Ceiling fans with light fixtures are installed for a lot of different reasons. Before you choose light bulbs to go in yours, you need to think about what purpose it serves.
Is it the sole source of light in the entire room? First and foremost, we would recommend remedying that by adding a lamp or two, or perhaps a few recessed lights. Lighting serves multiple purposes in a room, and it’s pretty impossible for one light fixture to do it all.
If that’s not possible, or you’re just not willing to devote more money to your lighting budget at this time, then you’ll need to make sure you can get as much illumination as possible out of the ceiling fan. Take a close look at lumen output of the light bulbs you’re considering – anything less than 800 lumens (the equivalent of a standard 60-watt incandescent light bulb) won’t do it. For more information about lumen output, see here.
Is it a complement to other light fixtures, meant to simply blanket the room with a little extra illumination? If the ceiling fan isn’t your only light source in the room, you may want to go with a dimmable model so that you can adjust light levels to set the mood as you wish. Dimmable light bulb options include LED, incandescent, halogen, and CCFL. (Note that CFL’s are not typically dimmable).
Is it installed in an extremely high ceiling? Desperate for a long-lasting solution? Perhaps your ceiling fan was pre-installed by the builder or a previous homeowner, and you’re not its biggest fan (Couldn’t resist that one).
Perhaps its closest access point is two stories away from you. You need a “set it and forget it” option – a light bulb that will still provide quality illumination, but won’t burn out for ages. In this case, your priority is going to be efficiency. Pay attention to the “rated life” of any light bulb you are considering.
If you don’t mind spending a little extra money up front to avoid a hassle down the road, you should go with LED. Not only do some offer rated lives of 25,000 hours and above (which can’t hold a candle to the 1,000 hour lifetime of the typical incandescent), but LED light bulbs actually do not burn out - they simply become progressively dimmer over time, giving you a little more leeway for the replacement window. CCFLs and CFLs are other efficient options that are a little less expensive. Try to target a rated life of at least 15,000 hours, but make sure you’re not sacrificing too much lumen output for it (remember, 800 lumens is equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent light bulb).
Is it purely decorative? If the ceiling fan is a focal point in any way for your room, and the bare light bulbs are not covered in any way, you want to make sure they aren’t eyesores. In this case, you should probably avoid spiral CFLs. Look for something like this globe-like LED - a light bulb with a visually appealing shape.
Now that you have your priorities straight, it’ll be easier to delve further into options. Remember that light fixtures on ceiling fans typically have either intermediate or candelabra bases. The intermediate base is what you are familiar with in a standard A-lamp for table and floor lamps, and the candelabra base is a little smaller, often found in chandeliers.
One more thing: Don’t forget to clean the fan blades, light bulbs, and light fixture covering frequently. Lighted ceiling fans tend to accumulate dust and dead bugs, which will affect the performance of your lighting – and dim its output.