Despite their advantages over other lightbulb types, LED bulbs haven’t flown off store shelves since they came on the market, primarily due to their higher cost. But as prices of these lightbulbs drop and become more competitive, more Americans are switching to LED bulbs.

Over the last three months, sales of LED bulbs increased 39 percent year over year, while CFL sales dropped 24 percent and halogen sales fell 13 percent, according to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association trade group.

Halogen bulbs still account for nearly half of all shipments and CFLs make up 19 percent, NEMA says. But sales of LED bulbs now represent 26 percent of the consumer lightbulb market.

Consumer Reports tests all three types of bulbs. Here are the pros and cons of each.

LEDs

Pros:
• Instant brightness.
• Light color ranges from warm yellow to cool bluer white.
• Some LED bulbs are dimmable.
• They use about 80 percent less energy than old-school incandescents.
• Most are claimed to last 20,000 to 50,000 hours—about 18 to 46 years when used three hours a day.

Cons:
• They cost more than other bulb types. The top-rated Feit Electric 60-watt Replacement is $7; Walmart’s Great Value 60W Soft White LED is $4.
• Some A-line bulbs do not cast light evenly in all directions, so light is spotty.
• LEDs give off more blue light than other bulb types. Any light can suppress melatonin, the hormone that facilitates sleep, but research shows that human eyes are especially sensitive to blue.


CFLs

Pros:
• Light color might be warm yellow to cool blue, and colors in between.
• Price: A 60-watt CFL, such as the Feit Electric EcoBulb, costs around $2.50.
• They use about 75 percent less energy to provide the same brightness as incandescent bulbs.
• They're supposed to last seven to 10 times longer than incandescents.

Cons:
• They take time to fully brighten, especially when used outdoors in frigid temperatures.
• Most are not dimmable.
• CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, so you should properly dispose of them to prevent mercury from being released into the environment if the bulbs break in the trash or a landfill. Use these tips from the EPA on cleaning up a broken CFL at home.


Halogens

Pros:
• They provide instant light.
• They are dimmable.
• They accurately reveal colors of things.
• An A-line bulb (the typical shape) costs about $1.50 and produces light as bright as a 60-watt incandescent.
• They use 25 to 30 percent less energy than incandescents.

Cons:
• Light color is usually a cooler white or blue. Some bulbs have a color filter that enhances color, but the filter diminishes brightness.
• They don't last much longer than incandescents.


Buying bulbs?
Check our lightbulb buying guide, then use our lightbulb Ratings to find the right LEDs, CFLs, and halogens.

Email your questions about lightbulbs to me at kjaneway@consumer.org.