Buying Guide: Choosing Fluorescent Bulbs

Fluorescent bulbs use 20 to 40 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs

Fluorescent Bulbs - Choosing Fluorescent Bulbs

Fluorescent light bulbs come in a range of color temperatures, allowing you to customize the look of the lighting in each room of your home. While some fluorescent bulbs have the screw-in design like incandescent bulbs or LEDs, not all are compatible with incandescent fixtures.

This guide will help you understand what to look for when selecting fluorescent bulbs and highlight the types, configurations and wattages.

Bulb Types

There are two main design types of fluorescent light bulbs available: tube and compact.

  • Tube fluorescent bulbs are ideal for large rooms or commercial installations and come in linear, U-shaped and circline designs with single, bi- and four-pin configurations. These bulbs require an electronic ballast to regulate the flow of electricity.
  • Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) come in a range of shapes and sizes, making them a great replacement for most incandescent bulbs. Screw-based models fit standard incandescents and don’t require separate ballasts. Pin-based models require fluorescent fixtures, which include separate ballasts.
  • Linear bulbs range in length from 6 to 96 inches.

Color Appearance Kelvin Temperature Description and Uses

Warm White

  • 2,500 - 3,000 K
  • Produces an inviting, relaxing light
  • For use in any room
  • Perfect for kitchens and bathrooms

Bright White

  • 3,500 - 4,100 K
  • Produces a pleasant light
  • For use in any room
  • Perfect for offices


  • 5,000 - 6,500 K
  • Produces a bright, clean light
  • For use in garages, basements and work environments

Lumens and Watts

The amount of light the bulb gives off is measured in lumens, and the power is rated in watts.

  • Incandescent bulbs provide 17 to 20 lumens per watt, but fluorescent bulbs provide as much as 90 lumens per watt.
  • The color produced by the bulb is measured by the color-rendering index (CRI). The scale runs from 1 to 100, which 100 being the equivalent of natural sunlight. Bulbs with a CRI of 70 give off the best quality of light.
  • The quality and tone of the color is measured in a temperature reading known as Kelvin. Higher Kelvin temperatures produce cooler shades of light.