I often notice installations where people have gone to the effort of installing 'feature' light fittings but haven't given consideration to the bulbs they then use. Weather your tastes are traditional, ultra-modern, or somewhere in-between, and whether your styilised fitting is an internal chandelier or an external wall light, your choice of bulb plays an important part in adding or detracting from the overall effect, and due consideration can make quite a difference.

Okay, so I know choosing a bulb is a pain in the pants these days with a wide array of fittings and technologies to baffle the best of us, and your primary concern may be just to find something that will fit your new lamp and give off the desired amount of light at the right shade of white, but a chandelier or olde-worlde carriage lamp fitted with energy saving stick bulbs just looks a bit... well... daft really. Similarly, that modern funky-looking outside light which greets your visitors probably doesn't need a glaring old-school candle shaped tungsten filament bulb in it when something softer in a modern form factor such as a LED decor bulb is more appropriate.

Here are a few off-the-shelf bulbs which, when used in the right situation, can add additional visual effect to enhance a lamp fitting, in most cases even when switched off.

I present these here using my demo-board which doesn't really show any of them in an ideal setting unless I have additional pictures to hand, but this gives you an idea of what's out there.

The Plumen Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL)

Let's start with the Plumen CFL bulb. These look great in a large pendant fitting where the bulb will be visible. It's a standard CFL lamp which has been blown into a more decorative shape than the average CFL stick. They're pricey at about £15 each and the usual warm-up time for CFL means it can be a minute until it's up to full brightness, but on or off it looks great.


Below is one I fitted on an earlier job which shows the Plumen in it's ideal environment, a wide, open feature shade in which the bulb is visible. This is what I mean about the right bulb really setting off a feature light - imagine how boring this would have looked with a standard GLS bulb or CFL stick!



Plumen specs    
Approx price: £15 - £20   Life expectancy: 8000 hours
Stockists: Amazon, CP Lighting & others   Wattage: 11W
Brightness (lumens): 680   Colour temperature: Warm White 2700K
Fitting: ES (E27) or BC (B22)   Energy rating: A
Notes: A smaller 9W version called a Baby Plumen is also available.


The Calex Goldline Filament lamp

This one is for use where appearance is everything as it doesn't give off enough light to fill a room, doesn't have a particularly long life and it sucks up 35 Watts for its paltry 170 lumens. That said, it would look great in a little-used traditional table lamp or in a modern-retro design hanging in multiples from long lead pendants, each with minimal or no shade.

CalexSquirrelOff   CalexSquirrelOn


Calex Goldline Filament specs  
Price: About £6   Life expectancy: 2000 hours
Stockists: CP Lighting   Wattage: 35W
Brightness (lumens): 170   Colour temperature: Warm White
Fitting: ES (E27) or SES (E14)   Energy rating: G
Notes: Multiple models are available and the specs above generally relate to the A60 model.


The Calex LED Squirrel Cage lamp

Squirrel cage lamps are traditionally similar to the goldline lamp shown above with the same sort of 'cage' filament but with a longer glass bulb. The traditional filament squirrel cages are still available from the likes of CP Lighting, but they also sell this modern energy saving version where the 'filament' is comprised by a number of 3mm yellow LED's; 53 LED's in fact as I just counted them. It puts out a decent amount of light at 3W and looks good whether on or off. As above, it would be at home in a traditional or retro-modern fitting.

CalexLEDSquirrelOff   CalexLEDSquirrelOn

If you're familiar with Bath Street in Leamington then you may have seen traditional squirrel cage lamps hanging on pendants in the windows of TJ's Bar.


My only complaint about this Calex model is that the glass is incredibly thin and fragile. My first one arrived cracked and it broke further as I simply removed it from it's packaging. If you were hanging this from a pendant with no protective shade then it would need to be hung somewhere away from accidental contact.

Calex LED Squirrel Cage specs  
Price: About £21   Life expectancy: 15000 hours
Stockists: CP Lighting   Wattage: 3W
Brightness (lumens): 280   Colour temperature: Extra Warm White, 2100K
Fitting: ES (E27) or SES (E14)   Energy rating: A++
Notes: Multiple models are available and the specs above generally relate to the Rustic ST64 model.


The LED Filament style lamp

This is an interesting bulb which provides the appearance of a traditional GLS or candle lamp but with the power saving long life advantages of the latest LED technology. Those not-in-the-know would assume it's an ordinary tungsten filament lamp without giving it a second glance making it ideal for those who dislike the industrial looking compact fluorescent lamps or are fed up of changing the short-lived halogen GLS hybrid lamps.


