How to Choose the Best Bulb for a Desk Lamp?

Given the number of different types of desk lamps out there, it can be hard to figure out the best one for your needs. With the advent of technology, even bulbs come with a wide variety of features that were not even thought to be possible a decade back.

When choosing the best bulb for your desk lamp, you need to first look at your main purpose and weigh your options based on various factors such as brightness, power consumption, safety, and more.

Desk lamps are mostly used for reading, writing, studying, crafting and other tasks that require a fair amount of concentration. We will be looking at the best options in the market today and how they might be useful for your specific needs below.

5 Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Light Bulb for your Desk Lamp

As mentioned above, there are a few things you need to consider when buying a bulb for your desk lamp. Here are some of them:

How to Choose the Best Bulb for a Desk Lamp

1. High-Quality Illumination

The CRI or color rendering index is one aspect to look for when buying a bulb as it is a measurement of how well the bulb can replicate real-life colors. A rating of 85 to 100 would be optimal in this regard.

Another aspect you need to look for is the color temperature which is used to define how cool or warm the light is. Always look for a bulb that comes with a color temperature of 2700k to 4500k to ensure that your eyes won’t hurt over prolonged exposure.

2. Wattage

Bulbs usually come with wattage that ranges between 40 to 120 watts. When you are looking to buy a bulb for your lamp, always check and see whether the bulb you intend to buy comes with more wattage than the maximum number for your lamp.

If so, it can lead to overheating and permanently damage the lamp. This is especially dangerous when it comes to incandescent bulbs as they can explode and burn nearby flammable objects.

Related article: Can LED Lights Catch on Fire?

3. Brightness

As desk lamps are used for tasks that require you to engage for prolonged periods, the quality of light is extremely important. You don’t want bulbs that emit harsh light as they will take a toll on your eyes in the long run.

On the other hand, it should not be too dim either. Always look for the lumens count to know how bright the bulb will be. For reading and writing, you would want a bulb with at least 450 lumens.

4. Design

While it may not affect the performance of your tasks, having a good looking bulb is always nice to have. Bulbs mostly come in 3 different designs such as Large Format Globe, GLS, and Candle.

The Large Format Globe LEDs are big and provide a very retro-ish vibe whereas the candle one is elongated and thin. GLS types have the traditional bulb shape and are listed among the most commonly used ones.

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5. Power Consumption

This is also one of the most important aspects to look for if you want to keep your energy bill as low as possible. Desk lamps are usually used for long periods and therefore come with the risk of increasing your power bill substantially.

Halogen bulbs, for instance, may provide a unique visual quality when it comes to the emitted light but will cost you at least $11 per bulb for a year. As they have only a life span of 2 years or less, you won’t even get your money’s worth before it dies out. LED bulbs are the best option to go for when it comes to value and cost-saving.

What Bulb to Choose? Incandescent vs Halogen vs CFL vs LED

There are 4 main types of bulbs available today and each one of them comes with advantages and disadvantages.

IncandescentWarm, bright, easy on the eyesHigh power consumption, tendency to overheat
Halogen BulbsLast up to 2 years, more efficient than incandescent bulbs, very brightCan overheat, explode when left on too long
CFL BulbsEco-friendly, last a long timeNot very bright, use a lot of power
LEDsMost efficient, Long-lastingNot as bright as other bulbs
  1. Incandescent Bulb – These were once the norm but due to their high-power consumption and tendency to overheat, they have slowly been phased out. They do provide warm and bright light and are easy on the eyes. However, their risks far outweigh their unique features.
  2. Halogen Bulbs – They are more efficient than incandescent bulbs and can last up to 2 years. They provide bright and harsh light, which can be useful for tasks that require intense lighting. On the flip side, they can overheat and explode when kept on for a long time.
  3. CFL Bulbs – CFL or Compact Fluorescent Bulbs are white colored bulbs that were used a lot earlier due to them being eco-friendly and more efficient than incandescent ones. They also last for a long time, but they aren’t the most efficient when it comes to brightness or power consumption.
  4. LEDs – As of now, the best overall bulbs to use are LED ones. They are far superior when it comes to power consumption and are more efficient than all other types. When it comes to brightness or color temperature, they aren’t the best but when you look at all the aspects of what makes a bulb great, LED bulbs win hands down.

How to Determine Wattage and Fitting?

Before buying a new bulb, take out the existing one to see the type of base it has. You can also take it to the store with you and look for bulbs with a similar base. If you don’t have an old bulb in the lamp, then you can use a coin (quarter, penny, or dime) to measure the base size.

Most light fixtures will have the required wattage on a sticker. Compare the wattage of the lamp with the bulb you are looking to buy and make sure that the wattage isn’t higher than required.

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The same can be done for knowing the required voltage too. It will either be 12, 24, or 120 volts and buying a bulb with the wrong voltage can destroy it.


Buying a bulb for your desk lamp is quite simple and doesn’t require much time and/or effort. However, you should always weigh your options well before buying one to ensure that it meets your specific needs and it gives you the best value possible.

Apart from value, always consider the safety aspect too when it comes to bulbs. Some bulbs are known for overheating and exploding. Unless you are a hundred percent sure that you can use them efficiently and never keep them on for a long time, don’t go for them.

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