Your Guide to Incandescent Light Bulbs

Aug 03, 12 Your Guide to Incandescent Light Bulbs

With today’s emphasis on energy efficiency in lighting, it’s easy to forget that our old, inefficient friend, the incandescent light bulb, still exists. In fact, it may never go away. The lowly incandescent isn’t just the less-efficient alternative to modern bulbs, it is oftentimes the only bulb available for many everyday applications.

Standard Shape

They’re known as A-shape, pear shape, or traditional, but most people just call them light bulbs. Standard shape bulbs are the old-fashioned bulbs that many of you are still using or are hoarding in your attic. Though these bulbs are the type most directly affected by EISA 2007 and other lighting legislation, lower-wattage and special application bulbs aren’t going away anytime soon.

Low Voltage

Have an RV or a camper? Chances are you use one of these 12 or 24 volt light bulbs. Other applications include landscape and outdoor lighting, especially battery-powered. Though they look just like other bulbs, don’t use them in your home, or they’ll blow out in a fraction of a second!

Antique and Vintage

An increasingly popular bulb type, antique bulbs are reproductions of bulbs made in the 19th century, with many very closely resembling the original bulb made by Thomas Edison himself. Though they are highly inefficient, even in comparison to other incandescent bulbs, these beautiful creations are popular in restaurants, retail stores, and of course, home restorations.

Spot and Flood

Though Halogen reflector bulbs are more popular, incandescent spot and flood lights are popular options for recessed cans in homes, businesses, and even elevators. Many are also weatherproof, making them a good choice for covered outdoor fixtures.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 19:  McDonald's fren...

French fries under a heat lamp (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Infrared

Also known simply as “heat lamps,” these reflector bulbs emit more infrared heat than light. In effect, they are heaters you can screw into a light socket. Infrared heat lamps are commonly used in fast food warmers, buffets, and even household bathrooms.

Decorative Chandelier

Meant to replicate the look of a flame, these bulbs are what you see in chandeliers, electric candles, and a host of other decorative light fixtures. The most popular versions are straight tip (torpedo) and bent tip, but specialty bulbs like shaped like prisms, satin string bulbs made to reproduce a gas flame, and flicker flame bulbs are also common.

Decorative Globe

Used in holiday lights and outdoor light stringers as well as bathroom vanities and even as a non-traditional alternative for chandeliers, globe bulbs are nearly as widespread as standard shape bulbs.

Tubular

Tubular bulbs include many sizes and styles of bulbs made for applications as varied as older incandescent exit signs and picture lamps. You may also see these in household appliances like vacuum cleaners and as replacement bulbs for microwave ovens.

Linear

Linear incandescents are one of two proprietary technologies made or licensed by GE for their Lumiline brand and by Sylvania for their Linestra brand. Though rare now, these were once a high-CRI, warm-toned alternative to fluorescent tubes.

Silver Bowl

Silver bowl bulbs are frequently used in restaurant pendant lights and other base-up fixtures. The reflective coating on the top of the bulb redirects light into a hanging fixture so that it is refracted by the fixture’s shade, reducing glare.

Control panel

A variety of bulbs in a control panel (Photo credit: Elsie esq.)

S6, S11, and S14 Indicator

S-type incandescent bulbs are found in everything from heavy machinery to instrument panels. S11 and S14 bulbs are widely used in signs, marquees, and flashing arrow sign boards you see in merging traffic as well as in amusement park rides, where they outline the profile of roller-coasters and bring a sparkle to Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds.

C7 and C9 Commercial

C7 and C9 bulbs are well-known for their use in Christmas lights, though they have many commercial and specialty applications as well. Like S-type bulbs, C-type bulbs are often used in marquees and signs. In homes, C7 bulbs have especially widespread use in night lights.

Colored and Bug Lights

Though CFL and LED colored light bulbs are slowly gaining ground, colored incandescent bulbs are much more common. Colored light bulbs can be found in just about any bulb shape mentioned above. An especially popular subset of colored bulbs, the yellow bug light, is used on porches and decks as their yellow color blocks the wavelengths of light that attract moths and other irritating flying insects.

Code Beacon

Code beacon bulbs are high-wattage, high-output bulbs used on the roofs of buildings and in radio towers to signal aircraft.

Traffic Signal

As their name implies, these bulbs are used in old-fashioned traffic signals, though they have been all but replaced by Halogen and LED bulbs.

1000Bulbs.com

Benjamin is a writer for 1000Bulbs.com.

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3 Comments

  1. Yes, incandescent light bulbs are effective and the old favourite of the halogen bulb cannot be forgotten and dismissed. The LED bulb is still my favourite choice of bulb however and they’re available now at cost effective prices.

  2. nina /

    I don’t understand why there isn’t blood on the streets regarding the impending (or threatened) doom of the incadescent light bulb. If you care at all about how things look (and by things, I mean rooms AND people), there is just no substitute for the beautiful warm glow of an incandescent bulb. Give me total darkness if my only other choice is the grim, hideous, bluish cast (reminiscent of scuzzy cafeterias and mental hospitals) given off by the abomination that is flourescent lighting. LED’s are trying, but so far, they are only slightly less vomitous.

  3. Stan /

    Don’ forget photography! A “white” LED is a brilliant blue LED that activates a yellow florescent material. The resulting illumination consists of a very narrow frequency band of blue added to the narrow frequency band of yellow. It looks sort of white, but lacks the majority of the visible color spectrum. Some commercial lighting fixtures have added a red LED to the mix, which helps a lot, but is still missing the majority of color definition.

    An incandescent lamp, while short in the blue range, has that warm analog spread spectrum illumination that is psychologically comforting.

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