The most popular light bulb brands in the U.S.
This article looks at what is the most popular light bulb brand.
Firstly we look at how many light bulbs we buy as a country and what type they are.
Then we look at sales types for these bulb types
Next we consider sales by brand, by volume and by individual purchases.
Finally we give you some background on the major brands.
How many light bulbs do we buy?
Recent figures from the Department of Energy show that America as a whole buys 7.5 billion light bulbs per year. Consider that number for a moment, 7.5 billion. That is 25 light bulbs per year for every child, woman and man here in the United States. So, for a family of four that is 100 light bulbs per year. This number does take into account every bulb sold in the U.S. and includes street lamps, office lighting, exterior building lighting, hotels, public garages and even those little lights that show you to your seat in the movie theater. If you are interested, the next time you are out in public just have a look around and see how long it takes you to spot 100 light bulbs.
And we buy them pretty frequently. A recent survey by statista showed that 200 million Americans bought a new light bulb in the first three months of 2020. If we excluded children, who at least in my household are not buying new bulbs with their allowance, then that is pretty much all of us.
What type of light bulbs are we buying?
Light Bulb Technologies
There are four main types of light bulb technology that we are using.
These are the old style light bulbs that have a wire filament that glows brightly when a current is passed through it. A lot of the power is wasted as heat, so they are very inefficient.
Like incandescents halogen bulbs have a filament that glows when a current is passed through it. However, the bulb itself is filled with halogen gas. The gas increase the light being produced and also extends the life of the filament. This makes them more efficient and with a longer lifetime than incandescent bulbs.
Compact Fluorescents or CFLs are fluorescent tubes like we are used to seeing in offices and stores that are folded into a compact shape so that they fit in a normal light bulb socket. Fluorescents are filled with a mercury vapor which releases light when a current passes through it. As mercury is a neurotoxin care need to be taken to ensure CFLs are correctly disposed of.
Light Emitting Diodes or LEDs are small pieces of semiconductor that emit a light when a current is passed through them. Semiconductors technology is also used in the production of microprocessor chips for our phones and computers. Within an LED light bulb there are 3 separate LEDs, one red, one blue and one green. These three different colors of light combine to produce a white light.
Sales by light bulb technology
The International Energy Agency reports that in 2020 global sales of lighting was split as shown below
Light Bulb Types
As well as the different light bulb technologies there are also a wide range of bulb shapes, styles and fittings. The main bulb types are listed below.
A-type, or A-series light bulbs are the pear shaped bulbs that are common in our homes. They have an Edison Screw base, normally 1/2 or 1 inch across. The “A” stands for arbitrary, meaning that this is the standard shape for a light bulb.
Decorative covers most other glass light bulbs that are not the standard “A” shape. So globe, candelabra, flame, bullet and all other non-standard shaped bulbs.
Directional and Downlighting
Directional light bulbs includes reflectors, bulged reflectors and parabolic reflectors. These bulbs have an internal reflective coating which produces a cone of light. Furthermore, directional bulbs work in light fitting that allow for positioning. Conversely bulbs recessed into the ceiling are called downlighting.
Linear fixtures covers strip fluorescent lighting as used in offices, schools and stores.
This covers small directional, bay, street and roadway, parking and building exterior lighting.
Sales by Bulb Type
Percentage of Sales
Directional and Downlighting
Finally, if you are interested we give a more detailed breakdown in our article How many light bulbs are sold each year.
What is the most popular brand?
By Sales Volume
So now that we have seen that we are mainly buying A-type LED bulbs, who are we buying then from? And what is the most popular light bulb brand?
Sales figures (from statista) show that General Electric are the largest supplier of light bulbs. Having over 50% of the market within the United States. Second to them, with a market sales share of around 25%, are private label brands. This is where a manufacturer makes a brand of bulb for a particular seller. An example is Walmart’s “Great Value” brand. In reality TCP Inc make the bulbs for them. The next most popular brand is Osram Sylvania with roughly 10% of the market. Finally everyone else makes up the last 9% of sales.
Later in this article we provide some history of these major brands as well as the main ranges they sell.
All other brands
By Consumer Purchase
As with the sales data, GE again came out top with 76 million consumers. Secondly, the next largest brand, by consumer, was Phillip with 59 million. Finally, store brands and Osram Sylvania are joint third with 49 million. Compared to their sales numbers a lot of consumers said they bought a Phillips light bulb. Seeing that they only have 1% of the sales in the market. Evidently consumers are buying Philips bulbs but only in small number. Possibly their smart bulb range.
Consumer Purchases (millions)
A brief history of GE Lighting
GE were first in the table for most popular light bulb brand.
In October 1879 Thomas Edison and his team developed an incandescent light bulb. This first bulb could last 14.5 hours. It had a filament of cotton thread coated with carbon within a hand-blown glass bulb. Then, a year later Edison developed a bulb that could last 1200 hours. This one using a bamboo filament again coated in carbon. This new, longer lasting bulb went into commercial production in 1880. Made by Edison’s company, Edison Electric Light Company.
In 1892 the Edison Electric Light Company merges with its competitors, the Thomson-Houston Electric Company. This formed the company we know today, General Electric. Bulb sales grew and in 1892 GE started using machine-molded bulbs instead of the hand blown ones.
In 1942 GE bought the bulb manufacturing plant in Bucyrus, Ohio, which is still in operation today. The company expanded the plant in 2010. Then again in 2014 to produce linear fluorescent and energy-efficient bulbs. In 2019 GE moved the production of its A-19 LED bulbs to China. In this case laying off 60 employees. Also ending the production of residential LEDs in the United States. The plant employed around 200 people before the closure of the A-19 line and currently around 130. More details are given in our article on whether light bulbs are made in the USA.
