Light Bulb Guide: LED vs. CFL vs. Halogen

Now that most incandescent lightbulbs are pretty much a thing of the past, consumers now must choose between LED (light-emitting diode), CFL (compact fluorescent), and halogen bulbs to light their homes. But which is the best option? It all depends on your needs. We’ll take you through the various kinds of lighting, and the benefits that each offers.

LED Lightbulb Options

Traditional bulbs for table and floor lamps are known by their lighting industry style name "A19,"while floodlight bulbs made for track lights and in-ceiling fixtures are dubbed "BR30." Your best long-term alternative to either style is extremely energy-efficient LED technology.

The LED equivalent of a 60-watt A19 bulb consumes only between 9 and 12 watts, and provides about the same light output, measured in lumens. A 40-watt equivalent LED bulb consumes only 6 to 8.5 watts. And a 65-watt BR30 (floodlight) replacement LED bulb consumes only 10 to 13 watts.

Moreover, an LED bulb's lifespan is practically infinite. Manufacturers typically estimate a bulb's lifespan based on three hours of use per day. By that measurement, an LED bulb will be as good as new for at least a decade, manufacturers say. Under the same conditions, an old-fashioned lightbulb may work for only about a year before burning out.

For example, GE's equivalent LED bulb has a rated lifetime of 15,000 hours or 13.7 years. Philips' equivalent LED bulb has a rated lifetime of 10,000 hours or 9.13 years.

LED bulbs will continue to light up even after their rated lifetimes expire; however, brightness may drop or the color cast of the light may change.

GE, Philips, Sylvania, Cree and other brands all offer LED bulbs that output the most popular "soft white" light, at retailers including Home Depot, Target and Walmart. In addition, GE ‘s Reveal lineup of color-enhancing lightbulbs (a coating filters out yellow tones to enhance colors lit by the bulb) with LED replacements equivalent to 40-watt and 60-watt A19 bulbs and to a 65-watt BR30 bulb.

Initially, LED bulbs cost a lot more than old-fashioned incandescent bulbs, but now have dropped in price. For example, a 4-pack of Philips 60-watt-equivalent soft white LED bulbs costs about $10 at Home Depot, a cost of $2.50 per bulb.

Color Temperature

When they first came out, LED bulbs emitted a bluish light that many found harsh compared to the “warmer” light cast by traditional bulbs. However, LED makers now offer LED bulbs that emit different color temperatures, measured in Kelvin. Here are a few that you’ll most likely find at a home improvement store:

2700K: These bulbs will be labeled “soft white,” and will cast a gentle warm glow that’s good for the bedroom, as well as table and floor lamps.

3000K: “Bright White” bulbs have a more neutral glow, being neither warm nor cool.

5000K: Lights that are 5000K and higher will typically have a “daylight” label, and edge towards the bluer part of the spectrum. However, they will best approximate actual sunlight.

Smart LED Bulbs

A new subset of LED bulbs are so-called “Smart Bulbs,” in that they can be controlled by your smartphone, and often have other features built in, such as the ability to work with a wide range of smart home devices. However, these also cost more than other LEDs, and most also require a separate hub, which links the bulbs to your home Wi-Fi network.

At the most basic level, the Philips Hue White bulbs let you change their color temperature, and link to other smart home products such as the Nest Learning Thermostat and Amazon’s Alexa. However, a starter pack costs $79, and includes just two lights, as well as a Hue Bridge, a small white box that links the bulbs to your home Wi-Fi network. (The Hue White Extension pack, which includes two additional bulbs, costs $29.) Those who want to change the color entirely can opt for the Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance kit ($199), which comes with the Bridge and three bulbs.

MORE: How to Connect Philips Hue to Amazon Alexa

Belkin’s WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set ($49) includes two bulbs and a hub (additional bulbs are $29 each), and the hub can link up to 50 bulbs, as well as tunable LED bulbs from Osram. Using the WeMo app, you can also create schedules to have the lights turn on and off at set times, dim as you’re going to sleep, and connect to IFTTT.

Cree’s Connected LED bulbs ($87 for a six-pack) will also work with WeMo, as well as the Amazon Echo, Samsung’s SmartThings, Wink, and others.

