It may not be very hard to change a light bulb. But with the effect even a single bulb can have on your home, it's important to choose the best light bulb for each room, lamp, or fixture. You can find bulbs in different styles, brightness levels, and color temperatures, using LED (Light-Emitting Diode) technology. The United States has officially transitioned away from incandescent and other less efficient types of bulbs.
"I tell people not to be scared of moving over to LED bulbs," says electrician Anthony James, Jr. of the long-running Just Bulbs in New York City. "Many people think of LEDs as having that super stark, bright white color they don't like. That's not the case. There's literally a color for every situation, from makeup to kitchen to general home use."
Taking James’ advice, we compared a number of light bulb options, looking specifically at overall light quality and energy efficiency.
Cree 40W-Equivalent Soft White A19 Dimmable LED Light Bulb
Bright, dimmable light
Excellent color quality
Relatively pricey upfront
Likely won't last the full listed lifespan
Cree's line of A19-size LED bulbs start at 40 watts in terms of the equivalent wattage for incandescent bulbs, producing a living-space-friendly 460 lumens of brightness while actually using a mere 5.5 watts of electricity. If you need more brightness, you can opt for the 60-watt- or 75-watt-equivalent bulbs; all can dim smoothly down to nothing when used on a dimmable light fixture. The soft white light is a warm and cozy 2700K color temperature, and a clearer daylight version at a cooler 5000K is available as well.
One area where the Cree bulbs particularly excel is how accurately they show the colors of objects they shine on. Out of a maximum Color Rendering Index (CRI) of 100, the bulbs' 90+ CRI means rich, natural colors all around your room.
The per-bulb cost of Cree's LED bulbs is higher than you'll find with traditional incandescent bulbs (as well as some current LEDs), but the energy savings and longevity adds up in the end. The bulbs are rated for 25,000 hours or 22 years of use—you may never hit those theoretical numbers in real-world applications, but the bulbs are very long-lasting all the same. Plus, they're compliant with California's Title 20 regulations, so you won't run into issues if you're shipping them to the state.
Price at time of publish: $28/4-pack
Bulb Type: LED | Lumens: 460 lumens | Watts: 5.5 watts | Usage: Indoor/enclosed outdoor | Color Temperature: 2700 kelvin
Philips 60-Watt Equivalent Soft White LED Light Bulb
Energy efficient and long-lasting
Warm, inviting light
Designed to help with eye comfort
Higher upfront cost than incandescent
Even though traditional incandescent light bulbs usually cost less when you first buy them, there's a reason they're being phased out in favor of LED light bulbs: LEDs simply produce much less heat and consume much less energy throughout a much longer lifespan. These standard-sized LED bulbs from Philips use 10 watts to provide 800 lumens of light, equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent, and they're rated to last you about 11 years with 3-hour daily usage. That means long-term savings for a reasonable initial investment—at the time of writing, you could find a set of 16 for less than $2 per bulb.
The soft white light is ideal for a relaxing environment, and its 80 CRI indicates decent natural color reproduction. Extra touches like frosted glass and flicker-free design help keep the light comfortable for your eyes. This particular model isn't supported for use with dimmer switches, but Philips' broad full catalog includes dimmable as well as daylight variations.
Price at time of publish: $33/16-pack
Bulb Type: LED | Lumens: 800 lumens | Watts: 10 watts | Usage: Indoor | Color Temperature: 2700 kelvin
Best Energy Saving
Amazon Basics 75W-Equivalent Soft White Dimmable A19 LED Light Bulb
Bright and dimmable
Can be used indoors or outdoors
Easily available online
Can't ship to California
Bulbs may not last the full lifespan
Add light bulbs to the staples that Amazon's house brand has covered, with Amazon Basics LED bulbs that can find a place in just about any room. They're available in a variety of brightness ratings and light colors, with the soft white 75-watt equivalent delivering a pleasantly bright 1,100 lumens. Each bulb can produce strong light for bathrooms and other places where you need good, detailed visibility, and you can turn down the brightness if you have a dimmer switch installed.
