Light Bulb Guide: LED vs. CFL vs. Halogen

GE's Reveal LED bulb emits color–enhancing light.GE's Reveal LED bulb emits color–enhancing light.Stock up soon on your favorite 40-watt and 60-watt incandescent (traditional) lightbulbs for table and floor lamps and track lighting. At the end of this year, in keeping with a federal law passed in 2007, manufacturers like General Electric and Philips will no longer be allowed to manufacture such bulbs for sale in the United States. So whatever remains on store shelves on Jan. 1 is all there will ever be.

But what about when that supply is gone? 

Lightbulb makers have been preparing for this deadline for two years,since the production of traditional 100-watt incandescent bulbs was outlawed in 2012, followed by a production ban on traditional 75-watt incandescent bulbs this year. Now there are alternatives aplenty in the form of new LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs, older CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs and halogen bulbs. You can even buy some other incandescent bulbs that were exempted under the law, the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA).

LED lightbulb options

Those 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. 

Philips' LED lightbulb has a rated lifetime of 22.8 years.Philips' LED lightbulb has a rated lifetime of 22.8 years.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 Reveal LED bulb has a rated lifetime of 15,000 hours or 13.7 years. Philips'equivalent LED bulb has a rated lifetime of 25,000 hours or 22.8 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 recently expanded its 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. "Daylight"LED bulbs, which provide a whiter light than soft white or Reveal bulbs, are available, as well.

To be sure, LED bulbs cost a lot more than old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. For example, GE's 60-watt–equivalent soft white LED bulb, sold under the Energy Smart moniker, retails for about $11, and Philips' version retails for about $16. GE's Reveal LED bulb costs between $20 and $22. By comparison, one of GE's outgoing 60-watt Reveal incandescent bulbs costs about $1.

But occasionally, these LED bulbs go on sale, potentially reducing their prices to as low as $5-$8 each.

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. 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 1,000-1,250 hours (up to 417 days or 1.1 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.)
(60-Watt Equiv.)

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  • 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
  • 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.
  • I'll all for saving the earth but they need to lower the price of LED.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • PS:
    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.
  • 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!
  • dd
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • AJSB

    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.
  • 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.
  • @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.
  • *Promising not to use CFL lamps.
  • *Promising not to use CFL lamps.
  • 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