More advanced (and expensive) smart LEDs include additional features, such as built-in motion sensors, speakers, and Wi-Fi boosters. Here are a few examples.

The Stack Downlight Starter Kit ($89) has sensors that cause the lights to turn on when someone enters the room, and will automatically adjust the color temperature based on the time of day. They also will brighten and dim depending on the amount of sunlight coming into a room. In addition to the BR30 downlight kit, Stack's Classic Starter Kit has A19 bulbs.

The Sengled Pulse ($115) is a pair of LED lights with a JBL Bluetooth speaker in each; they can be paired together for stereo sound. The Sengled Boost ($45) has a built-in 2.4GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi repeater; the Sengled Snap ($149) is an outdoor light with a security camera, so you can monitor who’s coming and going. However, early Amazon reviews with the Snap have been less than positive.


BeON's bulbs have a built-in microphone that listens for the doorbell and fire alarms, and will turn the lights on automatically. The module also contains a small battery, so it can turn the lights on for about 4 hours even if your house loses power. A single bulb costs $50, and a pack of three bulbs and smart modules costs $129.

CFL and Halogen bulbs

Other replacement lightbulb choices consume more power than LED bulbs and have shorter rated-lifespans, but cost much less upfront.

A 60-watt–equivalent CFL bulb from Philips, for example, consumes 13 watts and has a rated lifetime of 12,000 hours (or about 11 years) when lit for three hours a day, but retails for only $1.50-$2.00.

While technically a form of incandescent lighting, halogen bulbs are more efficient than traditional bulbs, and so the ban does not affect them. Many companies now sell “eco-Incandescent” bulbs which look like traditional lightbulbs, but use halogen elements. But they are still no match for LEDs. A 60-watt–equivalent halogen bulb from Philips consumes 43 watts and has a rated lifetime of 0.9 years. However, it retails for just $1.00-$1.25.

Other Lightbulb Alternatives

EISA will also stop the manufacturing of candle-and globe-shaped 60-watt incandescent bulbs (the types used in chandeliers and bathroom vanity light fixtures). However, the law doesn't affect 40-watt versions of those bulbs, nor three-way (50 to 100 to 150-watt) incandescent A19 bulbs. So, those will continue to be an option for you, as well, in fixtures that will accommodate them.

Lamp (A19)
bulb technology
Price per bulb
(Hrs. @ 3 hrs./day;
varies by Mfr.)
(Varies by Mfr.)
(Varies by Mfr.)
$1.50 and up
(60-Watt Equiv.)

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  • chicofehr
    What about the 100W bulbs? I found some great ones on ebay. They cost about $12.00 and have 103 of the 5050 LED and uses about 18-20W. I hate dim rooms :P
  • captainnemojr
    The LED lasting claim of 10+ years is BS. If that were the case, they'd be warrantied for 10+ years. They know it's too much trouble to send a bulb in for replacement because of the turn around time. It's easier just to go buy a new one.
  • ssalim
    I'll all for saving the earth but they need to lower the price of LED.
  • livebriand
    I have Cree LED bulbs all over the house (from Home Depot - 6W/550lumen 2700K, 9W/800lumen 5000K, 9.5W/800lumen 2700K). They work like a charm, the color's nice, and they're relatively cheap and efficient.
  • Geef
    The price will most likely go down for LED once more people start buying them because of the new year coming and they can't buy old bulbs once they run out.
  • danwat1234
    I support this ban, a lot of people complain about CFLs but haven't tried the new ones. You can choose the color temperature, whether it be harsh 5000K or warm white (2700K). If you are concerned about the size of them, you can buy 'mini micro CFL' bulbs that are very compact.
    Concerned that they take a while to warm up? With instant on ones, they turn on at about 60% brightness and achieve over 80% brightness within a minute, 100% not long after. The old kind that is purple at first and takes minutes to warm up are low mercury kinds.
    Yes please recycle these bulbs, collect them in a box or something. Take them to Lowe's Home Depot, Walmart, lots of places where they send them to recyclers.
  • rexter
    Though the efficiency CLF and LED can't be ignore, in my experience incandescent bulb last longer. Though some LED lights I'd used did last longer but I didn't have anything to compare them with for its used. I don't know If this band includes all incandescent or just the house hold products? Otherwise I'd better figure out how fool my car light sensors or I'll have faulty massages all over if I had to switch it with LED. I do like these CLF and LED lights but they're too expensive compared to tungsten lights.
  • AJSB
    People forget a interesting factor....incandescent lamps produce LESS harmful radiations than other types of lamps like CFL....and don't use mercury.

