Energy-efficient light bulbs are a low-cost, high-reward upgrade that can lead to saving both energy and money. Unlike other energy-efficiency upgrades, replacing incandescent bulbs with high-efficiency ones requires no infrastructure or electrical tweaks (they use the same sockets), and is a breeze to undergo. The results include impressive cost savings ($225 in savings annually for the average home) and meaningful reductions in your home’s environmental footprint.
Energy efficiency is the most readily available and untapped fuel source. It’s abundantly available, easy to extract and cost-effective. While an incandescent light bulb has a cheaper price tag than more efficient options, you’ll end up paying way more in energy usage, plus the costs to continuously replace them. Energy-efficient lighting is also an important strategy to combating climate change: Just upgrading the planet’s light sources to 100% LED could save the planet nearly $5 trillion over equipment lifetime and prevent nearly 18 gigatons of CO2 emissions between 2020 and 2050.
Want in on the savings? Check out our picks for the top energy-efficient light bulbs below.
Best Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs
Best LED Light Bulbs: Sylvania LED Light BulbsBest Smart Bulbs: Philips Hue Smart BulbBest Dimmable Lights: GE Relax Dimmable Warm White Best CFL Light Bulbs: Philips Indoor CFL Light BulbsBest Vintage-Looking Bulbs: Ascher Vintage LED Edison Bulbs
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. Learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn a commission.
Benefits of Energy-Saving Bulbs
The benefits of energy-efficient lighting are enormous. From cost savings and longevity to durability and aesthetics, there’s no contest: Energy-efficient light bulbs mean lights-out for incandescent bulbs.
Here are a few of the key benefits of switching to energy-saving light bulbs:
Longer lifetime = less money spent on replacements: The best LED bulbs last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) last up to 10 years. More durable: LED bulbs, the most popular energy-efficient lighting source, are usually made of plastic, making them far more durable than the fragile glass bulbs of the past. Furthermore, CFL and LED bulbs don’t have delicate filaments, meaning a sudden movement or jostle won’t leave you in the dark. Use less energy: Lighting accounts for 15% of average home electrical use. LEDs use 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs, and CFLs use 25-35% less energy than conventional lighting.Produce less waste: Because energy-saving bulbs last much longer than conventional ones, you’ll throw far fewer light bulbs away. A typical incandescent bulb expires after about 750 hours, which means dozens of bulbs are pitched annually. An LED bulb will outlast conventional bulbs 25 fold, meaning a 25x reduction in lightbulbs thrown out.Safer: Incandescent bulbs have several safety problems. Incandescent bulbs emit up to 98% of their energy as heat, producing dangerously high temperatures that can cause burns or even start fires. And because they’re made of glass, incandescent bulbs are prone to shatter.
Full Reviews of Our Top Picks
Best LED Light Bulbs: Sylvania LED Light Bulbs
A new take on the classic light bulb, Sylvania’s LED bulbs come in three output ratings (40-, 60- and 75-watt equivalents) and eight color temperatures. These Energy Star Certified bulbs have an estimated 11,000-hour lifetime, meaning it’ll be years before you have to change a bulb again. These are non-dimmable but boast shatter- and shock-resistance and no warm-up times.
Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 13,100 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: “These bulbs will be the only bulbs I buy from now on. So, so pleased with the lighting now in my living room! If you are looking for more of a white bulb, but not a bluish tint, then you have to give these a try.” — Scott Hampton via Amazon
Why Buy: With all of the features of a traditional bulb and more, why wouldn’t you switch? These robust feature-packed bulbs are no-frills performers that’ll give you years of service. At an attractive price point that’ll save you over the lifetime of the product, there’s no better all-around performer to replace your incandescent bulbs.
Best Smart Bulbs: Philips Hue Smart Bulb
Like a regular LED bulb, but a whole lot smarter, these Bluetooth-equipped bulbs allow you to toggle hue and brightness features with the touch of a button on your mobile device. With the Philips Hue app, you can control up to 10 lights in one room and up to 50 throughout your entire home with the Hue Hub. Each smart bulb can be turned on and customized by voice with Alexa or Google Assistant and is compatible with all Echo smart speakers and displays, as well as Google Nest.
The bulbs are available in 60-watt and 75-watt equivalent outputs. They have an estimated lifetime of 22 years, or 25,000 hours, and are Energy Star Certified.
Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 28,000 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: “I am very picky about light, as is my husband. During the day, I like a brighter, cooler temperature light. In the evenings, I prefer dimmer, warm lighting. These bulbs solved all of my problems.” — BranJo via Amazon
Why Buy: Enjoy the economic and environmental benefits of LED lighting with the amazing customization of smart home living. With the touch of a screen, you can customize the lighting of your entire house or simply control a single room. These bulbs are a bit on the pricey side, but their smart functions and the savings you’ll enjoy over their long lifetime make them worth every penny.
Best Dimmable Lights: GE Relax Dimmable Warm White
Creating a nice ambiance is tough with most LEDs. They get a bad rap for being woefully non-dimmable, as the majority of LEDs on the market burn at a steady wattage. And for those advertised as “dimmable,” many folks report choppy adjustments and irritating flickering. The GE Relax Dimmable LEDs are a refreshing exception. Smooth dimming and consistent warm light expand your lighting options to suit any occasion, offering greater color contrast and boldness versus standard LED bulbs.
These are ideal for creating cozy, dimmable lighting perfect for bedrooms, foyers, family rooms and dining. A warm 2700K hue does away with the sterile harsh lighting typical of many LEDs. These general-purpose bulbs work on most dimmers and last 13 years based on three hours of use per day.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 1,800 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: “These GE Relax bulbs are the only ones that don’t buzz or hum when on lower settings. Dimming is very smooth with no flickers. They also have the added benefit of being able to dim very low compared to other bulbs I have tried.” — MAC via Amazon
Why Buy: These awesome LED bulbs take on double-duty as general-purpose bulbs with consistent dimming. They’re perfect for any warm lighting needs, capable of delivering enough lumens to light up a room and dimming down to candle-like luminance.
Best CFL Light Bulbs: Philips Indoor CFL Light Bulbs
Philips’ Indoor CFL Light Bulbs offer 100-watt equivalent lighting from a 23-watt bulb. These CFL bulbs are made with recycled glass and recycled packaging materials for an even greater reduced environmental impact. The daylight color simulates the sunrise, perfect for waking up and getting your day started naturally. They are Energy Star Certified and last over nine years based on three hours of usage per day.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 3,900 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: “They provide nice, even, bright light. They do start at slightly less than full brightness, perhaps 90%, and gradually get to 100% in about 30 to 45 seconds.” — Scott W via Amazon
Why Buy: This CFL option is over twice as bright as most LED bulbs and offers more natural lighting sometimes unachievable by LEDs. If a CFL bulb is a must for you, this bulb’s brightness, recycled content and natural daylight hue make it a compelling option. Just make sure you dispose of it properly, as CFL contents can be harmful to human health and the environment.
Best Vintage-Looking Bulbs: Ascher Vintage LED Edison Bulbs
Going high-tech with LEDs doesn’t mean sacrificing nostalgic looks. LEDs are perfectly suited for Edison-style bulbs, and Ascher’s offering is the best you can get. These 60-watt equivalent bulbs come in 2300K, 2700K and 4000K options. The LED’s classic filament style is so authentic-looking you’ll never even know they’re from this century. Glass bulbs shimmer and shine like days gone by for an antique feel. This particular model isn’t dimmable, but Ascher does have a dimmable option here.
Customer Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars with over 8,500 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: “Absolutely in love with these. They are super bright but not harsh. I’m using them in my office but I think I will order more for a few other exposed bulbs in the house.” — TayMo via Amazon
Why Buy: You don’t have to burn a hole in the atmosphere (or your wallet) to enjoy Edison bulbs. The 21st and 20th centuries kiss and make up with Ascher’s quality vintage Edison bulbs. Don’t forget to check out their dimmable options, too.
