Incandescent Light Bulbs

Incandescent light bulbs are the most widespread form of lighting that are in use around the home. Historically, incandescent lamps have provided approximately 85% of the home’s lighting needs.

Incandescent light bulbs do not need ballasts to operate. They provide a warm colored light and very good color rendition. Additionally, when turned on, these light bulbs will instantly provide light. But, these light bulbs are inefficient when compared to other types of lighting and generally do not have long operating lives.

Of all the lamp types, the incandescent is the least expensive to purchase, yet the most expensive to operate use because of its inefficiency. It is the oldest form of electric lighting in use today.

The Incandescent Lamp Graphic

Image Credit: U.S. Department of Energy

Incandescent Lamp -Types

Incandescent lamps come in three types. Below are descriptions of those types.

  • Standard Incandescent Lamps

    The light bulb we are all accustomed to seeing is the standard incandescent lamp. It is the most common one in use and is also the least efficient lighting source. Incandescent lamps that have higher wattage ratings will also have higher efficacy ratings than lamps with smaller wattage. But, this does not mean a high wattage incandescent lamp is a cost effective or energy efficient form of lighting.

  • Halogen Lamps

    A second form of incandescent lighting is the halogen lamp. This type of lighting provides more efficiency than the standard incandescent lamp and the color rendition is outstanding.

    This form of incandescent lighting is more expensive to purchase than standard incandescent lamps. However, they are more efficient and cost less to operate. These types of lamps are often used in flood lighting for outdoor applications or for indoor recessed lighting fixtures.

  • Reflector Lamps

    Reflector lamps are typically used for down lighting, flood lighting and spot lighting applications. These lamps, depending on the specific type, can direct light to a specific area or spread the light over a larger area. These lamps come in two different types:

    • Parabolic Aluminized Reflector (PAR) lamps – These lamps are usually placed into use in outdoor applications for flood lighting.

    • Ellipsoidal reflector lamps (ER) – These lamps are usually placed into recessed lighting fixtures where the light is projected in a downward direction. These types of lamps are more efficient than PAR lamps in recessed lighting fixture applications because they are designed to focus the light outside the fixture.

The table below provides a comparison to the different types of incandescent lighting. Refer to lighting characteristics page for an explanation on the terminology used in this table.

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