    So, in this ridiculous quest to save the planet, that , no matter will be incenerated by the Sun anyway, not the mention the moronic fear of climate change when after all Arctic ice cap INCRESSED this year 50% in thicvkness (yeah, THAT CORRECT) we are poising ourselves with more nocive radiations and mercury (it's unavoidable that some CFL are broken when/where aren't supposed to be).

    Usual FUBAR.
  • AJSB
    This reminds me unleaded fuel and MTBE...and YES, its carcinogen.
    In fact, MTBE is waaaay more dangerous to health than lead.

    Again, more eco BS that put us in a worse situation than before.
  • orac4prez
    The lifeof an LED or CFL is nowhere near the quoted figures. Our whole house hs CFL or LED lighting and even though many have been big name brands, the majority have failed in under 1 year. Maybe these big companies should actually do some field testing with the product sold in the shops by their manufacturing plants and not an engineering sample.

    The colour and intensity drops of frightfully fast as well. Hate the crap they are forcing on us. I'll beleive the marketting hype when they offer a replacement guarantee on items that fail before 10 years of use!
  • lighthouse10
  • lighthouse10
    Halogen types (72W for 100W etc) will be phased out anyway based on 45 lumen per W final rule (equating to CFL level) in Tier 2 of EISA 2007 law 2014-2017
    Similarly Canada, which is adopting US law, and current EU and Australia etc legislation.
  • lighthouse10
    Overall, A strange law in banning a popular safe product for
    electricity consumption reasons
    (it's not lead paint! many alt ways to reduce consumption, eg
    information /taxation/ market measures)
    also given much actual consumption waste,
    given that light bulbs don't burn coal or release CO2 gas (power plants might),
    given many states have dominant low or emission-free electricity,
    and given that incandescent use is basically small amounts of off-peak
    evening-night surplus capacity electricity anyway ,
    as per Dept of Energy grid data and institutional references:
    CFLs are fine for filling a room with light but they are absolutely terrible for reading or when your eyes need to focus. For that you need a bright, point source light, like an incandescent filament. The only decent light sold today is a halogen bulb which has a tungsten filament. The halogen is there to scavenge tungsten as it vaporizes, allowing a hotter, brighter filament and whiter light. The damage caused to people's eyes due to the poor light produced by CFLs is phenomenal. The people that push CFLs belong in jail for their abject stupidity.
  • IndignantSkeptic

    The sun isn't expected to incinerate the earth for a very long time. By that time, we may have technology to move everybody to safety, and even if not, it's so far away in time that there's not much point in thinking about it now.
  • rwinches
    A great thing about CFL is you can put a higher lumen output bulb in a fixture that its incandescent rating which is based on heat. So if a fixture is rated for 60W bulbs you can install 100W CFLs.
    Premature bulb failure is most often due to oxidized contacts in the socket, overhead fixtures that previously had incandescents installed most common. Loose or oxidized contacts at the wall switch or a switch that was installed using the quick connects instead of the screws can also lead to shortened bulb life.
  • Taranabas
    @rwinches - loose or oxidized contacts in a switch or socket often leads to fire. The inductive nature of CFLs aggravates this problem. They are a huge fire hazard. There are insurance companies giving out discounts to clients to sign, pro.using not to use cfl lamps.
  • Taranabas
    *Promising not to use CFL lamps.
  • Taranabas
    *Promising not to use CFL lamps.
  • smeezekitty
    More government dictators that are ignorant to the real world banning without reason.
    Incandescent bulbs are not significantly dangerous. The gov should not be banning things unless it is a genuine safety hazard