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Your guide to buying light bulbs

Choosing a light bulb

When shopping for light bulbs, it can be difficult to know where to start, with so many options available, all designed to provide different effects and levels of illumination. Choosing the right light bulbs can make a huge difference to the feel of your rooms – from adding drama and impact, to creating a soft warm and welcoming ambience.

From tungsten to halogen, Homebase has a wide selection of light bulbs to suit every lighting situation – and we’re here to help you make the right decisions with this expert guide.

Which light bulb do I need?

Eco halogen bulbs 

The traditional bulb has now been replaced by the more efficient ‘Eco halogen’, which uses up to 30% less energy. Thanks to a special coating used within the bulbs, they're more efficient than the standard halogen bulb, requiring around 20% less wattage to give out the same light.

What's more, they last for two years – double the lifespan of a standard bulb.

Halogen bulbs

Designed to mimic bright sunlight, halogen bulbs are filled with a mixture of argon and halogen gas and have a tungsten filament. They are also made from a higher-grade glass that can tolerate the extra-high temperatures they generate.

Halogen bulbs cost more than standard light bulbs of the same wattage, but they're 20% more efficient and last up to 3 times longer. They come in 2 versions: a mains voltage (240 volt) and a low voltage (12 volt), with the latter requiring a transformer.

Energy Saving CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb)

Fluorescent bulbs are up to 80% more economical to run than normal light bulbs, because they convert more of the energy they use into light, instead of heat.

They give off a bright white light that's ideal for kitchens, but are also available in cool or warm light versions for use in other rooms. If you use fluorescent bulbs, it’s important to remember that they contain mercury (in miniscule quantities), so they must be recycled rather than thrown in the bin. You'll find special bins for their safe disposal in front of all Homebase stores.

LED bulbs

The most efficient bulbs available, using around 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs, LEDs (Light-Emitting Diodes) produce light through the use of semi-conductors. Unlike previous forms of energy saving bulbs, like CFL, they instantly reach full brightness and are available in dimmable versions.

Although LEDs have been around for years, in digital clocks, TV remotes and Christmas lights, they've not been widely used for home lighting until recently. LED technology is rapidly developing so bulbs last longer and cost less to buy.

Traditional

Sometimes known as incandescent lights or tungsten bulbs, these are the ordinary, everyday light bulbs that come with either screw or bayonet fittings. Due to regulations gradually phasing these bulbs out, retailers are no longer allowed to stock them, unless they're special purpose bulbs for appliances. They have been replaced with Eco halogen bulbs, which use up to 30% less energy.
Tungsten bulbs contain argon gas and a very fine tungsten filament, which glows and heats up as electricity flows through it, reaching temperatures of over 2000°C (a good reason to never touch a lit light bulb.). The filament can be more than 6ft long in 60W bulbs, and breaks easily if the bulb is shaken or dropped. 

What should I consider when buying a light bulb?

Why do some energy-saving bulbs take longer to light up?

Energy-saving bulbs light up when the gas inside them starts to glow, and it can take a bit of time for them to heat up. In a traditional bulb the filament heats up as soon as the bulb is switched on, so lights up immediately.

Do traditional bulbs give a better quality of light?

In a word, no. For technical reasons, the glass used in household energy-saving light bulbs has to be opaque, while many traditional bulbs are transparent - but you can get energy saving bulbs that are just as bright.

In addition, modern energy saving bulbs come in a wide range of brightness, warmth and colour options, so you can create a full range of lighting effects.

Does turning lights on and off use more energy than simply leaving them on?

Traditional light bulbs should be switched off every time you leave a room - in the UK, £140 million a year is wasted by leaving lights on unnecessarily.

Whilst it can use slightly more electricity, leaving low-energy bulbs on for a stabilising period of 10-15 minutes will maximise their lifespan (although with modern energy saving lighting, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue). LED bulbs can be switched on and off as often as you like. 

How does the wattage of a bulb affect the energy used?

In simple terms, bulbs with higher wattage produce more light but consume more power, but the watt is not a measure of brightness: different bulbs are more or less efficient in converting electricity into light.

How will I know how bright a bulb will be?

The brightness of any light bulb is now indicated on the packaging in lumens, which is the amount of visible light emitted from the bulb. As a rough guide to how many lumens you need, simply add a zero on to the end of the wattage you've been looking for (i.e. look for 600 lumens rather than a traditional 60w).

How much light is there at the edges of a spotlight?

Here’s where it can get a little confusing. Although a spotlight's brightness is indicated in lumens, you need to look at the ‘candelas’ if you want to know how much of that light is pushed out to other areas of your room. In simple terms, more candelas = a better spread.

Candelas are a measure of the intensity of light in a given direction. Once you know this you may prefer, for instance, to light your kitchen work surfaces by a couple of cabinet lights rather than from multiple ceiling spotlights.

Further information about the wide Homebase selection of light bulbs

At Homebase, you’ll find a full selection of light bulbs – so you’re sure to find the right solution for your purpose. Why not click on the links below and browse through the different options?

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