When you’re looking for bathroom lighting ideas, there’s more to consider when looking at bar lights vs fixtures than just the up front cost. A fixture may look nicer, and it’s likely it can save you money in the long run.
Bar lights are cheap. Really cheap. You can buy a four-light bar light (also sometimes called a raceway light) for around $12 and it will give off enough light to light up a small bathroom. If you have a bigger bathroom, buy a larger bar light. Or buy two small ones.
But some people don’t like the look that much. When they’re in good condition they look OK, but it seems like everyone has one. And for them to look OK, you have to use globe lights in them. Globes usually cost several times as much as regular bulbs.
A fixture can solve these issues. Basic fixtures cost twice as much, but you’ll have more choices, so you can get one that suits your tastes. They take fewer lights, but you can put higher-wattage bulbs in them to make up the difference. Instead of putting four 400-lumen bulbs in a bar light, you can put three 600-lumen bulbs in a fixture and end up with more light while consuming less energy. You can reasonably assume the 600-lumen bulbs will use 11 watts each while the 400-lumen bulbs use 9.
And that’s where the savings comes in. Those 600-lumen bulbs will cost a lot less than globes. You’ll need fewer of them, so you save a few dollars. And they’ll use less energy.
If you use LED bulbs there’s a decent chance you’ll only change the bulbs once before you change the fixture. But when globe bulbs cost $10 and regular bulbs cost $2, buying enough bulbs to outfit a bathroom can cost enough that you’ll notice.