If you’re under the age of twenty-five, there’s a chance you’ve never had to change a lightbulb. Why? Because super long-lasting, energy-efficient LED lights have been around (and increasingly popular) since you were in your teens. Older folks, like me, still remember when all the lights in the house were horribly wasteful and potentially toxic.
When I was a child, all our lightbulbs were incandescent and wasted huge amounts of energy by giving off heat (which also made them dangerously hot to the touch). My energy conscious parents started making the switch to compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) in the late eighties and early nineties as CFLs became cheaper and more popular. CFLs are far more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs, using about 75% less energy, which also helps cut your electrical bill.
CFLs are slow to reach full brightness, however, and they give off a harsher light. Most troubling of all, CFLs work by using mercury, a toxic heavy metal, to fluoresce a phosphor coating on the inside of the bulb.
Hands up if you’ve smashed a CFL and unconsciously held your breath? Yup. Tidying up a smashed CFL is not a fun task. There are even guidelines from the US Environmental Protection Agency on how to clean up safely if a CFL breaks. Thank goodness, then, for the arrival of the affordable LED.
Already settled on getting eco-friendly light bulbs? Click here to jump to our top picks.
The Pros and Cons of LED Lightbulbs
Light emitting diode (LED) lightbulbs are long-lasting, energy efficient, and smart lightbulbs. They can last twenty or more years if treated right, and most LEDs last some 20,000 to 50,000 hours, which means you won’t have to change the bulb for a generation (about 18-46 years) if you use it three hours a day.
LED lightbulbs are also basically a computer chip, meaning that they can be paired with smart home technology. Some LED lightbulbs allow you to turn lights on and off, dim the lights, change the color, and more, all through voice commands or an app. There are also LED lightbulbs that are compatible with home security, safety, daylight, and occupancy sensors, which help save energy and keep your home safe and secure. And some LED lightbulbs work with speakers, letting you play music while lighting up the room. All this and no mercury!
But what about the cost? Sure, LEDs used to be significantly more expensive than CFLs and incandescent bulbs, sometimes up to twenty times the price. If you’ve bought a replacement bulb recently, though, you’ll have noticed a major drop in price. According to one study, “LED A lamps declined in price by 32% per year between 2011 and 2015.” In fact, prices have dropped so much that LEDs are by far your best bet for cost-efficiency as they’ll outlast and outperform CFLs handily.
Which means that the best energy efficient lightbulbs are LEDs, without a doubt.
Now we’ve got that out of the way, which LEDs are the best? In short, that depends on what you want the bulb for and where you’re going to use it.
How to Choose the Best LED Bulbs
LED bulbs range in warmth from cool blue-white light to a sunny yellow light. They can also be used to create ultraviolet light and a variety of colors, in case you want rainbow colored under-counter lights, for instance. Some LEDs are dimmable, while others give off a constant illumination.
LED A bulbs have a bulbous shape and are useful for lamps and regular ceiling lights. They don’t cast light evenly, though, so are not great for larger spaces or where you want really good illumination (such as for a studio.
It’s also important to note that LEDs throw out more blue spectrum light than incandescent bulbs and CFLs. Blue light is particularly bad for interfering with circadian rhythms by suppressing melatonin production. So, if you are looking for a night light or evening lamp, go for an LED with warm light instead of a clinical blue hue. Warmer light is around 2700K (with K meaning Kelvin for temperature). White light is about 3000K, while blue-white light is 5000K or more.
Learning a little light lingo can help when you’re bulb shopping. Lumens, for instance, is a measure of how bright the bulb is. For the equivalent of a 60 W incandescent, you’re looking at about 800 lumens. You might also see a CRI rating on lightbulb packaging. This stands for Color Rendering Index, which reflects the accuracy of colors under the bulb’s light. CRI ranges from 0 to 100, with a minimum of CRI 80 recommended for interior lighting, or higher if you’re doing color sensitive work in your home office.
Other features to consider include:
Motion sensor compatibility – if you’re keen on reducing energy consumption further, check to see if your preferred bulb is compatible with a motion or occupancy sensor. This can turn your lights on when you walk into a room and turn it off when you leave or if you sit still for a long time
Outdoor compatibility – some LEDs (and a handful of CFLs) can be used outdoors, though they aren’t supposed to get wet and will need protection from rain and snow
Photocell compatibility – Photocell can turn lights off during daylight hours and on again when daylight fades, but not all bulbs are compatible with photocell technology.
Keep reading to learn about our top picks for eco-friendly lightbulbs for a variety of different usage goals. Learn about our methodology here.
Best Energy Efficient Lightbulbs – In-Depth Reviews
Below, you’ll find our rankings for the best energy efficient lightbulbs. We believe every bulb on this list is a smart buy.
Note that the best choice for your situation might not be the bulb we ranked the highest, so pay attention to the differentiating features such as outdoor suitability, compatibility with motion sensors, and so on.