Your energy savings can be significant, considering the efficient LED bulbs each run on just 12 watts and have a 10,000-hour listed lifetime (though various users report some bulbs failing much sooner). But assuming the full lifespan, at 3 hours of daily use and a cost of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour, Amazon calculates each bulb will cost you $1.45 per year to use, saving you $69.30 across its life versus an incandescent alternative. Unfortunately, despite their energy efficiency, the bulbs can't ship to California since they don't have official certification for the state's energy regulations.
Price at time of publish: $21/6-pack
Bulb Type: LED | Lumens: 1,100 lumens | Watts: 12 watts | Usage: Indoor/outdoor | Color Temperature: 2700 kelvin
Feit Electric 60W-Equivalent Bright White Dimmable A19 LED Light Bulb
Bright, moderately warm light
Excellent color quality
Compliant with California regulations
Not as warm in color as softer white bulbs
Likely won't last the full listed lifespan
If you have light fixtures that use a dimmer switch, make sure you're using a compatible bulb like the dimmable bright white LED bulbs from Feit. The 60-watt replacements produce up to 800 lumens of light, and they can dim down smoothly from that brightness to suit the needs of your room. The quality bulbs should avoid any buzzing or humming sounds when paired with modern dimmers, but you may need to test them out with your particular dimmer if you have an older switch.
The 3000K "bright white" color gives out a pleasant, warmish glow, ideal if you prefer a bulb not quite as yellow as the 2700K of the more common "soft white" option. Feit offers soft white and daylight versions as well. With any version, you get superb color reproduction rated at 90+ CRI. The bulbs also meet California's energy requirements to be shipped to the state (which makes sense for the CA-based Feit Electric). The LEDs will indeed last you a long time, even if the listed 22 years isn't quite feasible.
Price at time of publish: $13/4-pack
Bulb Type: LED | Lumens: 800 lumens | Watts: 8.8 watts | Usage: Indoor/outdoor | Color Temperature: 3000 kelvin
Philips Hue 60-Watt-Equivalent White A19 LED Smart Bulb
Adds dimming and scheduling to any fixture
Remote control via app and voice commands
Easy to install and coordinate
Separate Hue Bridge required for all features
Color-changing versions are even more expensive
When it comes to smart light bulbs that connect to other devices (and each other) for advanced functionality and convenience, the Philips Hue brand sets the standard. While on the pricey side, the lineup includes quality smart lights to fit just about any need, including the general purpose White A19 Smart Bulb. For a higher cost, the White Ambiance version allows you to freely adjust between warm and cool light, while Color Ambiance lets you change colors completely. The White bulb keeps it simple at a soft 2700K. What you can control is the precise brightness of the white light and when it turns on or off, and you can do so remotely from the mobile app or voice commands through Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
"If you want a ton of functionality and envision controlling all the lights in your home with an app packed with high-tech features like geofencing, I’d choose Philips Hue, hands down,” says Deanna McCormack, one of our product testers. "Overall, I loved this smart light bulb set and purchased another set to customize my home lighting fully. The app was easy to use, and the white light was bright and soft, which you don’t always get from LED lights."
Luckily, installation is as simple as screwing in the bulbs and connecting over Bluetooth, but you'll need the separate Philips Hue Bridge to unlock their full capabilities. The Bridge serves as a hub that connects to the internet through your Wi-Fi network, giving you access from anywhere in the world and extra features like automated routines based on the time or your location. It also syncs up to 50 Hue bulbs instead of just ten, so it can be worthwhile for a whole-house smart lighting setup.
