Best and brightest energy-saving lightbulbs

The newest CFLs, halogens, and LEDs last longer and cost less to operate

Published: August 26, 2015 06:00 AM

Find Ratings

  Standing in a store’s lightbulb aisle, facing rows of LED, CFL, and halogen bulbs, with terms such as lumens, color rendering, and Kelvin temperature, is enough to make you long for the days of good old incandescents. With no sales associate in sight, you’re reduced to hoping you get lucky and another shopper who happens to be an electrical engineer or a rocket scientist will amble by. But usually it’s just you and a bunch of bulbs.

Once you crack the code, though, it’s not so intimidating and you’ll be able to focus on what really matters: how much you’re willing to spend and how bright a bulb you need.

LEDs get most of the attention these days—as well as all of the top spots in our lightbulb Ratings. Manufacturers continue to invest in LED development, and those lightbulbs have become sophisticated electronic devices. But they’re expensive. For the price, though, you can expect a bulb that lasts 23 years or longer.

What's your pick for energy-saving lightbulbs: LED, CFL or halogen?

Tell us and other readers what you use and why by adding a comment below.

CFLs have improved, too. The best of them are quick to fully brighten, and they provide bright light. They’re also less impaired by frequently turning them on and off than earlier versions were. CFLs are a lot cheaper than LEDs and can last seven to 10 years. Yet even though CFLs are much better than they were a decade ago, the best aren’t as good as the top-rated LEDs.

There is a third choice: halogen bulbs. A type of incandescent, they instantly brighten, they’re dimmable, and some cost less than $2. But they use a lot more energy than LEDs and CFLs. Some have a color filter that improves the light’s color, but it also reduces light output. And they usually last only about a year or two—so you’ll be back in the lightbulb aisle a whole lot sooner.

Battle of the bulbs: Pros and cons of two energy-saving lightbulbs

If you can live without instant brightness, also consider these other well-performing CFLs from our tests: Feit Electric Ecobulb Plus 60W, $2.50, a CR Best Buy, and the even brighter Feit Electric Ecobulb Plus 100W, $2.30.

1) When used 3 hours per day. 2) Based on electricity savings, using the national average energy rate, and bulb savings when compared with a 60-watt incandescent.

All shapes and sizes

Although they don't look the same, all of these LEDs are for use in lamps and replace a 60- or 75-watt incandescent. Manufacturers are introducing various shapes to improve efficiency and light distribution, help manage heat, and lower costs. The Feit Electric and Philips Slimstyle did well in our tests; the Nanoleaf did not. The others are being tested.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the October 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

Find Ratings

Lightbulbs Ratings

View and compare all Lightbulbs ratings.

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters! Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Home & Garden News


Cars Build & Buy Car Buying Service
Save thousands off MSRP with upfront dealer pricing information and a transparent car buying experience.

See your savings


Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more