Best 60 W Equivalent LED Lightbulbs
|Compatibility||Works outdoor when not exposed to moisture|
Works outdoor when used base up
|Energy use and longevity||Claimed life 22.8 years|
The Sylvania 8.5 Watt LED provides consistent, bright, warm yellow light and is ideal for lamps, with an estimated 22.8 years of illumination when used for 3 hours a day. It can be used outside when protected from moisture, is compatible with a dimmer, but isn’t compatible with Photocell or other technologies and shouldn’t be used in fully enclosed fixtures.
|Compatibility||Works with dimmer |
|Energy use and life||8.8 W|
The Feit 60 W replacement LED uses just 8.8 Watts and offers 90+ CRI, meaning great brightness and true color. These bulbs are California Energy Commission Title 20, Title 24, JA8 compliant, offer a soft white color at 2700 K, are dimmable and can be used in enclosed indoor or damp rated fixtures.
Other Great Picks
If you’re looking for an LED replacement for a 60 W bulb, these are also a good choice:
Sylvania 12-Watt 60W A19 Soft White LED
Very affordable and energy efficient, great light distribution and brightness, and energy efficiency even when lights are turned on and off frequently.
Philips SlimStyle 60W A19 Soft White LED
Very affordable and bright, with good energy efficiency, and excellent light distribution and performance when lights are turned on and off frequently.
Philips 60W A19 Soft White with Warm Glow Dimmable LED
Another affordable, and dimmable, LED lightbulb from a trusted brand. This one is highly energy efficient, performs very well with frequent on and off of lights, and offers excellent brightness and good light distribution.
EcoSmart 60W Equivalent Soft White A19 Dimmable LED
The most affordable LED bulb in this list, the EcoSmart is highly energy efficient, offers great brightness and on-off performance, and also provides good light distribution while also being dimmable.
Best 100 W Equivalent LED Lightbulbs
Quite a bit pricier than their 60 W counterparts, these 100 Watt Equivalent LED Lightbulbs are still far more energy efficient than CFLs and incandescent bulbs and will last far longer. So, if you can stomach the upfront investment, it will pay off over the years.
|Energy use and life||11 W|
Made in the USA with US and global parts, this classic glass shape LED bulb offers instant brightness and is 89% more efficient than incandescent bulbs. The warm 2700 K, 1500 lumens is ideal for living room or bedroom use and the bulb uses just 11 W, with a claimed lifetime of 22.8 years.
Best Flood/Reflector 65 to 90 W Equivalent Bulbs
A little pricier than regular 60 W LEDs, but less costly than a 100 W, these flood or reflector LED bulbs are a far better choice than incandescent or CFL bulbs.
|Energy use and life||12.5 W|
Shatter resistant and offering a soft white light, this energy saving LED is ideal for indoor or covered outdoor use and offers an estimated $172 estimated lifetime energy savings per bulb. The bulb works with dimmers and is compatible with tracked and recessed lighting, using 12.5 W and lasting some 22.8 years in ideal settings.
Other Good Picks
Sylvania 12-Watt (65W) BR30 Soft White Dimmable LED
Dimmable, energy efficient, bright, and offering great on-off performance, the Sylvania 12 W (65 W equivalent) BR30 offers soft white light and is a great choice for the eco-friendly home.
Satco 12.8W R30 S9025 LED
Scoring top marks across the board, the Satco 12.8 W R30 S9025 LED is energy efficient, bright, and a great on-off performer.
Philips SlimStyle BR30
One of the most affordable flood or reflector LEDs, the Philips SlimStyle BR30 offers excellent brightness and on-off performance and is very energy efficient.
Other good options include:
Philips 13W BR30 Soft White LED 423798
EcoSmart 65W Equivalent Soft White BR30 Dimmable LED
Best Chandelier and Globe 40 to 60 W Equivalent Bulbs
Chandelier lightbulbs tend to be slimmer and less bright as they’re designed to be clustered for visual effect. Most LED chandelier bulbs range between 40 and 60 W equivalent and are a good affordable option. They’re also helpful for slimmer lamp fixtures.
|Energy use and life||4 W|
Using just 4 W, these candelabra style LED bulbs offer soft white light equivalent to a 40 W bulb. Ideal for indoor and covered outdoor use, as well as in enclosed fixtures, these bulbs offer an estimated lifetime saving of $79 in electricity cost per bulb. They are compatible with dimmers too and are very affordable with a 5-year warranty.
Damp rated fixture
|Energy use and life||5.5 W|
Using up to 90% less energy compared to a standard incandescent light bulb, this soft white dimmable LED offers 90+ CRI for true color and the equivalent of a 60 W incandescent bulb. Suitable for enclosed indoor or damp rated fixtures, this globe bulb is estimated to last 13.6 years and is very energy efficient.