Which Light Bulbs Should I Use?

Electrician Edinburgh fitting a light

In the seventies and eighties, for most people, the only choices for home or commercial lighting were incandescent bulbs or fluorescent strip lighting. These came in different wattage ratings based on the brightness levels required. Since then, new technology has been responsible for moving things on and there are now a host of different lighting options available. Some of the most commonly known light bulbs and their properties are described below.

LED light bulbs

Incandescent Bulbs

This is the type of bulb most people grew up with in their home. In this type of bulb, light is produced by electricity being passed through a thin tungsten wire. Unfortunately as well as light, a huge amount of heat energy is produced (about 20% light and 80% heat), which is extremely wasteful and makes these bulbs very energy inefficient. In 2007 the UK announced that this type of bulb would be phased out by 2011. However, a loophole in the law has meant that some types of incandescent bulb can still be found on sale today. Even so, their popularity has greatly reduced in the last few years. This is partly due to the lack of availability and partly due to improvements and falling prices of other types of more energy efficient bulbs.

Halogen bulbs

Halogen bulbs are similar to incandescent light bulbs but have a small quartz bulb filled with halogen gas inside the incandescent bulb. Although they last a lot longer than incandescent bulbs they also produce a lot of heat, making them not very energy efficient as well as a fire and burn hazard. At the moment they continue to be popular with many people because they are cheap to produce and therefore cheap to buy.

CFL Bulbs

CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lights) use the same technology as fluorescent strip lighting but are curled into a more compact design. They are much more energy efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs using 1/4 of the energy and lasting 10 times longer. However, the thing that annoys most people about this type of bulb is that when switched on, they can take time a few moments to warm up and reach their optimum brightness level.  They also struggle to operate well in cool conditions, so are not good for outdoor use or for lighting areas that are likely to be cold. In addition CFL bulbs contain small amounts of mercury which is dangerous to humans and not good for the environment. This means that when CFL bulbs come to the end of their life they need to be disposed of properly and can’t just be thrown in the bin.

LED Bulbs

LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) bulbs contain semi conductors that convert electricity into light. They have been around for years in small electronic devices e.g. digital clock displays. The huge benefit of LEDs has always been their superb energy efficiency (up to 90%), leading to low running costs, together with fantastic longevity – they can last for up to 50,000 hours before they need replacing. However, traditionally the high cost of LED bulbs has been the main prohibitive factor for their popularity. Fortunately in the last couple of years their price has come down considerably and they are now the much more affordable option for lighting your home and business.

Main Advantages of LED Lighting

  • Up to 90% energy efficiency
  • Last up to 50,00 hours
  • Safer – as they are cold to the touch
  • Dimmable and not dimmable versions available
  • Light up to full brightness instantly
  • Operate in cold conditions
  • Made from 100% recyclable materials
  • Full range of colours and styles


Capital City Electrical specialise in commercial and domestic lighting design and installation. If you would like any help with lighting in your home or business please get in touch or give us a call on 0131 202 9188

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