Appealing price. Lumens and light color are comparable to incandescent bulbs. Not as bulky as CFL bulbs.
Extremely bright. Some concerns about bulb longevity. Not dimmable.
Can be used in enclosed fixtures without overheating. "Daylight" color spectrum is brighter than yellow incandescent bulbs. Sturdier construction than CFLs.
Although described as "soft white," some owners argue it's more of a yellow hue.
Great for indoor/outdoor and smart home use. Dimmable. Plastic globe is cooler to the touch than traditional glass.
Expensive. Doesn't connect easily to some smart systems. Light may be brighter and whiter than expected.
Low failure rate per set. Works well in recessed lighting fixtures and outdoor applications. Durable plastic housing is safer than glass.
Noticeable electronic hum. Bulbs can grow hot without good ventilation. An additional dimmer switch may be needed to eliminate buzzing.
Compatible with most home control systems. Easy set-up; no hub required. Bulbs are available in warmer hues. Dimming options from 1% to 100%.
Bulbs can lose connectivity and may not always change color as promoted. Some reports of overheating at the base.
Light bulbs have undergone quite a transformation in the past 20 years. Just a decade ago, most people were still using energy-hogging incandescent bulbs. These days, the benefits of switching to LED light bulbs are clear. For only a little greater upfront cost, you’ll receive significant reductions in your electric bill with LED bulbs, and you’ll need to change your light bulbs far less often.
If you are considering making the switch to LED light bulbs, the sheer number of products on the market can feel overwhelming, though. You’ll need to consider the watts, lumens, shape, and price to find the best LED light bulbs for your home.
At BestReviews, we’re ready to help. Our goal is to simplify shopping with our top recommendations and in-depth guides. For everything you need to know about LED light bulbs, including how they compare to other light bulb technologies, just keep reading.
LED, short for light-emitting diode, is a relatively new type of light bulb technology that delivers greater longevity and lower power usage than other light bulbs. LED light bulbs emit light when an electrical current passes through them. This differs from compact fluorescent light (CFL) technology, wherein mercury and argon gasses in the light bulb emit light when an electrical current passes through.
With a traditional incandescent light bulb, electrical power heats a filament inside the bulb to generate light. Energy is wasted with this style of light bulb through the generation of heat.
LED light bulbs are able to achieve maximum brightness immediately, which differs from CFL bulbs and incandescent bulbs, which need a few seconds to warm up. Dimming an LED light bulb is easier than dimming other types of light bulbs, too.
The electrical power that a light bulb uses is measured in watts. This measurement becomes a little confusing when comparing LED light bulbs to other light bulb technologies, however. A standard 60-watt incandescent light bulb generates about the same amount of brightness as a 13-watt CFL bulb or a 9-watt LED bulb, for example.
Because many people are used to using incandescent bulbs, they think of light bulbs in the wattages of those bulbs. Plus, older lamps and light sockets might specify a certain wattage based on incandescent light bulbs.
But when you’re shopping for LED light bulbs, those old wattage measurements don’t apply. LED light bulbs use significantly less electrical power, so they carry lower wattages. To help you compare LED light bulbs to traditional incandescent bulbs, many LED bulb packages will list the equivalent wattage of incandescent bulbs. For example, 9-watt LED light bulbs are equivalent to 60-watt incandescent light bulbs.
Lumens measure the brightness of the light that an LED light bulb generates. Higher lumens equal brighter light. When comparing different light bulb technologies, lumen measurements are equivalent across LED, CFL, and incandescent bulbs. This makes comparisons easier.
When purchasing an LED light bulb to replace an incandescent bulb or CFL bulb you currently own, look for an LED bulb that matches the lumens of the current light bulb.
Here are the lumens for LED light bulbs of different wattages:
6-watt LED light bulb: About 450 lumens
9-watt LED light bulb: About 800 lumens
13-watt LED light bulb: About 1,100 lumens
You have a lot of options when it comes to the shape of LED light bulbs.
Standard LED light bulbs are the most common. They look like traditional incandescent bulbs with a neck that extends out of the base to a rounded bulb that’s wider than the neck.
A can LED light bulb has a flat top so it can lay flush to the ceiling for light sockets that are recessed into the ceiling. The shape of the bulb is cone-like. This shape allows the light to be spread over a large area, pointing downward.
A candle LED light bulb has a shape that’s designed to mimic a candle’s flame. This is a decorative type of light bulb for accent lighting or ceiling fans. Incandescent candle light bulbs often use clear glass to show the glowing filaments. Some LED candle bulbs include fake filaments inside to provide a similar look.
A flood LED light bulb uses a cone shape to project light over a wide area. Unlike can light bulbs, flood light bulbs will usually have a small shade to target light. However, some flood light bulbs do not have shades, allowing light to go in all directions.
A globe LED light bulb is globe-shaped. Globe light bulbs are much wider in diameter than standard bulbs. Light extends in all directions out of globe bulbs, making them ideal for bathroom vanities. It’s also a decorative style of lighting.
Vintage LED light bulbs have non-traditional shapes. They mimic old styles of light bulbs. They are highly decorative and can add a lot of character to any room.
Although LED light bulbs are a bit more expensive than other light bulb technologies, the cost for LED bulbs has dropped significantly over the past several years. The first LED light bulbs made for everyday use cost $10 to $15 apiece, but standard LED bulbs now cost $2 to $3 per bulb. To save even more, look for multipacks of LED light bulbs, and you could pay as little as $1 to $1.50 per bulb.
Specialty LED light bulbs will cost a bit more. For example, if you’re looking for a candle-style LED bulb that has a smaller base than the standard E26, you could pay $3 to $5 per bulb. Stylish globe LED light bulbs that use glass bulbs will also cost $3 to $5 per bulb. Vintage-style LED light bulbs, where the “filament” inside the bulb visibly glows, may run $5 to $15 per bulb. That said, specialty LED light bulbs will also be cheaper when purchased in multipacks.
Q. How much longer do LED light bulbs last than other light bulbs?
A. As a general rule, an LED light bulb will last two to three times as long as a CFL light bulb. When compared to an incandescent light bulb, an LED bulb will last 15 to 20 times as long. So even though you typically will pay a little more upfront for LED bulbs, you’ll save a lot of money in replacement costs over the long haul.
Q. These days, why would anyone not choose LED light bulbs?
A. Good question. For most people, LED light bulbs are the best choice. In some situations, though, the design and look of an incandescent bulb or CFL bulb is better. Some people just prefer the look of a traditional incandescent bulb to an LED bulb, for example. Certainly, the early iterations of LED light bulbs didn’t look very nice, but recent designs have a more traditional light bulb look.
Q. Is it cost effective to swap out all my current working bulbs for LED light bulbs?
A. If you’re currently using mostly incandescent bulbs in your home, you should swap out working bulbs for LED light bulbs. You’ll save enough money the first year or two in electrical costs to justify the purchase of LED bulbs. However, with CFL light bulbs, the difference in power consumption probably isn’t enough to monetarily justify throwing away a working CFL bulb to install an LED bulb. For bulbs you rarely use, such as in an attic, you’re probably better off waiting until the current bulb burns out before replacing it.
Q. Can I use LED light bulbs in any light socket?
A. LED light bulbs will work in any kind of light socket, as long as the bulb has the correct base. A common type of socket/base combination is E26, and you’ll have no problem finding E26 LED bulbs. However, you may not be able to find LED bulbs to fit some uncommon types of light sockets. These sockets usually use decorative incandescent bulbs.
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