Choosing the right light bulb for the industrial look

There are a range of factors to consider when selecting a light bulb. Some of these are functional and others purely aesthetic but all worth considering. First it’s important to determine the function of the room and the atmosphere you are trying to create. Check out our article on layering light to help plan what type of light you will want from each light source.

Three main bulb types

Incandescent Bulbs

This was traditionally the standard bulb used in most New Zealand households. These bulbs are the least energy efficient and often have the shortest lifespan of about 1000 hours. They are gradually being phased out as better alternatives are becoming more affordable and electricity savings outweigh the initial purchase cost. Due to the inefficiency and short life span, it’s best to stay clear of these bulbs and even look at replacing any existing incandescent bulbs you have with LED bulbs.

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFLs)

This is the classic energy saver bulb, typically using about 75% less energy than their incandescent equivalent. They usually emit a cooler light but warmer varieties are available. CFLs are more expensive than incandescent bulbs and also have a shorter life span (approx. 6000 – 15000 hours) than LED bulbs . It is also worth noting that CFLs get dimmer over their life time and do contain a small amount of mercury so it is good to be careful when disposing of them.

LED and LED filament

The most advanced technology when it comes to lighting, LED bulbs are often more expensive but have major energy saving advantages and huge life spans (up to 25 years). LED bulbs are now available in a great range of shapes and sizes, with some styles matching the classic filament incandescent bulbs developed by Thomas Edison. An LED filament bulb uses approximately 8% of the power that a typical incandescent bulb uses. For example, a 5 watt bulb emits about the same amount of light as a 40 watt incandescent bulb. LED bulbs don’t contain hazardous material and emit half as much carbon dioxide as CFLs. Please be aware when buying ‘decorative’ Edison style filament bulbs that often these are not LED bulbs as you will notice because of the higher wattage (usually around 40 watt). 

Light strength and warmth

Light strength has typically been displayed in watts for an incandescent bulb but this can become confusing when selecting a CFL or LED bulb which would have a much higher light output per watt. It is because of this that it is best to look at lumens. For example a 5w LED bulb would put out about 500 lumens which is about the same as a 40 watt incandescent bulb.

Below is a guide of the equivalent light outputs:

Light output

LED CFL Incandescent


Watts Watts



4-5 8-12



6-8 13-18






If you are using multiple light sources by layering light in your space, it is best to use bulbs with a lower light output to ensure the light level is comfortable and is still area-specific when necessary, i.e. task or ambient lighting.

The warmth of the bulb is measured in Kelvins (K); the higher the kelvins the cooler the light is. For example, regular daylight, which is a very cool white light, is approximately 5000-6000K. Candle light on the other hand is a much warmer light at approximately 1600K. The ideal lighting is a soft or warm white generally between 2300K-2700K.

Shape and size

If the light bulb is going to be exposed for the particular light shade you are using (or even not using for a bare bulb style), it is then also important to think of the shape and size of the bulb. When the bulb is visible, it is great to go for a LED filament style bulb where the filament can be seen, particularly for mid-century and industrial style lighting. Bare bulb pendants look great with larger over sized dolly bulbs such as the G95 or G125 shape.

If you need any advice on selecting the right bulb for your lights, feel free to get in touch as we love talking lights and are happy to help in any way we can –

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