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The Most Common Light Bulb Shapes & How to Choose the Best Bulb!

An American home has an average of 40 light bulbs in use at any one time. And when you’re trying to find a replacement in the closet, you might feel as though that means 40 different types of light bulbs!

Bulbs come in so much variety to cover the wide range of uses and fixtures available today. Along with size and wattage, you’ll find at least 20 different light bulb shapes to choose from to help you match your home’s style and properly distribute light in your space.

Fortunately, only three shapes are widely used in most houses, so you don’t need to remember all of them. Let’s take a look at these most common options and when you want to use each.

A-Shaped Bulbs

When you think of a light bulb, the image that comes to mind is likely an A-shape. Type A light bulbs vary widely in size and function, but all have that kind of inverted pear shape inherited from the Edison bulb.

These are the most widely used bulbs of all the shapes and can be found everywhere from inside your closet to the lamp by your bed. Some are small and specifically designed for cold environments like the fridge. Others are designed to be ultra-bright for office lights or ceiling fans.

A-shaped bulbs used to only be incandescent types but now also come in halogen and LED versions. The size of the bulb impacts the wattage rating.

B and C-Shaped Bulbs

This shape group includes the kinds of bulbs typically found in chandeliers, night lights, and low wattage applications. They provide a balance between form and function since they’re meant to replicate a flame without bringing in the danger of a fire.

Most generally resemble the shape of a candle flame, so they’re often called candle bulbs. Type C light bulbs or chandelier bulbs look the most like a flame with a curve at the tip of the bulb. Modern holiday lights with small white bulbs typically use a C-shape bulb.

Type B light bulbs are also called candelabra bulbs and get their letter designation from their blunt tips that give them a torpedo shape. These are commonly used in holiday light strings with large colored bulbs and other decorative applications.

PAR-Shaped Bulbs

When you need more light and need it directed to a specific spot, turn to a PAR-shaped light bulb.

PAR refers to a parabolic mirror inside the glass that focuses light into specific beam angles. This makes them perfect for use in spotlights and floodlights. PAR bulbs also have a hard-edge to their light beam rather than fading out into shadow.

For LED versions, the PAR designation refers only to the shape as these do on have the reflective mirror in them.

These bulbs have a shorter body shape than other reflectors, which allows them to sit flush with the fixture rather than bulging out past it. This reduces glare since the bulb is completely recessed into the fixture. In general, PAR bulbs give you a high light output, wide coverage, and durable reflector housing.

PAR bulbs have two covers over the filament, which makes them heavier than R bulbs. The glass cover usually has a rough texture to it and can be found in different colors. This makes them ideal for outdoor lighting, although they work well in track lights indoors.

Other Light Bulb Shapes To Know

While they might not be quite as commonly used, three other shapes are good to know for those times you need them. The G-group or globe bulbs have a full, round shape that you might have seen over a bathroom vanity. They work well in exposed fixtures since they send out a wide light beam.

BR group bulbs are a style of reflector bulb that diffuses light to produce fewer shadows compared to PAR bulbs. They’re longer than PAR bulbs but work in similar figure types.

Long, skinny fluorescent bulbs might come to mind when you think of tube bulbs. However, this can also be a shorter decorative style that works in chandeliers or pendant lights along with basement and garage fixtures.

How To Choose A Light Bulb

While we’ve been talking about bulb shape here, type, size, base, and color also come into play when choosing a bulb. That said, the shape is important for decor style and ideal light distribution. But it’s not a danger if you put a chandelier bulb in a table lamp, as it would be if you put in a bulb with too high a wattage.

Track lighting and direction lights work best with recessed bulbs since they focus light in one direction. Fancy and decorative fixtures call for candle bulbs, especially when the bulb is exposed like in a chandelier or wall sconce. These also tend to give off a softer light than round bulbs of the same wattage.

PAR shapes work best as outdoor lighting as they’re very bright and focused. That makes them too overwhelming for indoor lighting. If you have a round or long fixture, globe or tube bulbs work well since they give out even light in all directions.

Find The Right Bulb

As you can see, many factors go into finding just the right bulb, including picking the shape that best complements the fixture and function. The most common light bulb shapes cover most household needs for general and task lighting. Decorative light bulbs like candle or chandelier bulbs work best in more specialized settings.

Do you still have questions about picking the right shape or type of bulb? Contact us for further help or to discuss buying your bulbs in bulk from our warehouse.

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Helping our commercial and industrial customers save energy and money by using safe, efficient LED lighting for their facilities.

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