What’s the deal with energy-efficient light bulbs?

Most of us have grown up with traditional incandescent bulbs, which don’t last very long and lead to massive energy consumption (which also skyrockets our monthly energy bill). Energy-efficient bulbs, like compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or LEDs, are now becoming more mainstream—but what are they? 

The TL;DR version? LED bulbs are energy-efficient, last longer, and are more cost-effective.

CFLs are the lights that you may think of when we say energy-efficient bulbs, because they’ve got that signature spiral look. While CFLs are an upgrade from incandescent bulbs, they’re still not much more efficient or durable. Instead, the best options are LED bulbs, which look similar to traditional bulbs but last years longer, making it well worth the upfront cost. Rather than using filament like incandescent bulbs do, LED bulbs use diode light, i.e., photons which don’t generate heat. Because of this, LED bulbs require 75 percent less energy (say only, 10-15 watts) than a general 50- or 60-watt bulb.

So let’s do the math: If your home has an average of 25 light bulbs, you could opt for traditional bulbs at a cheaper price-point, but they’ll burn out in a shorter timespan. If you instead invest in 25 LED light bulbs, then you can save hundreds of dollars in energy costs per year and over the decade since you won’t need to replace them. 

The TL;DR version? LED bulbs are energy-efficient, last longer, and are more cost-effective.

Here are a few tips on what to look for when shopping for bulbs:

  • Wattage isn’t necessarily about brightness; it’s the measurement of how much energy the bulb needs. For example, an LED bulb might only need 10 watts to compare with the brightness of a 60-watt incandescent bulb. With that said, you can measure lumens instead.

  • Lumens are the real measurement of brightness, and they’re more standard across bulbs, so you’ll want to think about how bright you want your bulbs to be.

  • You’ll know what size and shape you need by checking your fixtures or the existing bulbs you’ve used. The standard US light bulb is an A19, but there are all sorts of shapes and sizes.

  • Most bulbs come with a specific warm or cool aura, so you’ll want to think about your ideal ambiance and choose accordingly. (And these terms and degrees of warmth/coolness aren’t standard across the industry, so be mindful.)

  • Lastly, while we advocate for energy-efficient bulbs as much as possible, some light fixtures cannot handle LED bulbs and/or will not be able to dim. Check your lamp or fixture before heading to the store.

1. Tala Bulb

Where to Buy | Online and West Elm
Price Range | Bulbs starting at £7

Based out of the UK (but also available in US stores like West Elm), Tala is a lighting company sitting at the intersection of sustainability and technology. In addition to selling ceiling lights and fixtures, Tala has also designed more energy-efficient LED light bulbs that last for up to a decade of use. From regular Edison-style bulbs to stunning mouth-blown bulbs, your space will be both uber-stylish and sustainable.

Shop Tala Light Bulbs

2. GE Lighting

Where to Buy | Online, Target, Lowe’s
Price Range | Bulbs starting at $4.99

If you aren’t sure which lighting is best for which room, or you are trying to find energy-efficient light bulbs for your entire home in one fell swoop, may we suggest shopping GE Lighting? Using the Bulb Finder quiz, you can select the right light for any space, including warm and cool bulbs, LED and Smart bulbs, and more. Because GE Light Bulbs are also quite popular, there are many energy-efficient options available for purchase in person or online.

Shop GE Light Bulbs

3. Philips LED

Where to Buy | Target
Price Range | Bulbs starting at $6

Struggle with eye strain? Need sensitive lighting? The Philips LED Bulb might just be for you. This energy-saving bulb is designed for the comfort of your eyes and home: It meets Philips’ Eyecomfort requirements, gently illuminates the room, and doesn’t visibly flicker, which can cause headaches or even epilepsy. These bulbs, ideal for table and floor lamps, can last up to 13 years, making them a very cost-effective investment.

Shop Philips Light Bulbs

4. Samsung SmartThings Bulb

Where to Buy | Best Buy, Micro Center
Price Range | Bulbs starting at $9.99

If building a “smart” home is on your list, Samsung’s SmartThings Smart Bulb is exactly what you need. Compatible with Google Assistant, Alexa, and Bixby, you can control these bulbs from your smartphone or tablet anywhere, anytime. So whether you want to adjust lighting to fit your daily routine, dim the lights for movie night, or simply be mindful of energy consumption, the LED Smart Bulb can do it all.

Shop Samsung Light Bulbs

5. FEIT Electric

Where to Buy | Bed Bath & Beyond, Lowe’s
Price Range | Bulbs starting at $3.99

Combine vintage and modern with FEIT Electric’s Edison-style bulbs, which emit a warm, amber glow for a cozy feel. In addition to working with various fixtures ranging from chandeliers to sconces, many of these LED bulbs are also dimmable for the ultimate ambiance. Available starting at just $3.99 in big-box stores, you can add a historic, retro vibe to any space.

Shop FEIT Electric Light Bulbs

The Good Trade editors endorse products we genuinely love. If you end up making a purchase through one of our affiliate links, we may earn a commission. Learn more here.