LEDFilamentGLSOff   LEDFilamentCandleOff



LED filament lamp specs  
Price: About £5 (candle), about £9 (GLS)   Life expectancy: Varies, 15000 - 38000 hours
Stockists: Toolstation
  Wattage: 2W (candle), 4W (GLS)
Brightness (lumens): 320 (GLS)   Colour temperature: Warm White
Fitting: ES (E27) or SES (E14)   Energy rating: A+


The neon candle flicker-effect bulb

The still pictures don't really do this one justice because it's more of an "animation effect" than a light bulb. Indeed, it puts out no useful light for it's 3W power consumption which earns it an unenviable 'F' energy rating, however it does provide a nifty flame effect which is ideal for showing off a traditional fitting where the useable light is coming from elsewhere. As an example, I've seen these before in a pub where it was used in candle style wall lights while the practical light was coming from ceiling fittings.

Two flame-shaped metal plates sit in a neon-filled bulb and when power is applied an orange 'plasma' effect dances around the plates. It's quite fun in the right setting!

FlameOff   FlameOn


Neon candle flicker-effect specs  
Price: About £4   Life expectancy: 1000 hours
Stockists: Maplin
  Wattage: 3W
Brightness (lumens): Nothing practical !   Colour temperature: n/a
Fitting: BC (B22)   Energy rating: F
Notes: Based on the Ever Ready model sold by Maplin UK


The remote controlled colour changing bulb 

This particular model is a GU10 lamp containing bright individual red, green and blue LED elements. The remote can be used to switch each LED on individually or in any combination to make different colours. With them all on, you get a mixed bluey-white. The brightness isn't as strong as a modern white LED lamp, but this is more for accent lighting than for anything practical. There are also flash and fade modes on the remote control if you want it to quickly switch between colours or to gradually cycle through the spectrum, and you can use the remote to turn the lamp on or off although it continues to suck power when off as it looks out for the remote control's signal. Only turning it off at the wall will actually kill the thing and this particular model doesn't remember what colour it was last set to so goes into demo mode when power is reapplied.

Usually a remote is supplied with each lamp although all the remotes are often the same and can be pointed at any lamp. The remotes being-infra red, they require line of sight to the lamp face in order to be detected.

More expensive variants are available which contain a memory that allows the last colour that was set to resume after being powered off and/or a master/slave setup where changing the colour of one causes all the others in the chain to set to the same colour.



RGB LED bulb specs  
Price: About £10 - £15   Life expectancy: 50000 hours
Stockists: Amazon
  Wattage: 3W
Brightness (lumens): Varies   Colour temperature: 16 colours in total
Fitting: GU10   Energy rating: Not known
Notes: Multiple makes and models from different suppliers are available


The colour changing LED cluster lamp

Another one that purely provides accent lighting rather than a useable light, this time using clusters of individual LED elements which cycle through a fixed sequence to create different colour combinations. Unlike the remote controlled version, it cannot be set to a particular colour or controlled in any way, instead it just cycles through it's pre-set colour pattern at it's own pace. These are actually quite hard to get hold of now and my R50 versions are especially rare as newer ones only seem to be in the GU10 format, at least as far as my regular suppliers go.

I guess they figure 'why buy the dim non-controllable cluster lamps when brighter RGB LED lamp technology is becoming cheaper?'



Colour changing LED cluster specs  
Price: Varies, but under £10   Life expectancy: 10000 hours
Stockists: CP Lighting, Amazon   Wattage: 1 - 2W
Brightness (lumens): Nothing practical !   Colour temperature: Red, green and blue elements
Fitting: GU10 or SES (E14)   Energy rating: Not known
Notes: Multiple makes and models from different suppliers may be available


The globe lamp

These have been around for ages and are available from loads of retailers. Ikea do some nice ones and at the time of writing are switching from CFL versions to LED. They look good in open-bottomed fittings or in rooms where a batten lampholder is installed as they're more decorative than a plain GLS bulb.

Globe1   Globe2
Globe3   Globe4


Globe specs  
Price: About £5 - £15   Life expectancy: Varies according to technology
Stockists: CP Lighting, Ikea, etc.   Wattage: Varies
Brightness (lumens): Varies   Colour temperature: Usually Warm White
Fitting: ES (E27) or BC (B22)   Energy rating: Varies
Notes: Multiple models are available from pretty much any lamp supplier.


This is by no means a be-all-and-end-all and styles are evolving all the time, but with technology moving so fast, particularly in the world of LED lighting, it's well worth putting some thought into the style of lamp for your super new light fitting as well as the usual considerations of brightness, power consumption, colour and costs. Shop around to find different styles and prices, but watch out for anything too cheap and stick to named brands or outlets that offer warranty support on their products and keep the receipt so you can exchange any long-life lamp that fails to live up to expectations.