Buying light bulbs used to be a cinch. When your 60-watt incandescents burnt out, you simply bought more 60-watt bulbs. But incandescents wasted a lot of energy to create that warm glow and were phased out. Energy-saving CFLs were meant to replace them, temporarily, and then LED light bulbs arrived in stores.
LED bulbs are electronic devices and since lighting is the most important real estate in the home – it’s in every room and everybody uses it. Manufacturers are adding sensors, cameras, or speakers to some LEDs. These bulbs are designed to provide home security, safety, or music while casting light.
Although the old-fashioned incandescent bulb is on its way out, you have more lighting choices than ever before. And that means making decisions about price and energy efficiency. But don’t forget aesthetics.
If you wind up with lighting that’s harsh, flat, or unpleasant – like when you’re trying on bathing suits in a retail dressing room – it won’t matter that you got that LED on sale or that it lasts forever. You’ll wish it didn’t.
For most home lighting, your choice boils down to three options, from most to least expensive:
- Fluorescents (including CFLs)
- Energy-efficient (halogen) incandescents, which meet the government’s new energy efficiency standards and aren’t being phased out.
Every Room in Your Home is Different.
You likely have heard that sunlight gives energy, but did you know that light bulbs work in a similar way? Bulbs that emit blue light waves produce serotonin, which makes people focused, awake, and alert. Bulbs that don’t emit blue light waves allow for your brain to produce melatonin, which makes you relaxed, drowsy, and ready for a good night’s sleep.
- Lower temperature bulbs produce warm-whites, similar to a fire, while medium temperature bulbs produce neutral-whites, and higher temperature bulbs produce cool whites or mimic daylight.
- It is also a common misconception that the brightness of a light bulb is measured in watts. Watts actually measure energy usage, while Lumens measure brightness.
Types of Light Bulbs
Compact Fluorescent (CFL) and Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs are the most energy-efficient light bulb options. They have a lower wattage than incandescent bulbs but emit the same light output. This allows them to produce the same amount of light, but use less energy. View the chart for key differences.
A few more facts:
An electric current flows between electrodes at each end of a tube containing gases. The reaction produces ultraviolet (UV) light and heat. The UV light is transformed into visible light when it strikes the phosphor coating on the inside of the bulb.
- Available for outdoor use; just make sure the packaging indicates the bulb is rated for outdoor use.
- May not hold up to the stress of power surges, so using them in areas such as workshops isn’t advisable.
- If the outlet is wired for a dimmer or three-way bulb, make sure you purchase a CFL rated for the specific use.
These bulbs use an electrical current passed through a semiconductor material to illuminate the tiny diodes called LEDs. The heat produced is absorbed into a heat sink, keeping the bulbs cool to the touch.
- Available for outdoor use; just make sure that the packaging indicates the bulb is rated for outdoor use.
- Does not contribute to heat buildup, which helps save on air conditioning.
You might think light bulbs are a commodity, and to many, they are. Still, they’re not alike. Some have smart home features, some are super-efficient, some change color, and some even have Wi-Fi! You’re looking at the best light bulbs to save you money around the house or customize the lighting to your mood.
We have plenty of nominees and tons of options to choose from, but we only have room for the top five. Here they are, in no particular order:
LIFX Original LED Bulb
LIFX does more than just light up your home although it definitely does that. A Kickstarter success story, the bulbs are just part of a smart home package that gives you complete control over the intensity, color, and type of lighting in your home. The LIFX Original is a 17W LED bulb that supports multiple fittings, 16 million colors and works with services like IFTTT and other smart home appliances like the Nest thermostat and Nest Protect. It’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled, and can be controlled via your smartphone, either individually, one bulb at a time, or if you’ve multiple bulbs you can program entire rooms or zones with specific types of lighting. For example, you can set your bathroom to soothing, dimmer light, and your office with brighter, more energetic lighting if you prefer. They don’t come cheap though.
Cree 60W Soft White LED Bulb
Cree got a large amount of love in the nominations round, largely because their bulbs are energy efficient, dimmable, bright as all get out, and still relatively affordable. A four-pack will set you back $35 at Amazon, and you’ll get the equivalent of 60W of lighting for only about 9.5W spent on powering them. It looks like a normal bulb, so it will fit normal sockets, lamps, or other fixtures. Plus they’re dimmable, so you can use them in fixtures where you have dimmers connected – always a nice bonus. It lights instantly with power, so no warm-up time required. If you’re not looking for tons of bells and whistles, these are a great buy. They’re affordable, bright, get the job done, and are incredibly energy efficient especially should you want to try LEDs but don’t know where to start for a basic, simple bulb.
BeOn Home Smart LED Bulbs
BeOn’s line of smart home LED light bulbs are great lighting, sure, but they’re really designed to improve your home safety and security. While other smart bulbs focus on customization, these are designed to make it more difficult for outsiders to see if you’re away from home, and to provide backup and safety lighting in case of an emergency. They’ve all the basic features you’d expect, they’re 60W equivalents at 800 lumens, dimmable, and they still work with your normal fixtures and switches, even if you use the BeOn apps to program lighting schedules and turn your lights on or off remotely. Each BeOn bulb has backup power, so even in the event of a power outage or emergency you’ll have some lighting, and if your other home safety appliances – like a smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector – goes off, the lights will respond as well so you can see your way out of the house. The lights even learn your behaviors and continue to light rooms like you would if you were home when you’re away on vacation. The dining room will light up at dinner time, the bedroom will light up and the living room will go dark around late evening, and so on.
Philips 454900 60W Slimstyle LED Bulb
Philips – 60W Slimstyle LED bulbs have a unique design. They still fit in all of the standard sockets and fixtures, but instead of being fully round, they’re kind of flat. They may put some people off, but once they’re in the fixture you probably won’t notice it. Plus, they’re dirt cheap. The 60W equivalent daylight bulbs are $14 for a two-pack at Amazon, which makes them great entry points for LED bulbs if you’re thinking about buying some. They get you that 60W equivalent on 10.5W of power, and are rated for close to 23 years of life under normal conditions. Plus, they’re dimmable, so they can go in your favorite dimmable lamp or room fixture.
GE Reveal 60W LED Bulb
GE’s Reveal lighting system is actually a series of light bulbs in different form factors and brightness, but most of you settled in on the 60W standard A19 bulb because of its affordability and versatility. It’s a 60w equivalent bulb that only uses 11W of power, will set you back about 10 bucks and is rated for use in damp environments, indoors and outdoors. GE holds the Reveal series up on its natural, bright lighting as well as their durability and long life. The company also claims that their Reveal bulbs actually make your lighting better, bringing out colors and patterns you wouldn’t see with traditional incandescent bulbs, and offering more nuanced lighting than other harsher LED bulbs. Plus, they’re available in a myriad of color temperatures, fixtures, and styles. You can get soft white, bright white, and daylight bulbs in the Reveal series, and even in this 60W model, so you’ve plenty to choose from depending on where you plan to put the light and the type of light you like.