The way retailers buy light bulbs is amusing at times. Some send a person from the warehouse to the local hardware store and some surf the Internet for steals and deals. I met a store owner who went to the hardware store himself to buy bulbs. When I suggested that might not be the best use of his time he said going to the hardware store was his only form of entertainment.

The fact is hardware stores, especially the big ones, do not offer the same product as a lighting distributor. Even electrical distributors who carry wire, work boxes, circuit panels and other supplies used by electricians may not have the right light bulbs for retail or know the difference.

The buying criteria for light bulbs is (1) best value (2) from a trusted source with (3) the best color rendering.

Buy ValueBuying value means minimizing electricity and labor cost, the two biggest expenses of lighting

  • Costs are: (1) Electricity, (2) Labor and (3) Bulb
  • Percentages are 85%, 10%, 5%
  • Total Ownership Cost

Surfing the net for the cheapest light bulb is not a productive strategy. The cost of the bulb is the least important cost of ownership. When unit cost is low quality and service life are also likely to be low. The electricity used and labor costs to change bulbs are the biggest costs of ownership. Typically these costs are 95% of the total cost of ownership. The bulb at 5% is the least significant cost.

Buy from a trusted source

  • Brands may be one of the major manufacturers
  • Trusted sources have alternatives

There are all kinds of lighting products in the great big world. Many are cheap low performing imports. The fact products are low performing is not necessarily because they are imported but because they are built to a price point that means lower quality.

Every major brand has imported product but those products are built to world class standards. Service Lamp offers private label products, often imported, that are built to our standards to offer excellent value. That is not always the case when you find a brand you are not familiar with even from a trusted source.

An example of this point is compact fluorescent bulbs. Some bulbs were offered by trusted mass merchants because of their price points not performance. The bulbs failed, had strange light output, took a long time to reach light output and had less than advertised output. Those bulbs set the compact benefit curve back 10 years but they were cheap.

Today compact fluorescents with the Energy Star label meet performance criteria specified by the government and certified by independent laboratories. Steps are being taken to save LED sources from the stunted growth fate of compact fluorescents.

Buy the best color rendering availableColor rendering is the most important attribute of retail lighting

  • It is all about color
  • Know light output, service life, and watts input

One of the key components of a compact fluorescent light bulb is the phosphor, the white stuff, that fluoresces to generate light. Cheap bulbs had cheap white stuff, gave off odd colored light and caused colors to look odd under the light from them. Actually that is true for any fluorescent and gives rise to the notion among furniture retailers that fluorescent light can't be used to display merchandise. No other retail segment seems to share that notion.

The problem was created because retailers were sending folks to the hardware store to buy light bulbs. The person on the mission "helped" the business by buying cool white fluorescents, 2 for $1, from end cap displays. The person didn't know that a cool white scores 62 on a scale of 100 for color rendering. Fluorescent bulbs with excellent color rendering score 85 or above on the same scale.

Retail is all about color and it doesn't matter if the product is living rooms lingerie or auto parts. Color is often the determining factor in a sale.

Evaluating a light bulb on value means knowing the color rendering index, the light output, service life, and the number of watts consumed. Buying decisions based on these facts plus the unit cost will lead to a great looking sales floor. The alternative is to find a lighting distributor you can trust to recommend the best product. Service Lamp strives to be such a supplier.


Save electricity, labor, and purchasing cost by buying value from a trusted source.