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How to Shop for LightbulbsHow to shop for light bulbs

Consumers have choices in energy-efficient lighting. The most popular light bulbs currently available are:

  • LED (light-emitting diodes) bulbs, and
  • CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs.

These bulbs initially cost more than traditional incandescent bulbs but save money because they use less energy.

Manufacturers are required to label brightness, appearance, and efficiency specifications on their packaging. But this can make it difficult to select the right bulb. This fact sheet can help to understand the features to meet your needs.

Lighting Facts

Energy Costs

LED bulbs—Energy Star-certified LED bulbs use only about 15% of the energy last at least 15 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.

CFL bulbs—An Energy Star-certified CFL uses about one-fourth the energy and lasts 10-15 times longer than a comparable traditional incandescent bulb.

Although halogen incandescent bulbs can meet the federal minimum energy efficiency standard, LED and CFL bulbs are better choices for saving money.

The Department of Energy recently proposed rules to further tighten efficiency standards by the end of 2024. This could phase out most CFLs and halogen bulbs.

It’s hard to beat the value LEDs offer. Not only have they become more affordable, but they tend to last many years longer than other bulbs.

Brightness-Light Output

Consumers used to purchase bulbs based on wattage but the best measure is lumens (lm). Watts measure the energy a lightbulb uses while lumens measure brightness. The fewer watts used, the lower your electric bill. More lumens means more light output. Use the chart below to convert incandescent wattage to lumens.

Incandescent watts (energy used)

Lumens (brightness)

40 w

450 lm

60 w

800 lm

75 w

1,100 lm

100 w

1,600 lm

150 w

2,600 lm


Light appearance

Light appearance is measured in Kelvins (K). The Lighting Facts label on the package indicates light appearance on a spectrum between warm and cool. The lower the K number, the more yellow the appearance. The higher the K number the whiter (or bluer) the appearance.

If you want a light to closely resemble the traditional incandescent bulb, look for bulbs around 3,000K. A soft white light is typically 2,700K-3,000K, and is recommended for bedrooms, living rooms, and dens. It highlights dark woods. Warm white lights are between 3,000K-4,000K and work well in kitchens, workspaces, and bathrooms. A bright white light ranges between 4,000K-5,000K. This shade accentuates chrome and white fixtures in bathrooms or kitchens. 5,000K is closer to blue on the light spectrum. The shade most like daylight is a cool, white light between 5,000K-6,500K. These bulbs are recommended for reading spaces.

Know your Bulb


LED lightbulbs can last for decades. The typical incandescent lightbulb only lasts about 1,000 hours, but a typical LED bulb can last 20,000 hours or more. They are typically 80 percent more efficient than traditional incandescent lightbulbs. LED bulbs do not get hot, unlike incandescent lightbulbs that generate unnecessary heat. This can help save on air conditioning. They do not burn out, but after thousands of hours of use their brightness dims and their color may change. LED bulbs reach full brightness as soon as you flip the switch unlike CFLs that may require a few seconds to reach full brightness.

Smart LED bulbs

Smart bulbs allow you to control lighting remotely or program the bulb to turn on or off at a determined time. In addition, smart bulbs have self-dimming programmable options that slowly dim or brighten. Smart bulbs are typically more expensive than standard LED bulbs. However, programmable bulbs can lower energy costs, offsetting some of those additional costs.

Other Lighting Considerations

As LEDs become less expensive and offer more consumer-friendly features, incandescent, halogen and CFLs have become less popular and may be harder to find on the shelves. However, you do not need to discard your energy efficient CFL bulbs. They are up to 75 percent more efficient than incandescent bulbs and may have years of life left. CFLs, like all fluorescent lightbulbs, contain a small amount of mercury, which can be harmful to your health and the environment if it breaks, and the mercury is no longer safely contained. For this reason, it is inadvisable to dispose of CFL bulbs in regular trash receptacles. Learn more about recycling and proper disposal of CFLs from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency at

Much of the information from this fact sheet came from the US Department of Energy and Energy Star. Learn more at… and


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