Price at time of publish: $50/4-pack
Bulb Type: LED | Lumens: 800 lumens | Watts: 9.5 watts | Usage: Indoor | Color Temperature: 2700 kelvin
Bulbrite 60W-Equivalent Soft White Dimmable ST18 LED Filament Light Bulb
Dimmable and bright for an antique-style light
Usable in wet locations
Compliant with California regulations
Much pricier than standard style bulbs
Not as warm in color as softer white bulbs
Today's LED technology lets us show off classic, eye-catching light bulb designs in our home fixtures while staying energy efficient and cost effective. With Bulbrite's Edison-style light bulb, an ST18 shape code and visible filaments within the glass result in a unique, nostalgic feel, especially combined with a soothing warm glow. This particular "soft white" color is a more moderate 3000K, slightly less yellow than 2700K alternatives. The dimmable bulb also hits a bright 850 lumens and a high 90 CRI color accuracy, making it more generally usable around the house than other decorative, antique-style lighting, which tend to be fairly dim and amber-colored.
James, an electrician at Just Bulbs, agrees. "The bulb company I like the most is Bulbrite. With some of their bulbs, I can trick customers who say they don't like LEDs. I show them a Bulbrite bulb, and they say, 'See, that bulb looks amazing! That's the one I want!' I tell them it's an LED—there's no heat, you can touch it. Bulbrite is my brand to do that with; no one else has gotten as close as they have."
Because the bulbs are modern LEDs and not actually vintage incandescents, you also benefit from a long lifespan listed at 15,000 hours and plenty of energy efficiency to earn compliance with California's bulb standards. They've even met the standards to be UL listed for safe use in wet conditions outdoors.
Price at time of publish: $14
Bulb Type: LED | Lumens: 850 lumens | Watts: 8.5 watts | Usage: Indoor/outdoor | Color Temperature: 3000 kelvin
Best for Kitchens
Philips 60W-Equivalent Daylight Deluxe CFL T2 Twister Light Bulb
Extra bright daylight color
More energy-efficient than incandescents
Compact size to fit most fixtures
Not as energy efficient as LEDs
As a compact fluorescent (CFL) bulb, the Philips Twister light bulbs have a number of advantages over incandescents as well as traditional fluorescent options. This includes energy efficiency, durability, and a T2 tubular shape twisted into a compact spiral that fits standard-size sockets. Warmer colors are available, but the 6500K "daylight deluxe" version is a noticeably cooler, whiter color that imitates natural sunlight. Combined with its bright 860 lumen count, the bulb works well for kitchens where you need to see what you're cooking. It can also serve as aquarium lighting or a grow light for plants thanks to its bright sun-like glow.
On the downside, the bulbs don't work with dimmer switches, so they can only shine at full strength. It's also important to note that since CFLs contain trace amounts of mercury, you will need to properly recycle them rather than throw them into the trash. Your local waste management company can provide details on how to do so.
Price at time of publish: $29/4-pack
Bulb Type: CFL | Lumens: 860 lumens | Watts: 13 watts | Usage: Indoor | Color Temperature: 6500 kelvin
Best for Bathrooms
Sylvania 60W-Equivalent Soft White Dimmable A19 Halogen Light Bulb
Excellent color quality
Some energy savings over incandescents
Less bright than other 60W replacements
Not very energy efficient
Because your bathroom vanity is a common spot for daily detailed tasks like shaving or applying makeup, you'll want bulbs that help ensure you're looking your best. That's where the Sylvania halogen bulbs' high 90+ CRI color reproduction really shines, so to speak, showing things in their full, accurate colors. At the same time, their 2750K color temperature keeps the room feeling cozy, though you may want a cooler version if your preference is to maximize visibility.
As an upgraded type of incandescent bulb, halogen bulbs offer somewhat improved energy efficiency and lifespan, but not nearly as much as modern LEDs. These Sylvania lights manage comparable 60-watt production using only 43 watts of energy, outputting 610 lumens of light. That's more than traditional incandescents produce with 40 watts, but LEDs reach the 800 lumen range with their 60-watt replacements. Still, a few of the bulbs together is plenty of light for most bathrooms, and with a dimmer switch, you can keep them turned low if you just need a quick night light.
