Light Bulb Buying Guide: Understanding Incandescent, Fluorescent, CFL, LED & Halogen Lighting

LED Bulbs

Like CFL’s, LED’s or “light-emitting diode,” also use a very low amount of energy and offer a soft, bright white light. These bulbs are very versatile – fitting a variety of fixtures around your home given their small bulb shape. LEDs are “directional” light sources, unlike incandescent and CFL, which emit light and heat in all directions. That means LEDs are able to use light and energy more efficiently.
They are more environmentally friendly, made without any hazardous ingredients, but they are a more expensive option.

Halogen Bulbs

Halogen Light Bulbs are a type of incandescent bulb and work great for both indoor and outdoor fixtures. Their lifespan also mimics incandescent bulbs as they’re only expected to last a couple of years. The similarities end there… they are a more energy efficient bulb and can burn brighter. Caution, when handling halogens do not use bare hands. The smallest bit of oil from your hand can rub off on the bulb, creating a potential situation where the bulb warms too quickly and explodes.

Thinking Green:

Click here to learn the truth about mercury contamination from CFL bulbs

Indoor and Outdoor Light Bulbs

Got all that…

Great! Now, which one of those bulbs will you be able to use outside?

Outdoor bulbs are designed to be more resilient to the elements. While they can be used inside, indoor bulbs are not recommended for outdoor use. It isn’t just the rain to be concerned about. Some bulbs are sensitive to cold weather, the same goes for the heat.

Incandescents and Halogens can be used both inside and outside as long as they’re protected from rain. Incandescent flood bulbs are specifically designed to withstand rain and snow.

CFL’s are recommended for indoor use only. They work great in the heat but if the temperature drops too much, they’ll be useless. Because of the design of fluorescents, you’ll likely not see these outdoors anyways. But, you may see them in unheated places like sheds and garages. Summers won’t be a problem, like the CFL they can withstand the heat but in colder temperatures, they may fail. LED bulbs can be used both inside and outside.

Also, very important, especially involving Christmas or other types of rope lighting. Outdoor lights can be used inside but inside ones cannot be used outside. The wiring is made differently for the outdoor lights protecting them from moisture.

Energy Saver:

Watch this video to find out how much money you can save each year by replacing incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient CFL or LED bulbs.

Buyers Guide

When buying a new bulb, it’s smart to take a picture or bring the dud with you.

Bulb Base

When shopping for a new bulb also look at the base of the bulb. The most common types are medium, intermediate, candelabra, and pin type. Medium, intermediate, and candelabra are the most common base type’s you’ll see. The pin types are typically used for track lighting and landscape bulbs.

Color Temperature

There are three types of color temperature for bulbs, and what you’ll see is the temperature is measured in Degrees Kelvin. Those colors are Soft White (2700K – 3000K), Bright White/Cool White (3500K – 4100K), and Daylight (5000K – 6500K). The higher the number the whiter the color of the light.


Dimming switches can set the mood and lower cost of your energy bills. Incandescent and Halogen bulbs can be used with any dimmer. If you want to use a different type of bulb, be sure to check the packaging first before you buy.

Motion Sensor

Any bulb can be used as a safety motion sensor fixture. Keep in mind CFLs do take time to warm up to full potential. You might want to consider an incandescent, halogen, or LED option.

A bulbs voltage should be matched with the fixture. High voltage can reduce your bulbs lifespan. You can use a lower voltage bulb but it will emit lower light.

Lighting Facts

Always look at the labels on the bulb packaging. They are required by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. They include brightness, lifespan, light appearance, energy and mercury information.


  1. Great Information! There are so many different types of light bulbs on the market now it’s confusing. There’s CFL, LED, fluorescent, halogen, incandescent. There are also different types of light ranging from soft white to bright daylight.


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