Figure Out What Type of Fluorescent Light Bulb You Need

Revised: 8/1/19
Grainger Editorial Staff

Choosing the right fluorescent light bulb can seem impossible. Bulb companies appear to be overflowing with fluorescent lights that differ in shape, size, color, brightness, fixture and longevity. With so many types of fluorescent bulbs, it can be easy to get lost in the jungle of options.

3 Things to Consider When Buying Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Getting the right fluorescent bulb is important. You need something that will last and something that is right for your particular fixture. You need the right color and tone for your facility. And you need a bulb that is safe and energy efficient. Knowing how to find a fluorescent light bulb that fits all of your needs will save you time, worry and ensure you get the right one every time.

1: Fluorescent Light Sizes, Shapes and Base Types

Whether you are buying a fluorescent bulb for the first time or ordering a replacement, the first place you need to look is the fixture. What kind of socket will the bulb be going into? This will give you the key information you will need to start selecting the right bulb. Frequently fluorescent bulbs will have either a single pin or bi-pin (two pin) base type. Some will have a recessed double contact. By eliminating bulbs that don’t match your base type, you are on the right track to finding the right type of fluorescent light bulb.

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Also, what is the shape of your bulb? Is it linear, circular or U-Bent? Being aware of the shape you need will save time in the selection process. Most facilities use linear (tubular) fluorescent lights; they are straight in shape and simple. They are the most widely-used type of fluorescent light, and most likely what you will be looking for. However, some companies opt for bulbs that are more unique in shape−like a circle or a U-Bend −to add a certain ambiance or style to their business. These are more popular in places like restaurants and hotels, where character and atmosphere are central to success.

You will also want to narrow down your search by fluorescent tube size, and measuring fluorescent tubes is fairly easy. First, you will need the diameter or how wide it is around. This is expressed as a number such as T8 or T12. The “T” stands for tubular, and the number is a measurement of the diameter in 1/8" increments. So a bulb with a 1" diameter would be a T8—eight 1/8" increments. Also, be aware of your lamp’s length; a fluorescent bulb length can go up to 96".

2: Energy

In this green day and age, we know that conserving energy is of the utmost importance to you. Not only do you want to be aware of your carbon footprint, but energy is expensive and cutting down on usage is a sure-fire way to save money. There are plenty of ways that the right fluorescent bulb can help you achieve that goal without sacrificing brightness or longevity of your bulbs.

How many watts are you currently using? This is an important question to ask. More and more light bulbs are available on the market that use lower wattage without sacrificing brightness. Wattage is the measure of energy used to power your light. Bulb brightness used to be an easy measure of watts−the more watts you push into the bulb, the brighter it will be. But as technology has advanced, bulb manufacturers have been pressed to create lighting options that use less energy (watts) but don’t sacrifice lumens—the measure of how bright a bulb is.

You may find that your old, outdated fluorescent bulbs can be upgraded to lowerwatt bulbs that offer the same or more brightness than you currently have. If this is the case, you may also consider using fewer bulbs altogether. Disconnecting extra fixtures that are not in use can help save energy and money.

3: Tone and Color

Once you have your fluorescent light bulb size and type determined, you must decide the tone and color. When selecting a color, the most important factor is use. What kind of space is the lighting for? Is it for a manufacturing facility? A hospital? A showroom or an office? The type of color you choose will affect how your space looks and feels.

What color temperature light bulb should I use?

Cool white fluorescent light bulbss are most common in offices, hospitals and manufacturing facilities. They offer optimal light for these busy operations, and the color allows for inspecting the small details in this kind of work. Residential lighting, restaurants and hotels benefit from a warmer white that sets a comfortable and homey tone. The mid-range white is right for areas such as retail outlets, showrooms and supermarkets.

The Right Light

Whatever your need, we are sure to have the right type of fluorescent bulb to fit your specific needs. Choose the type, size, watt and tone from our drop-down menus to make selecting your bulb a cinch, or take advantage of our search filtering to find everything you need.


USA Philips

Efficiency Maine


GE Lighting

Maxsa Innovations.

Lamp Tech

The product statements contained herein are intended for informational purposes only. Such product statements do not constitute a product recommendation or representation as to the appropriateness for a specific application or use. W. W. Grainger, Inc. does not guarantee the result of product operation or assume any liability for personal injury or property damage resulting from the use of such products.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.


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