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Types of lighting

fluro light bulb diagramhalogin light bulb diagramincadnescent light bulb diagramLED light bulb diagram

There are a few different types of lighting technology for you to choose from. Most of the old traditional incandescent lamps (light bulbs) have been phased out and now more energy efficient light bulbs, such as CFL and LED are readily available and becoming cheaper to buy upfront.

Choosing the type of light bulb technology for your next replacement lamp is quite straight forward – choose an LED. Quality LED lighting products can produce the same light and effect and suit the same fittings – but are far more energy efficient and cost a fraction to run.

We’ve prepared this page to help you learn about the main types of lighting technologies available. We break down the basics of light bulbs and how they work, how energy efficient they are and how much they cost to replace and run.

Explore this page to learn about

  • Incandescent lamps
  • Halogen lamps
  • CFL
  • LED
  • How light bulbs work.

Fast Facts

36%

How much less electricity is used to light the average home since 2009

$5

How much it typically costs to run a quality LED per year in a high traffic part of a typical home

$102

How much the average household could save by replacing 18 halogens with LEDs – per year

Incandescent light bulbs

Incandescent light bulb diagram

The traditional or standard incandescent lamp was the most common type of light bulb type for more than 100 years.

However traditional light bulbs use lots of electricity and don’t last very long compared to other lighting types such as CFL and LED. This is why – aside from halogen incandescent lamps – most have been phased-out in Australia.

In fact, the most efficient incandescent lamps (halogen) use several times more energy than an LED to produce the same light – and needs to be replaced at least 5 times during the lifespan of just one LED. While incandescent lamps currently available are cheaper to buy, choosing one instead of an energy efficient lighting product is likely to cost you. In fact, you could end up paying $229 more per year more to light your home.

The incandescent phase out

A phase out was initiated for traditional (standard) incandescent light bulbs in 2009.

This meant most incandescent bulbs couldn’t be imported to Australia – and sales restrictions were implemented. This prevented most from being made available to consumers.

Now, only a small number of heat lamps, candle, fancy round and decorative incandescent bulbs are available in Australia. If you still have any old incandescent light bulbs in your home, you should replace them as they waste 90 per cent of energy, mainly as heat. Not doing so will cost you unnecessarily on energy bills.

Halogen bulbs

Halogen light bulbs produce light in a similar way as traditional (standard) incandescent lamps. However the way halogens work means they can produce more light using less electricity.

In other words, a halogen bulb can have the same light output (lumens) as a traditional (standard) incandescent lamp using less energy (Watts). This means it’s more energy efficient – though nowhere near as efficient as a CFL or LED.

For example, a traditional incandescent lamp using 60 Watts has the same light output (lumens) as a halogen using just 42 Watts. The halogen is more energy efficient… though nowhere near as efficient as a CFL or LED.

Generally, the cheapest light bulbs to buy are halogen – however they tend to have the highest lifetime cost. It’s easy to buy a cheap halogen as low as $3, compared to an equivalent CFL at around $6 and LED at $10. This makes them a tempting option at first, however failing to consider how much they cost to run – and how frequently you have to buy replacements – can be a costly mistake.

While halogen bulbs are more energy efficient and last a bit longer than traditional incandescent bulbs, they are still considered inefficient, expensive to run and short-lived compared to their alternatives. Before choosing any replacement bulb, make sure you consider and compare the lifetime costs of halogen light bulbs with more energy efficient options – don’t risk making a decision you may regret.

Fluorescent lights

Fluorescent lights – including compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) are more energy efficient than incandescent and halogen light bulbs – so they cost less to run.

For example, if you replace just one halogen lamp with a CFL, you could save an average of $5.62 per year. Replace a whole household worth of halogens with CFLs (37 on average ) and you could save $208… each year!

CFLs are quite popular in homes as they have the convenience of being direct replacements for many traditional and halogen incandescent bulbs – as are more efficient LED lights. Fluorescent tubes have a different fitting (the ballast) and are often used in garages, offices and other workspaces.

While not quite as efficient as LED lights, fluorescent lights are still a very energy efficient lighting technology. The way fluorescent lights work allows them to generate a lot of light yet not much heat. Any electricity that goes to generating heat – instead of light – is wasted, so generating so little heat makes fluoros an energy efficient choice. In fact, they are so efficient they are almost as cheap to run as an LED – though unfortunately last about half as long.