How to Choose the Best Energy-Efficient Bulbs
So, which is the best energy-efficient light bulb for your home? Here are some criteria to keep in mind when making a purchase:
Type of Bulb
There are three main types of energy-efficient bulbs commonly available:
LED (light-emitting diode): An LED is a semiconductor that emits light when current moves through it. LEDs are the most efficient, longest-lasting and most affordable energy-efficient bulbs available. CFL (compact fluorescent): CFLs are much more efficient than incandescent bulbs, but they’re not nearly as efficient as LEDs. While CFLs are an option on the list of our top picks, they are largely supplanted by LEDs due to their lower efficiency and the fact that CFLs contain small amounts of toxic mercury, making handling and disposal problematic. Some countries have banned the disposal of CFLs in regular garbage. Halogen: Halogen bulbs aren’t on our list, but they’re still around in the U.S. and worth a mention. This technology uses halogen gas to increase light output and lifespan. They are more efficient and longer-lived than incandescent bulbs but generate significantly more heat than LEDs or CFLs.
Shape and Size
Choosing the shape and size of your energy-efficient light bulbs is part aesthetics, part function. Aesthetics aside, a bulb’s shape affects light dispersion, filament types and more. Bulb shapes are represented by letters on the box:
Standard (A): Commonly used for household applicationsGlobe (G): A full, rounded shape used in foyer lights, kitchens, bathroom vanities and ornamental fixturesBullet (B), Candle (C), Flare (F): Also known as Candelabra bulbs, which look similar to holiday lamps, they are often used in chandeliers, night lights, ornamental lighting and low-watt applicationsReflector (R): Have a mirror-like coating inside of the glass boosting output and are commonly used as outdoor lights and for high, vaulted ceilingsStraight-sided (S): Short, round-shaped bulbs used similarly as standard A bulbsTubular (T): Oblong-shaped, halogen T bulbs usually have two double-ended pinsTear (ST): Classic Edison shape, perfect for vintage ambiance and decorative flair
The numbers on the side of bulb boxes refer to the bulb’s widest point, an important factor when considering if a bulb will fit where it needs to go.
Temperature of Lighting
A bulb’s hue and light color are called temperature, measured in Kelvins. Warm light (2700K-3000K) produces a yellowish glow for a relaxing and intimate feel. Cool light (3500K-4100K) yields a clean, efficient and welcoming ambiance. Daylight (5000K-6500K) creates a bluish-white light comparable to the sun at noon on a cloudless day.
In the old days, bulb brightness was measured in watts. Watts still matter, but not so much in determining the brightness of an energy-saving light bulb. Modern LEDs use incandescent wattage as a point of reference, displaying watt equivalents. The brightness of LED bulbs is also listed in lumens. The more lumens, the greater the light output. When looking for brightness, think lumens, not watts. Here’s a general rule of thumb from the Department of Energy:
To replace a 100-watt incandescent bulb, look for a bulb that gives you about 1600 lumens. If you want something dimmer, go for fewer lumens; if you prefer brighter light, look for more lumens.Replace a 75W bulb with an energy-saving bulb that gives you about 1100 lumens.Replace a 60W bulb with an energy-saving bulb that gives you about 800 lumens.Replace a 40W bulb with an energy-saving bulb that gives you about 450 lumens.
Most energy-efficient light bulb purchases will be the standard A-type with a conventional screw-in base, and they’re nearly all designed to be compatible with your home’s existing fixtures. If you have smart-home devices, make sure to purchase smart lighting. For 12-volt appliances, you’ll need to make sure your new bulb is compatible with the fixture’s voltage rating, base and spatial constraints.
While LEDs and CFLs are significantly more expensive than incandescent bulbs, the savings of energy-efficient bulbs will pay for themselves relatively quickly. However, not all energy-efficient light bulbs are priced equally. Smart bulbs and specialty Edison-style bulbs are more expensive than standard LEDs.
FAQ: Energy-Saving Light bulbs
What is the most energy-efficient light bulb?
LED bulbs are the most efficient light bulbs available, using just a tenth of the energy of an incandescent bulb. For the best LED light bulbs, we recommend Sylvania’s LED Light Bulbs.
Are LED light bulbs more energy-efficient?
Yes, LED light bulbs are more energy-efficient than any other option. While CFL bulbs are up to 35% more efficient than standard incandescent bulbs, LEDs are 90% more efficient and will last upwards of 25 years.
Do LED bulbs really save you money?
Although they have a higher upfront cost, LED bulbs will save you money. The average home will save $225 annually by using LED bulbs.
Christian Yonkers is a writer, photographer, filmmaker, and outdoor junkie obsessed with the intersectionality between people and planet. He partners with brands and organizations with social and environmental impact at their core, assisting them in telling stories that change the world.
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