Price at time of publish: $20/4-pack
Bulb Type: Halogen | Lumens: 610 lumens | Watts: 43 watts | Usage: Indoor/enclosed outdoor | Color Temperature: 2750 kelvin
Best for Lamps
GE Lighting 3-Way 50/100/150W Soft White A21 Incandescent Light Bulb
Soft, warm light
Not energy efficient or long-lasting
Can get warm
Low-efficiency traditional incandescent bulbs will no longer be manufactured and sold in the U.S., but for purists not ready to make the switch, GE's three-way soft white bulbs remain an option for the time being. They can be a good choice for lamps in your hallway or bedside, or other locations where you may not need a lot of light running for long periods of time. They can provide the tried-and-true warm, soothing glow in spots where you want to set a gentle mood.
The GE bulbs include the benefit of being a three-way bulb that can work in lamps that can click through the different light settings. The options for 50, 100, and 150 watts let you pick the light level you want for a situation and use only the corresponding amount of energy. The bulbs are also dimmable across the full brightness range when used with a dimmer switch.
Price at time of publish: $36/12-pack
Bulb Type: Incandescent | Lumens: 615/1540/2155 lumens | Watts: 50/100/150 watts | Usage: Indoor/enclosed outdoor | Color Temperature: 2800 kelvin
The Cree 40W-Equivalent Soft White A19 Dimmable LED Light Bulb is our top pick for an all-purpose bulb—it's bright, works well with dimmers, and makes colors look crisp. Plus, it saves energy and potentially lasts for years. For a smart bulb that you can control with your phone or a voice assistant, we like the Philips Hue 60-Watt-Equivalent White A19 LED Smart Bulb, a premium single-color Bluetooth bulb that gains even more automated capabilities with a Philips Hue Bridge.
What to Look For in a Light Bulb
There are four common types of light bulbs used in homes. However, many areas are phasing out three of them due to their lower energy efficiency.
- Light-Emitting Diode (LED): LED bulbs are the most popular type of light bulb today and for good reason. They're highly energy-efficient, don't contain mercury, won't heat during use, and provide bright light with a slightly cool cast. You’ll find LED bulbs in every size, shape, and color.
- Incandescent: Once the mainstay of light bulbs, today, incandescent light bulbs are on the way out and are no longer available in many communities. While inexpensive to purchase, incandescent bulbs use a lot of electricity and don’t last nearly as long as LED bulbs. Plus, they generate considerable heat during use. Incandescent bulbs do work with dimmer switches and give a warm light that many people prefer to the cooler light of an LED bulb.
- Compact Fluorescent (CFL): Another type of light bulb that’s now on the way out, CFL bulbs are more energy-efficient than incandescent light bulbs but not as efficient as LEDs. CFL bulbs take a few moments to reach their full brightness, which is not quite as bright as the light emitted by a LED bulb. One thing to note about CFLs: to help them last longer, leave them on for at least 15 minutes each time you turn them on. This will maximize the lifespan of the bulbs.
- Halogen: Already banned in California and soon to be banned in many other states as well, halogen bulbs are energy-efficient but not long-lasting. They give off an intense white light that works well in outdoor fixtures.
Size and Shape
While "standard" size light bulbs should fit in the majority of typical indoor lamps and light fixtures, you'll want to check the specific shape code to confirm it will work for your needs. For the bulbs on this list we stayed primarily with A19, which denotes the standard rounded shape. Examples of other common shape codes include BR30 for more directional indoor recessed lights and PAR38 for outdoor flood bulbs.
There's another important code that indicates the size of the bulb's base, which has to match or you won't be able to physically screw it into the socket. The standard medium base is E26, but the smaller E12 candelabra base may sometimes come into play for chandeliers.
Watt and Lumens
It used to be common to discuss the size of a light bulb through wattage. We still measure a bulb's energy use in watts. With LEDs becoming standard, though, a bulb might produce a similar level of light using much lower wattage, so a separate measure of brightness becomes important. Enter lumens.