LED bulbs

LED bulb diagramGenerally, the most energy efficient lighting technology you can buy for your home is the Light Emitting Diode (LED).

A quality LED produces the most light with the least electricity. Fortunately, their purchase price is also continuing to go down.

If you want to reduce your electricity bill, buy quality LED bulbs for your home.

For example, replacing an average household full of halogen bulbs with LEDs could save you $253 – per year! Also, a quality LED lasts at least 5 times longer than a halogen, so choosing LED will save on replacement costs.

Smart LED light bulbs – be smart to stay energy efficient

Diagram of a smartphone next to a LED bulbLED is usually the most energy efficient option – however 'smart lighting' is not always the smarter choice.

Smart LED bulbs are usually controlled by a smartphone app. They can be remotely switched on and off and adjusted to change their brightness (lumens) or colour temperature. Some can also change their colour like a party bulb to be red, green, blue and more. Smart lighting is especially convenient if you want to sit on the sofa and adjust or dim the lights, or if you want to remotely switch lights on or off when away from home.

However, some ‘smart’ lighting products draw a surprising amount of energy (Watts) when on standby – and aren’t always a smarter choice. Tests have shown some smart lighting products – despite using LED technology – end up being as inefficient as the old fashioned incandescent light bulbs phased-out years ago.

When shopping for smart lighting products, it’s important to understand the facts before you buy and especially take note of the standby power usage. If you don’t, it could end up costing you more on electricity bills than you’d expect.

How do light bulbs work?

How do incandescent light bulbs work?

Incandescent light bulbs produce light by heating a wire (the tungsten filament) to a high temperature by running an electric current through it until it glows brightly.

The more energy (Watts) run through the wire (filament), the more light (lumens) is produced. More energy used also means more heat is produced. Considering the purpose of a light bulb is to produce light – not heat – any energy that goes in to producing heat is wasted.

In other words, a bulb that produces more heat for the same light output is less efficient.

Over time, tungsten molecules in the filament evaporate off, so the filament gets thinner. When it’s too thin, it blows and you’re off to the shops again to buy another replacement light bulb.

How halogen light bulbs work

Halogen light bulbs produce light in a similar way as traditional (standard) incandescent lamps.

They still heat-up a tungsten filament like an old incandescent lamp, however the bulb also contains halogen gas. The halogen reacts with the tungsten in a way that allows the bulb to heat up more – and get brighter – using less electricity. This reaction also slows the wearing out of the filament – so it lasts longer.

A halogen lamp uses less electricity and tends to last about twice as long as an equivalent standard incandescent light bulb. However, halogens have a fraction of the longevity and cost a lot more to run than energy efficient lights such as CFL and LED.

How fluorescent lights work

Fluorescent lamps – whether CFL or fluorescent tubes – work by generating an electric charge inside a vapour-filled glass tube.

The tube contains mercury vapour that gets excited by the charge and generates invisible ultraviolet (UV) light. The UV hits a phosphor lining inside the tube, which excites the phosphor and creates visible light.

All this excitement produces a lot of light – yet low levels of heat – which means very little energy is wasted. In other words, whichever type you choose, fluoros are generally an energy efficient way to light your home.

How do LED light bulbs work?

Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs work differently to incandescent and fluorescent lighting.

LED lights work by sending electricity (an electric charge) through a solid material, instead of through a filament or vapour. The charge excites the electrons inside, moving them about rapidly through the solid material, which produces light. This process produces very low levels of heat – so very little electricity gets wasted.

In other words, quality LEDs are very energy efficient. In fact, LEDs are so efficient at producing light that they can cost as little as $5 per bulb, per year to run, even in a high-use area of your home.

Because LED bulbs work without a filament and produce so little heat, they take a long, long time to wear out. You’ll find a quality LED will last 5 to 15 times longer than halogen lighting. For you, this means spending your money on replacement bulbs – and climbing on chairs to change bulbs – will become a rather rare occurrence.

Consider the lifetime costs – and the longevity – of quality LED bulbs compared to other types of lighting before you buy, so you can make an informed choice.

The Light Bulb Saver app

smart phone with light bulb icon

The Light Bulb Saver app makes it easier to work out what kind of bulb to buy, while showing how much you could save by choosing a more efficient bulb. Download the free app now from iTunes or Google Play.