Not all fixtures can use every type of light bulb and there is no “standard” light bulb. It is important to know what type your fixture requires (there is usually a sticker on your fixture that tells you) and the pros and cons of each. If you can, take your old bulb into the hardware store and tell the clerk to find you a similar one or what you want to change about it.
Incandescent is the most basic type of light bulb with a metal filament inside glass. Electricity running through the filament creates a warm light that many prefer over daylight bulbs. All light bulbs are compared to incandescent bulbs to provide a constant when selecting a bulb. These bulbs don’t last long and use the most energy as well as being hot to the touch.
Halogen is an updated version of incandescent. Halogen bulbs are filled with gas that helps the filament last longer but produces the most heat. Halogen bulbs give off a cooler light color because of the gas envelope. These bulbs are only slightly more efficient than incandescent bulbs.
Fluorescents were the first attempt to make a more efficient light bulb. They use roughly 20% of the electricity of and equivalent incandescent bulb. They come in many colors, from warm white to daylight. They contain mercury which people tend to dislike and people also find that this bulb hurts their eyes. However, these bulbs do tend to run cooler to touch, making them safer.
LED, or light emitting diode, is the newest bulb. At first, they were expensive and made rooms look horrible but they are now a great option. The “bulb” portion is completely cool to the touch, making them very safe. They have long life spans and the lowest energy usage. Price has reduced dramatically and now, they are usually the same price as fluorescents but do not hurt eyes as much. One thing to note: LED bulbs can by picky with dimmers. Make sure that you get one compatible with your dimmer.
Metal Halide/Mercury Vapor/High Pressure Sodium
These are common for large yard lights or security lights. There are some key differences that help determine the type you need. High pressure sodium produces a yellow light. Mercury vapor and metal halide both produce white light but were used at different times. Mercury vapor fixtures were discontinued in the early 2000s due to environmental concerns. If you have a newer light, it’s most likely metal halide.
Not every type of light bulb will appeal to every person. I love a warm white, LED bulb. My parents prefer daylight, LED bulbs. I know a lot of people that still prefer incandescent bulbs. Most hardware stores will let you see a particular bulb before you even leave the store so that you can find the perfect one. Don’t be afraid to try one out and see how you like it.