Incandescent Light Bulbs

Shortly after we moved one of our lamps burnt out. The light bulb was the last of an old 6 pack of filament lights that we finally used up. For a while now, one of the items on our green living to-do list has been to upgrade to LED light bulbs, but since I already had that old pack of filament bulbs, we had to use those up first. Because one of our rules is use what you already have first.

So I ordered a 6 pack of LED lights. Maybe overkill considering we only have 2 lamps and these things have a 10 year guaranteed life. Real talk: sometimes I let the discount for buying in bulk counteract our desire to have less stuff. I need to work on that.

Anyhow, today I’m going to do a compare and contrast on the three most common types of light bulbs, so that next time you need to replace one, you can make the best choice.

Incandescent Light Bulbs

I mean, let’s hand it to Thomas Edison, this design for an electric light bulb has been around since 1878. Edison wasn’t the first to make a bulb that used a filament – about 20 others had done so with varying degrees of success starting in 1802 – but Edison’s design using a carbon filament had a long life and was the one that took off commercially. Filament lights work by passing an electric current through a material known as the filament. Today, filaments are typically made of tungsten.


  • Light Quality: Incandescent light bulbs produce the warm, soft light we’ve come to expect from our lamps.
  • Price per bulb: Incandescent light bulbs typically cost about $1 – $2 per bulb
  • Availability and style: You can easily pick up a filament light bulb at a grocery store, convenience store or hardware store. And you can get a wide variety of sizes and styles. If you have a chandelier that takes specially shaped bulbs, they are most likely going to be Incandescent light bulbs.


  • Energy use: A standard 60 watt incandescnet light bulb produces anywhere from 600-800 lumens. Lumens are the unit that the amount of visible light is measured in. As suggested, to do this it takes 60 watts of electricity flowing through the filament. Newer, more efficient filament bulbs claim to produce the same amount of lumens using about 45 watts, but that is still significantly more energy than other light bulbs require.
  • Fragility: Filaments are rather delicate things. If jostled too strongly, the filament can get dislodged or break without even being lit.
  • Lifetime: A 60 watt bulb will burn for about 985 hours. This translates to around 11 months of use if lit for 3 hours each day.

10 year cost for burning incandescent light bulbs in one lamp: (3 hours a day, $0.12/kwh cost of electricity, $1.50/bulb, 12 bulbs) = $96.84

You can find my report of the pros and cons of CFL light bulbs here, and LED light bulbs here to see how Incandescent light bulbs measure up.