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Lightbulbs

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What's behind our lightbulb Ratings?

Experts at our National Testing and Research Center tested 68 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, LED, halogen (hlgn) or hybrid which is a combination halogen and CFL.
  • 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.
  • Claimed life
    Claimed life is how many years the manufacturer says the bulb will last based on 3 hours of use per day.
  • 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.
  • Efficiency
    Efficiency is the energy, in watt-hours, required to emit a gallon of water into the air.
  • Light distribution
    Measures how well a test bulb duplicates the light distribution of an equivalent incandescent bulb.
  • 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.
  • Life testing
    Life testing reflects how many 3-hour on and 20-minute off cycles a bulb survives after 3,000 hours of the "on" cycle.
  • Color accuracy
    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.
  • Warm-up time
    Warm-up time is how long the bulb took to reach near full brightness. Bulbs that take 0 to 15 seconds to reach near full brightness scored excellent. Those taking 16 to 31 seconds scored very good, 32 to 46 seconds are good, 47 to 62 seconds are fair, and over 63 seconds scored poor.
  • Works with dimmer
    Manufacturer claims that bulb is dimmable.
  • Works with fully enclosed fixtures
    Manufacturer claims that bulb can be used in a fixture that completely encloses the 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 LED lightbulbs. Manufacturers claim they rival the light quality of incandescents 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. We provide unbiased Ratings and lightbulb reviews to help you choose the best LEDs and CFLs for your fixtures. Our Ratings tell you how bright a bulb is, what color light it casts, and more. You'll see what the claimed life is and whether the bulb is good at casting light in all directions, if that's what it's supposed to do. Use our lightbulb buying guide to make choosing energy-saving bulbs a whole lot easier.

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 LED lightbulbs. They rival the light quality of incandescents; don't contain mercury (as compact fluorescent lightbulbs do); and are claimed to last up to five times longer than CFLs and 50 times as long as incandescents.

Energy Star-qualified bulbs meet high standards for brightness, color, and energy use, and the mercury content is capped in CFLs. Energy Star-qualified CFLs come with a warranty of at least 2 years from purchase date, and for LEDs it's 3 years or longer. Before you shop look online for rebates from your utility and manufacturers. Check store displays of lit bulbs to get a sense of their light color and whatever you choose buy just a few and try them out.

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