Incandescent lightbulbs on a string

A hundred years ago your choices for home or office lighting were fairly limited. Incandescent lights have  been the primary means of illuminating space for the past century. New breakthroughs have been made over the years to help diversify lightbulb choice—one of the newest being LED lights. As residential electrical contractors and commercial electrical contractors we are often asked just what difference there is in available lighting sources and why LED is so revolutionary. Below is a recap of the different major categories of lightbulb as well as some pros and cons of each.

Incandescent Lightbulbs

An incandescent bulb relies on taking in electricity to heat a small tungsten filament inside the glass envelope. As the filament heats up it produces light to help illuminate a space. Over time the heating and cooling of that filament causes the tungsten to weaken, leading to the burnout or breaking of the filament. Once that happens the lightbulb needs to be replaced with one that contains new tungsten.

There are a few benefits of the classic incandescent light. For one it is very easy to add a dimmer to these types of light sources. The degrees of heating provide varying levels of illumination, suiting different types of environments. Incandescent bulbs generally come in two flavors—regular and halogen. Halogen lights are known for having longer lives due to a difference in the physical makeup of the bulb itself. Both Halogen and conventional lights, however, are considered to be inefficient lighting methods due to how they are constructed and the need to draw more power than necessary for some of the bulbs contemporaries—leading to higher operation costs.

Fluorescent Lightbulbs

Fluorescent bulbs ignite gas contained in the glass envelope causing illumination to occur. The phosphorus gas creates a white-light illumination. We commonly see these types of lights in industrial and commercial spaces. Fluorescent bulbs come in a variety of illumination types. It is possible to get bulbs that emit white light at the same level as the sun (which is great for areas with lots of rain) all the way to warmer, incandescent style temperatures.

Each of these lights are considered a highly efficient method of illumination. Fluorescent bulbs use less energy than incandescent bulbs (up to 1/3 less) and generally have a burn rate 20x longer than regular lightbulbs. Dimmers are a possibility, but you will need to purchase a special “dimmable” version of the bulb.

LED Lights

A growing favorite, LED lightbulbs are the newest type of bulb to come to market. LED is an acronym for light emitting diode. It illuminates by using electricity to charge semi-conductors causing electrons to combine (called photons) and illuminate.

When it comes to efficiency, LED lights are considered to be the best bulbs on the market. It is not uncommon to see LEDs with an expected life of 50,000 hours. Because of the way the bulb creates illumination, LEDs use less electricity than a traditional lightbulb does. That means a lower annual cost to run these bulbs. LEDs also come in a variety of shades—from a warm glow (like traditional incandescent) to daylight (5,000 kelvin) making those in particular a great light source for wetter climates with more annual cloud cover like we have here in Portland, Oregon.

Your lightbulb choices really come down to preference, fixture type, and budget. Our skilled team of electricians are available to discuss different lighting options for commercial and residential spaces.