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A light bulb moment

With the EU ban of traditional light bulbs, many people are left unsure and confused as to what bulbs they can use to replace their old ones. The following guide briefly explains the different types of bulbs available and how to ‘change a bulb’.

The problem with traditional bulbs

Whilst many people prefer the warm glow of a traditional incandescent bulb, the biggest problem with it is that 95% of its energy output takes the form of heat rather than light, which makes them incredibly inefficient.

Halogen bulbs use a similar technology to incandescent bulbs, but are marginally more efficient due to the construction of the bulb itself, which allows for a higher burning temperature inside, resulting in a higher output of light using the same amount of watts.

The alternatives

In the UK there are two main types of energy efficient light bulbs: Compact Fluorescent Lamps or CFL’s and Light Emitting Diodes, more commonly known as LED’s. CFL’s are great for replacing standard light fittings as they use up to 80% less electricity than traditional bulbs. LED’s are the most energy efficient out of the two types and it’s particularly good for replacing spotlights and using dimmers.

Here’s a guide of the equivalent output of light given by all four types of bulb.

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How to change a bulb?

Ok, so you might upgrade to energy efficient bulbs and are ready for the change over, but where do you start?

You’ll need to determine the following:

  • Fitting

  • Shape

  • Brightness

  • Colour


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In the UK, most standard home light fittings are either a bayonete (B) or an Edison Screw (E). Down lights and tubes come in the GU10 and MR16 fittings. If you are unable to bring the bulb to match in the shop, use the chart above and make a note of the fitting code before you buy bulbs.


Now you have identified the fitting you need, lets think about the shape of the bulb. There’s a huge amount of choice in this respect, but essentially, as long as the fitting and wattage corresponds, you can use any shape bulb you want.

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However, it is important to consider the spread of light that different shapes give. A bulb that throws the wrong angle of light can be annoying so take a moment to consider your options: bulbs that are round give light in all directions and are best suited for ceiling pendants. A candle bulb is better suited to a table lamp and recessed lights will need a reflector to give a narrow beam of light.

Consider the location too: you don’t want a bulb that sticks out over your lamp shade!


In the old incandescent bulb days, watts was equal to light output. This is of course not relevant in the LED and CFL era where only a fraction of electricity is used to give the same light output. This is why we now have Lumens (lm) as a measure of brightness. See the chart below for a comparison in brightness output between types of bulbs.

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Say you want to replace a 60w old fashion bulb with a LED equivalent. A 60w incandescent bulb will give out about 700 lumens of light, therefore, you will need a 10w LED to give out a similar amount of light. Roughly, a bedside table should give about 400 lumens but you should aim for about 3000 lumens to light up a living room, using several bulbs.

If you are replacing halogen spotlights, try halving the amount of lumens when replacing with new LED’s, to get a similar brightness.


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Here’s another unit of measure for you: Kelvins, which is basically a scale to measure temperature. Bulb manufacturers will refer to ‘colour temperature’ on the packaging to explain where in the scale of orange to blue the bulb is placed. Most people prefer the warm glow of an old fashion incandescent light bulb, which is about 2700 kelvins.

However, for a modern kitchen or bathroom you may prefer the bluer end of the scale to mimic natural light.

The colour of the light can influence everything from your mood to the colour of fruit and veg, so getting the right colour should also be considered, or you might end up with a living room that feels more like a hospital ward!

Is it worth switching to CFL’s and LED’s?

Many people are put off by the price of energy saving bulbs. However, when you consider their energy consumption and life span, most energy saving bulbs would pay for themselves in less than a year

Milford Supplies prices as at December 2017



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