb, they also have a filament. The design is different because instead of heating the wire to produce light, this technology uses the metal strip to line it with diodes. Although they're not as thin as a tungsten filament, the result it produces is quite similar.
Some LED bulbs don't have a filament replication. That's why evaluating what option you prefer is helpful when choosing the lighting you want for your home.
Here's a closer look at the differences between filament LEDs and traditional designs.
When you install a filament LED, the goal is to create a more decorative element than one that offers practical lighting. It's an option that delivers more ambiance to enjoy.
How to Pick the Right Light Bulb
Now that you're armed with this information, you have everything you need to pick the best light bulb for your room. Please remember to review the shape and size requirements of each fixture, along with the wattage minimum or maximum that your current setup supports.
Once you know the technical requirements for your lighting, you can start thinking about your space. Choosing light bulbs that complement its purpose will maximize the value of your home.
If you sit on a sofa to watch TV, you don't need a bright, glaring light that shines right in your face. A dimmable, recessed fixture would be a better option. In the kitchen, you might want an LED light with the highest Kelvin rating you can find to let you see things clearly.
Some new fixtures come with LED bulbs that don't require replacement, which means you'll need to be happy with how the product looks once it's installed.
Cheaper bulbs don't always come with dimmers, so you'll want to review the box to see if this option is available. If this terminology isn't on the package, that feature isn't included.
The right lighting concept ensures that you can sleep better at night. Exposure to bright light during the day helps people experience improved rest at night, keeping your circadian rhythm synced to your schedule.
Smart bulbs are at the top of the price range today, but they come with several intelligent features that add value to your home. Think about what each room needs, and then select the appropriate light bulb for that situation.