"The lumen count is more needed in today's bulb language," says Anthony James, Jr. of Just Bulbs. "The old incandescents people used to buy didn't really have all the specs on the boxes. They might say '60-watt soft white light bulb,' and that was the most you got. In today's light bulb world, we talk about LEDs specifically calibrated to a certain color. A certain wattage might give you 'X' amount of light, but companies can vary with that wattage rating."
As an example, our best overall pick, the Cree 40W-Equivalent Soft White A19 Dimmable LED Light Bulb, uses 5.5 watts of energy but performs similarly to a 40-watt incandescent, producing 460 lumens of light. The 60-watt version of that bulb uses 10 watts and outputs 815 lumens. When comparing to 40- and 60-watt bulbs from other brands, both of those lumen counts are a tad higher than what you most commonly see.
The color temperature of the light a bulb produces plays a major role in the mood and ambiance of your space. A warmer light is more yellow or amber in hue, great for making a living area feel comfortable and inviting. Cooler light includes more blue color and comes through as clear, bright white that helps you see what you're doing in rooms like kitchens and bathrooms. You'll often see this as a choice between soft white or daylight options.
"Color temperature is where you want to go as the starting point," says James. "Many people like the warm, cozy feeling from a color along the lines of 2700K, like what a regular light bulb color would be. Some companies call it soft white, some companies call it warm white. I would rather people learn the Kelvin rating because you get more accuracy when you use that number."
Our dimmable bulb pick, the Feit 60W-Equivalent Bright White Dimmable A19 LED Light Bulb, demonstrates an instance where knowing its specific color—3000 kelvin—tells you that it's not quite as yellowish as the more common 2700 kelvin "soft white." On the other end of the spectrum, the typical 5000 kelvin "daylight" color provides cooler, whiter light ideal for functional areas of your home.
What is the most energy efficient light bulb?
LEDs represent the most efficient type of light bulbs, using about 90 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. Halogen bulbs marked a slight 20-30 percent energy reduction compared to incandescents, while CFL bulbs did even better at 60-80 percent less energy, but the distinctions have become less important as the other types are phased out in favor of LEDs.
Which bulbs last the longest?
Longevity is another area where LED bulbs lead the way, lasting many times longer than incandescents, and even halogens and CFLs. Bulb manufacturers list estimates on their bulbs' lifespan ratings, but keep in mind there are many factors at play.
"LEDs are rated for 5 years to upwards of 7 to 10 years, but that all depends on how you use them," James says. "Some LED companies list 22 years, and that's just absurd. If you read the tiny fine print on the box, they're calculating the average use of a person, with ideal conditions, clean electricity, an A/C blowing on the bulb itself."
Which light bulb attracts the fewest bugs?
With most standard white light bulbs, you won't see much difference in how many bugs one attracts over another. If you have concerns, special bug lights with yellow bulbs are available that may help to some degree with outdoor bug issues.
"The yellow colored bug lights seem to work for some types of bugs but not others," says James. "It's more the ultraviolet (UV) light that comes from a light bulb that bugs are attracted to, not particularly the colored light bulb."
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was originally written, researched, and updated by Erica Puisis, who writes about home products for The Spruce, specializing in interior design and plant care. She's contributed to Forbes and smart home blogs like Smart Home Solver and TechDigg. The article was rewritten with updated research and products by Anton Galang, a freelance contributor who primarily covers tech-focused topics for The Spruce, including smart bulbs, outdoor lighting, and lamps. He has previously worked as a writer and reviewer for Lifewire and PC Magazine.
For additional insight from technical and general lighting standpoints, Galang spoke with Anthony James Jr., an electrician and lighting specialist at Just Bulbs, a light bulb store that has operated in New York City since 1980. Galang additionally researched light bulb options from over a dozen manufacturers for a comparison of their lighting performance, color and brightness options, visual style, and energy-efficiency ratings.