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Lightbulbs

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What's behind our lightbulb Ratings?

Experts at our National Testing and Research Center tested 66 models in lightbulbs to see which ones perform best.
We look for:
  • Overall score
    Overall score combines life and rapid-cycle testing, brightness at 3,000 hours of use, and warm-up time performance.
  • Type
    Whether the bulb is a CFL or LED.
  • Claimed life
    Claimed life is how long the manufacturer says the bulb will last.
  • Actual 3K or 12.5K hr brightness
    Actual 3K or 12.5K hr brightness (lumens) is the average measured brightness of 10 bulb samples after being life tested.
  • Brightness
    Brightness indicates the brightness (lumens) of each bulb after 3,000 hours of life testing, as compared with the brightness of a comparable incandescent.
  • Warm-up time
    Warm-up time is how long the bulb took to reach near full brightness.
  • Frequent on and off performance
    Frequent on and off performance testing reflects the average number of 2-minute on and 2-minute off cycles each bulb survived.
  • Light distribution
    Measures how well a test bulb duplicates the light distribution of an equivalent incandescent bulb.
  • Efficiency
    Efficiency measures the amount of light produced per watt of energy used. (The more light produced per watt of energy used the more efficient the bulb.)
  • Light color
    Actual 3K or 12.5K color temperature (kelvin) is the average measured color temperature of 10 bulb samples. Those with 2700 K are closest to incandescent bulbs; ones with 3000 K are similar to halogen bulbs.
  • Actual 3K hr warm-up time
    The averaged measured time it takes for ten bulb samples to reach near full brightness. All PAR38 and porch/post were tested at 0 degrees F. All others tested at 77 degrees F.
  • Actual 3K or 12.5K hr color rendering index
    The averaged measured color rendering of ten bulb samples. Those closer to 100 will better enable colors to appear the same as if viewed under the light of an incandescent bulb.

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Recommended lightbulbs

Recommended lightbulbs are standout choices with high scores. They include CR Best Buys, which offer exceptional value. When narrowing your choices, weigh features, price, and attributes that matter to you.
  • Buying Guide
  • Ratings
What if the lightbulb you put in your baby's nursery didn't have to be replaced until Junior is off to college? That's the promise of the latest generation of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Those bulbs claim to rival the look, dimming ability, and light quality of incandescents; contain no mercury (as compact fluorescent lightbulbs do); and last up to five times longer than CFLs and 50 times as long as incandescents. If you're looking for information about lightbulbs, Consumer Reports is your best resource. Consumer Reports’ lightbulb reviews will give you honest buying advice that you can trust. Use our lightbulb buying guide to discover which features are most important to consider. We also provide unbiased Ratings and lightbulb reviews to help you choose the best lightbulb for your needs.

Lightbulb buying guide

Lightbulb buying guide

What if the lightbulb you put in your baby's nursery didn't have to be replaced until Junior is off to college? That's the promise of LEDs, or light-emitting diodes. These bulbs are claimed to rival the look, dimming ability, and light quality of incandescents; contain no mercury (as compact fluorescent lightbulbs do); and last up to five times longer than CFLs and 50 times as long as incandescents.

According to a federal law passed in 2007, most screw-in lightbulbs have to use at least 27 percent less energy by 2014. The phase-out of inefficient incandescent bulbs began in January 2012 with 100-watt bulbs and in 2014 it's lights out for the 60-watt incandescent, the most popular size.

There are a few things you'll need to know before buying any energy-saving bulb. For starters, Energy Star-qualified bulbs meet high standards for brightness, color, and energy use, and the mercury content is capped in CFLs. Before you shop visit www.dsireusa.org/incentives or www.energystar.gov to find utility rebates, and search online for manufacturer rebates. Check store displays of lit bulbs to get a feel for their light quality. Whatever you choose, buy just a few and try them out. And keep in mind the price of LEDs will continue to drop over the next few years. Also be sure to:

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