A question we’re often asked is what’s the difference between a LED lightbulb and an ‘ordinary’ light bulb? The question often comes up because of the price of LED bulbs, which can be significantly more than more ‘traditional’ bulbs, but once people understand the difference they realise that LED light bulbs provide significantly better value for money. We have explained the different types of bulbs in ‘Getting to know your light bulbs’, so here we’ll enlarge on what types of LED light bulbs are available.

LED lightbulbs have come on leaps and bounds in the last couple of years, making them a good choice for both domestic and industrial lighting. There has also been rapid developments in the type of LED light bulbs available which increases the opportunity for creative lighting design. Some types of LED lighting e.g. LED lighting strips enable a form of lighting that has not been possible before, and lighting designers are now able to produce ‘lighting landscapes’ that used to be the stuff of science-fiction. See our article on LED lighting strips for more on this.

LED lightbulbs now come in all shapes and sizes and also – more importantly, with different levels of ‘warmth’. In the past one of the main objections to LED llight bulbs was that they produced harsh ‘cold’ light that really wasn’t suitable for domestic purposes – apart from perhaps in bathrooms and garages where ‘cold’ light was acceptable.

Now there are varying degrees of warmth available, and this is an important consideration when doing your lighting design. See our article on how warmth is measured: ‘We need to talk about Kelvin’

Types of LED Light Bulbs

GU10 and MR16 LED Light Bulbs

Possibly the most familiar types of LED lightbulbs are those that replace the more traditional halogen lightbulbs such as the GU10 LED bulbs or the MR16 LED light bulbs. The come in dimmable versions too and are popular because they use the least amount of energy of virtually any other type of lightbulb. You can also get coloured versions and they can be used directly in place of their halogen counterparts without the need for any other equipment.

GU10 LED light bulb

GU10 LED light bulb

MR16 LED light bulbs

MR16 LED light bulbs


LED PAR Reflector Bulbs

PAR stands for ‘Parabolic Aluminized Reflector’ and these types of bulbs use refraction to enhance the light output. Before LEDs their main purpose was to increase the brightness of the light being emitted. LEDs however provide very bright light without the need for the intensity to be enhanced with refraction. Instead, the PAR is used to direct the light. Traditionally, LED lights have been very ‘uni-directional’ with very little diffusion – this meant that they were great at providing almost laser-light type focus, but were less useful when a more diffused light was needed  – such as emitted by the more traditional incandescent light bulbs. LED PAR reflector bulbs ensure that light is deflected outwards and so more diffusion takes place. This means that LED light bulbs can be used to replace all types of domestic light bulbs and achieve the same effect.

They come in a range of sizes and types – some of which can be seen below:

GLS LED Light Bulbs

These are available in traditional bayonet and screw cap fittings, and they are the ideal type of LED light bulb to use if you want to use LED light bulbs to replace the more traditional incandescent or CFL type light bulb.  They provide ‘ordinary room’ lighting and it’s hard to tell the difference between these LED light bulbs and their more traditional ancestors.

What you will notice the difference in though, is cheaper bills as they use significantly less power and also last much longer than their predecessors!

They come in dimmable and non-dimmable versions and also have different Kelvin ratings – so you can also choose the warmth you require.  They are also instantly ‘on’ unlike previous incarnations of energy-saving light bulbs that take time to warm up.

As you will see in the pictures below – they can even look like their ancestors – or not as the case may be.