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How to Shop for LightbulbsHow to shop for light bulbs

Consumers have many options for energy-efficient lighting, but selecting the right bulb can be difficult due to the complex labeling. Manufacturers are required to label brightness, appearance, and efficiency specifications on their packaging. This fact sheet simplifies the information to help you choose the best bulb to meet your needs.

The most popular light bulbs 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.

Lighting Facts

Energy Costs

  • LED bulbs—Energy Star-certified LED bulbs use only about 15% of the energy and 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 of brightness is lumens (lm). Watts measure the energy a lightbulb uses, while lumens measure the amount of light it produces. The fewer watts used, the lower your electric bill, but the more lumens, the brighter the light.

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). Lower K numbers make yellow light, while higher K numbers make whiter or bluer light. Traditional bulbs make a soft white light around 3,000K, good for bedrooms, living rooms, and dens. Warm white lights (3,000K-4,000K) work well in kitchens, workspaces, and bathrooms. Bright white lights (4,000K-5,000K) make chrome and white fixtures stand out in bathrooms or kitchens. Cool white lights (5,000K-6,500K) are best for reading spaces.

Which color temperature is right for you?

Choosing the right color temperature is key in creating the desired atmosphere. Warm white lights create a cozy ambiance, while cool white lights energize and focus. Mix and match different color temperatures to achieve a unique look.

The different color temperatures are:

  • Warm white (2,700K-3,000K): cozy and relaxing.
  • Bright white (4,000K-5,000K): energizing and focused.
  • Cool white (5,000K-6,500K): energizing and focused.

Know your Bulb


LED bulbs are a durable and energy-efficient alternative to incandescent bulbs, lasting up to 20,000hrs and using 80% less energy. They emit no heat and reach full brightness instantly. Smart LED bulbs can be remotely controlled and programmed. They are more expensive initially, but can lower energy costs over time.

Other Lighting Considerations

LED bulbs are cheaper and easier to use, so traditional bulbs are disappearing from stores. But, don’t throw away your energy-saving CFL bulbs. They can last for many years and are up to 75% more efficient than regular bulbs. Just remember that CFLs have a small amount of mercury, so it’s important to recycle them the right way.

Learn more about recycling and proper disposal of CFLs from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency at  For more energy information go to… and


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