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3 Types of Light Bulbs

The Martha Stewart Show, December 2009

We've all seen the spiraled, energy-efficient bulbs in stores, and some of us even have them in our homes. But it's not always clear how they differ from other types -- and which is the best bulb for the job.

There are three basic kinds of light bulbs on the market: incandescent, halogen, and CFL (compact fluorescent light). Mark Candido, co-owner of The Accessory Store in Stamford, Connecticut, explains the differences in terms of aesthetics and energy usage.

Incandescent Bulbs
Incandescent light bulbs are the traditional bulbs with which we're all familiar. They cast a warm glow but are the least efficient, and they need to be replaced most often. Use an incandescent when you want a cozier effect or want to highlight the true color of a shade.

Halogen Bulbs
Halogen bulbs are more efficient than incandescent bulbs -- they provide 25 to 30 percent more light using the same amount of electricity. However, they emit a whiter light, so they're better suited for offices, kitchens, or lamps with warm-colored shades. Also, they burn at a very high temperature, so don't use one in a location where you might accidentally burn yourself.

CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light) Bulbs
CFLs are the most efficient, and they're available in spiral or traditional shapes. The bulbs last much longer than traditional incandescent, and they use less electricity too. However, like halogens, they tend to emit a cold light, so they're most appropriate behind shades that will cancel out their harshness. They also contain mercury, so take care when you're handling and disposing them.