How to choose the right bulb for your needs

Image of a hand changing a regular light bulb for LED

More options, lower cost for energy efficient lighting

It's no secret that energy efficient lighting products have drastically improved in recent years. ENERGY STAR® LEDs — which last at least 25 years and use 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs — now come in a variety of bulb styles and colours. The cost of LEDs has also dropped steadily as technology continues to improve and more and more consumers are purchasing them.

As a comparison, in 2011 the average cost of an LED bulb was $40; today you can get one for around $15. 

Three steps to choosing the right bulb

Shopping for new lighting can be confusing. With all the different lighting options, types of bulbs and technical information, it can quickly become overwhelming. To help make things easier, we've compiled key information you need to know when you hit the lighting aisles, based on three key areas: brightness, application, and colour temperature.

And if you need to understand how to read a light bulb package, see this helpful infographic.


Brightness refers to the light output of a bulb. This is measured in lumens — the higher the lumens, the brighter the bulb.

With newer light bulbs designed to use less energy, wattage is no longer a reliable way to gauge a light bulb's brightness. To choose the right bulb, pick the lumens you need and then choose the one with the lowest wattage.

If you're not sure of the lumens rating for a burnt out bulb, look on the LED package for mention of 'equivalent to' or 'replacement for'. This will give you the idea of what energy efficient option is best to replace an older, inefficient bulb with. For example, an old incandescent 60 watt bulb is equivalent to an 800 lumen 9.5 watt LED bulb.  

Colour temperature

Have you ever installed a new light bulb and turned it on only to find that the light is too blue or too yellow for your liking? That's the bulb's colour temperature.

Colour temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin; the lower the Kelvin numbers, the warmer the light and the higher the Kelvin numbers, the cooler or bluer the light. The colour temperature of your lighting can change the whole look and mood of a room.

The technology of energy-efficient LEDs has improved in recent years, and bulbs are now available in a range of temperatures including warm, cool, neutral, and natural. LED bulbs classified as 'warm white' or 'soft white' are the best replacement for old incandescent bulbs as they'll give off a similar coloured light. 'Cool white', 'neutral white' or 'bright white' are great for kitchens and work spaces, while 'natural' or 'daylight' bulbs are good for reading.

Bulb application

The application in which you're going to use the bulb is most important to ensure you pick the right one. There are six main types of bulbs: A-shape, globe/vanity, MR16/GU10, candle, and PAR/BR. Below is a breakdown of what type of bulb you should look for based on what you need it for.

  • Table or floor lamp
    The most common, traditional shaped bulbs — known as A-shape bulbs — work well in floor and table lamps. Some floor and table lamps use a special 3-way socket. If yours does, look for a 3-way bulb to use with it. Check the packaging to ensure the bulb is designed for the application intended.

    If your lamp is hooked up to a dimmer switch, make sure you only use dimmable bulbs.
  • Pendant fixtures
    Pendant fixtures — also called suspended fixtures — can use an A-shape, Globe, MR16 or candle style bulb. This fixture comes in variety of styles and finishes, usually found in the kitchen or dining room.
  • Ceiling mount fixtures
    A versatile fixture that's used in hallways, kitchen, laundry rooms and bedrooms that works best with A-shape and Globe bulbs.
  • Wall sconces
    Due to their smaller sizes, A-shape, globe and candle style bulbs work well for wall sconces, providing functional lighting in main living areas, bathrooms, or hallways.
  • Recessed lighting
    Indoor flood lights or reflectors (BR and PAR bulbs) work best in recessed light fixtures because they are specially designed to direct the light out of the fixture over a wider area. Installed in the ceiling, recessed lighting provides task lighting over a sink or desk area, or highlights a decorative art piece in the home.

    If your recessed fixture uses a dimmer switch, make sure you buy reflectors that are able to dim. The packaging will tell you whether or not you can use them with a dimmer.
  • Track lighting
    MR16, GU10 or PAR20 bulbs are typically found in your track lighting fixture. Similar to recessed lighting, track lights are versatile and flexible in size and shape to provide directional light over counters or on walls
  • Outdoor
    If you're looking for outdoor lighting, use PAR or A-shape bulbs. Check the bulb's package to ensure compatilbility with lighting controls and ideal operating temperatures.

    If you use photocells, motion sensors or an electronic timer, check the packing to ensure the bulb is compatible with these options.
  • Bathroom vanity
    Globe and A-shape type bulbs are usually found in bathroom vanity fixtures. These fixtures are typically mounted over or around the sides of a mirror in the bathroom, to give you the light you need for your daily routine.

Want more help? See Phillips' bulb advisor

Save on energy-efficient lighting this Offtober

Between October 1 – 31, 2015 get instant rebates on select ENERGY STAR LEDs, lighting controls and fixtures at our select retail partners across the province:

  • Canadian Tire
  • Costco
  • Home Hardware
  • London Drugs
  • Rona
  • The Home Depot
  • Wal-Mart

Recycle burnt out bulbs

All residential light bulbs and tubes including halogen, incandescent, and LEDs, as well as portable, hardwired, or free standing light fixtures can be recycled at Light Recycle locations across B.C.