Standard 60- and 40-watt bulbs are the last to be phased out, though remaining stock can be sold; 75-watt bulbs faded away in 2012 and 100-watt bulbs this year. Their replacement equivalents, compact fluorescent lightbulbs and light-emitting diode bulbs, are bright, use 75 to 80 percent less energy, and can save you $60 to $125 dollars per bulb in energy costs over their life, compared with a traditional 60-watt incandescent. Because homes have about 50 lightbulbs, the savings can be significant.
But so is the investment. LEDs are expensive, up to $60 a bulb for some floodlights in our lightbulb Ratings. Even at that price, an LED can save you about $170 over its lifetime compared with a similar incandescent. Increased competition is helping to lower prices. Manufacturers told us that more $10 LEDs are coming next year, and there are already several bulbs in our Ratings for $20 or less.
Starting at $1.25 per bulb, CFLs are a budget-friendly choice. They’re almost as energy efficient as LEDs but take at least 30 seconds to reach full brightness, don’t last as long, and most aren’t dimmable. Halogen bulbs, a type of incandescent, remain an option but will cost you more than twice as much to power as LEDs and CFLs and don’t last anywhere near as long.
LED technology is evolving rapidly. The Philips L Prize Winner A19 LED, $44, would have been our top 60-watt equivalent but was discontinued shortly after we completed our 3,000 hours of testing, though you may find it in stores and online. The new Cree 60-watt equivalent, $13, instantly provided a bright, warm light in our initial tests. We’ll add it to the Ratings when testing is done.
Such changes have made buying a bulb more challenging. Use our expert advice, plus tips we’ve received from other lighting pros, to find the right bulb for every room, and save money and energy.