GE sold its lighting business to Savant Systems, a privately held company, in May, 2020. Savant Systems retained the GE Lighting name and became the parent company. They have their headquarters in Hyannis, Mass. Also, as part of the sale, GE transferred their plant in Bucyrus, facilities in Cleveland and Logan, and a distribution center in Canada. Along with around 700 employees.
Range of Bulbs GE sells
A quick search on the GE Lighting website reveals 297 different product. Even allowing for the fact that this includes multi-unit pack this is still a lot of light bulbs.
They are grouped into different families
- Basic – value line
- Classic – daylight bulbs normally dimmable, more expensive than the basic line but rated to last twice as long
- General Purpose LED – All purpose, energy efficient LEDs
- Ultra Bright LED – exceptionally bright LEDs, 120w eq to 250 watt eq and above
- Daylight – provides cool, bluish white light
- Sun Filled LED – limit the blue light peak to closely mimic natural sunlight
- Vintage LED – vintage style bulbs that are also dimmable and energy efficient
- LED+ – LED bulbs with additional features, such as speakers, battery backup, color switching, timers and automatic night and motion sensors
- Smart Home – can be controlled by voice or via an app to dim and brighten or change color or be set on a schedule
- Grow Light LED – designed to allow plants to grow indoors
- HD Light – refresh (cool tone), relax (warm tone) and reveal (bright white) LED bulbs
A brief history of Osram Sylvania
Sylvania were third in the table for most popular light bulb brand.
In 1901 Frank Poor, a young entrepreneur, was working as a partner of a light bulb renewal company in Middleton, Massachusetts. The company bought up used bulbs for a few cents. Then they would cut open the glass top of the bulb, replace the filament, and then reseal the bulb.
Poor and his brothers started the Hygrade Incandescent Lamp Company in 1909. At first selling carbon filament light bulbs. Thereafter in 1911 adding the newer tungsten filament bulbs. In 1916 Hygrade opened a plant in Salem, Massachusetts. Subsequently they could manufacture 16,000 bulbs per day. The company took over a manufacturing plant from General Electric in St. Marys, Pennsylvania in 1921. Operating the plant there until 2019.
Hygrade merged with two other companies to form the Hygrade Sylvania Corporation in 1931. Then, in 1941 they opened a huge factory in Danvers, Massachusetts. In this case to manufacture fluorescent lamps. A year later company changed its name to Sylvania Electric Products. The Danvers plant stayed in operation until 1989.
In 1993 OSRAM GmbH acquired the Sylvania business in North America. In order to form Osram Sylvania. The SYLVANIA make separated from OSRAM in 2016. Thus becoming part of an independent company Ledvance. Which was itself sold off to a Chinese consortium of investors in 2017.
Sylvania operates what may be the last light bulb factory in the United States. located in Versailles, Kentucky. In 2017 the plant transitioned 200 jobs from traditional lighting products to the new LED technology. There was discussion around closing the plant in 2018. However, it still remains in operation today.
Range of Bulbs Osram Sylvania sells
Sylvania make a wide bulbs that they group into different series
- ECO – low cost bulbs with long life, low cost
- Standard – these are packaged as just Sylvania (i.e. no series) and are mid range bulbs
- Ultra – hard wearing and suitable for both indoor and outdoor use
- Natural Series – using Truwave technology which provides the best alternative to natural light
- Vintage – efficient and stylish LEDs
- Dawn to Dawn – with an automated sensor
- Contractor – long lifetimes and good for rough service and damp environments
A brief history of Philips Lighting
Philips ranked low in the table for most popular light bulb brand by sales but high by consumer purchases.
Philips & Co started out in 1891 run by Gerald Philips and his father Frederik in Eindhoven, in the Netherlands. Electricity supply was becoming available to the masses. So Philips saw an opportunity to provide reliable and cost-effective light bulbs. Correspondingly they opened a small factory to produce carbon-filament lamps in 1892.
The company struggled in the early years and in 1895 they brought in Gerald’s younger brother Anton. Working in sales and development. With Anton onboard the company started to flourish. Winning new customers at home and abroad.
In 1920 the company started making other products including vacuum tubes for radios. 1939 saw the introduction of the famous Philishave razor. In 1949 they introduced TV sets. 1963 audio cassettes and in 1972 the world’s first home video cassette recorder.
In North America Philips bought lighting fixture company Genlyte Group Incorporated for $2.7bn. giving them a leading position in the U.S. market.
PPhilips span off their lighting division in 2016. Making it an independent public company called Philips Lighting. Renamed to Signify N.V. in 2018. This company markets Philips branded lighting product.
Currently the main company employs more the 80,000 people in 100 countries.
Range Of Bulbs That Phillips Sells
Philips make a wide range of standard bulbs under the Philips brand. These include:
- LEDs – everyday bulbs that come in daylight, soft white and bright white. Also dimmable and colored bulbs and energy-saving filament bulb.
- Halogens – including A shaped bulbs, globe bulbs, candles, capsules,reflectors and indoor flood lights
- Compact Florescents – compact spiral bulbs
- Incandescents – indoor flood lights and reflectors
- Agro Plant Life – incandescent and halogen build for indoor plant cultivation
- HUE Smart lighting – with Bluetooth compatible bulbs, that come in soft white, warm-to-cool
Through their parent company Signify they also make Wiz smart lighting.
Private labels & Store Brands
Second in the list of most popular light bulb brand were private labels which are ranges made for specific companies.
- Walmart use the Great Value make to sell their own range of bulbs
- Amazon sell a wide range of bulbs under the brand Amazon Basics
- IKEA only stock their own range of LED bulbs and provide about 50 different types of bulb.
- Home Depot sell the proprietary brand EcoSmart.