What are the different light bulb types?

So you want to change a light bulb in your home or workplace, and it used to be easy... and now it's a lot trickier. There are so many light bulbs to choose from, with differing colours, styles, brightness and sizes, so how do you know what to choose?

Light Bulbs

Because the simple task of choosing a light bulb just isn't simple anymore, we have put together some information regarding the different light bulb types, how they work and how to compare them against one another. If you would like any further information, give 1st Call Electrical a call on 1300 016 671 today.

What are the different types of light bulb?

There are four main types of light bulbs:

  • Incandescent - The most common light for over 100 years, however they use a lot of electricity and don't last very long. A phase out of incandescent lights commenced in 2009.
  • Halogen - Produce light in a very similar way to incandescent lights, however use less energy to do it.
  • Compact Fluorescent Lamps, otherwise known as CFL - More energy efficient than both halogen and incandescent, and less costly to run.
  • Light Emitting Diode, otherwise known as LED - The most energy efficient, and cost effective, option available.

How does a light bulb work?

This may seem like a simple question, but the answer depends on the type of light bulb, as each works slightly differently than another. One thing remains the same though - a bulb that produces more heat for the same light output is simply less efficient.

Light Bulbs

Incandescent light bulbs

Incandescent Light Bulbs

Incandescent light bulbs create light by heating a wire, known as the tungsten filament to a high temperature by running an electric current through it until it glows brightly. The more energy, or watts that run through the tungsten filament, the more light (lumens) are produced. However, the more energy used the more heat that is produced... and energy is wasted.

Halogen light bulbs

Halogen Light Bulbs

A halogen light bulb lights up in the same way as an incandescent one does - through the heating up of the tungsten filament - however a halogen bulb also contains halogen gas. Halogen gas speeds up the heating process, meaning the bulb can get brighter using less electricity and lasts longer (as the gas protects the filament).

Fluorescent lights

CFL Light Bulbs

Both CFL and fluorescent tubes work in the same way - by generating an electric charge inside a glass tube filled with mercury vapour. The vapour gets excited by the charge and creates invisible ultraviolet (UV) light. The UV then hits a phosphor lining inside the tube, which excites the phosphor and creates light that we can see.

LED light bulbs

LED Light Bulbs

LED lights work differently to the above, which is what makes them more energy efficient. They send an electric charge through solid material, as opposed to filament or vapour, which engages the electrons inside. This then makes them move them around quickly through the solid material, which produces light. The levels of heat this process generates is very low, so very little electricity gets wasted.

It usually costs around $5 a year to run a quality LED light in a high traffic area of your home.

Comparing all the different light bulb types

The following table sets out how the different light bulbs compare to each other.


LED (light emitting diode)

CFL (compact fluorescent lamp)


Circular and linear fluorescent

Typical omnidirectional light bulb and price

LED Light Bulb
CFL Light Bulb
Halogen Light Bulb
Circular and Linear Light Bulb

Typical directional light bulb and price

Low Output Light Bulb
Low Output Light Bulb
Low Output Light Bulb


Colour range

Warm White to Daylight

Warm White to Daylight

Warm White

Warm White to Daylight


Selected Brands

Selected Brands



Life span (hours)

15,000 - 30,000

6,000 - 15,000

2,000 - 4,000


Replacement globes (over 10 years)





Table courtesy of Energy Rating

1st Call Electrical

Your Lighting Specialists across Melbourne

If you have any questions regarding the different kinds of light bulbs, or would like some assistance choosing the best lighting for your home or workplace, give 1st Call Electrical a call on 1300 016 671. We are experts in all your lighting needs, so get in contact now!


Energy Rating (Choose Which Type of Bulb): http://www.energyrating.gov.au/lighting/types-of-light-bulbs

Energy Rating (Factsheet: Light Bulb Buyers Guide): http://www.energyrating.gov.au/document/factsheet-light-bulb-buyers-guide

Choice (How to buy the best light bulbs): https://www.choice.com.au/home-improvement/energy-saving/light-bulbs/buying-guides/light-bulbs

Lightbulb photos courtesy of Energy Rating.

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