We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
When you're shopping for light bulbs, there are several factors to consider, including energy efficiency, lighting temperature, light output, measured in lumens, and wattage.
"The application [of the light bulb] and the other light sources in the room, will determine how many lumens you should target," says Sheva Knopfler, co-founder and creative director of Lights.com. Color temperature, which is measured in Kelvins is another factor to keep in mind. "We recommend 3500 Kelvin temperatures, which is more neutral and can be successfully used in all rooms of the home," says Knopfler.
We researched and tested light bulbs from dozens of brands, assessing their brightness, efficiency, and longevity. Our best overall pick, the Philips 60-Watt Equivalent Soft White LED Light Bulb, offers warm lighting that's energy-efficient and long-lasting.
Here are the best light bulbs.
Best LED: Philips 60-Watt Equivalent Soft White LED Light Bulb
Great soft, white light
May not be ideal for task lighting
The Philips 60-Watt Equivalent Soft White LED Light Bulb is our top pick since it emits a soft white light that’s both bright and easy on the eyes, relies on energy-efficient LED technology, and has a high CRI rating.
This bulb has a Kelvin rating of 2700 Kelvin, which means it will illuminate any space you install it with a soft and warm white light, which is perfect for creating a relaxing and comfortable atmosphere. You may want to consider installing them in the living room, your bedroom, or any other space where you often lounge rather than completing detail-oriented tasks. The bulb provides a substantial 800 lumens of brightness, though it’s unfortunately not dimmable. It also has a high CRI rating, which means the colors of your home decor and furniture will appear accurately under its glow.
As alluded to in its name, this is an LED bulb. Typically, LED bulbs have longer lifespans and greater energy efficiency than a standard incandescent bulb. This LED bulb relies on 8.5 watts to bring you the equivalent of 60 watts in an incandescent bulb while also using 80 percent less energy. It can work up to 10,950 hours and last for 11 years when used three hours per day, so you’ll be able to rely on these bulbs for a while.
Runner-Up, Best LED: TCP 60-Watt Equivalent LED Light Bulbs
Even light distribution
Bright, pure white light
Energy and cost efficient
Light may be too bright for certain uses
Not compatible with dimmer switches
TCP's 60-watt-equivalent bulbs are another great option for those looking to shop LEDs. These bulbs have an overall energy-efficient design. They can replace a standard 60-watt incandescent bulb and save you up to 85 percent on energy costs. They're also designed to last 20,000 hours, or over the course of 18 years.
One drawback is that these bulbs don't work with dimmer switches. On the plus side, these TCP bulbs distribute light evenly. They emit a pure white light, which some people find too harsh, but it works well anywhere you need task lighting, such as in the kitchen or bathroom.
Best Smart: Philips Hue 60-Watt-Equivalent A19 Dimmable LED Smart Bulb
Alexa and Google-Assistant compatible
User-friendly app design
Set timers and control multiple lights at once
Hue Bridge needed to use all features
Bridge sold separately
If you want a handy, easy-to-install smart bulb that's compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant for control via voice commands, look no further than the Philips Hue White A19 LED Smart Bulbs. Once you screw your bulbs into the light socket, you just connect them directly to your smart home device. To control these lights, you can rely on the user-friendly Hue app, which lets you easily dim the light and create customizable lighting scenes from your phone or tablet.
The bulbs are 10 watts or the incandescent equivalent of 60 watts. Just note that to get the full Hue experience, you need to purchase the Philips Hue Bridge, which is sold separately. Without the Bridge, you can control up to ten bulbs in a given room and set timers via the app. With the Bridge, you can control 50 bulbs from anywhere in your home and set both timers and schedules. In addition to Alexa and Google Assistant, the Bridge also makes the bulbs compatible with Apple HomeKit.
Best Incandescent: GE Lighting 3-Way 50/100/150W Incandescent A21 Light Bulb
Warm, omnidirectional light
Three light settings
Finicky light setting controls
Not as energy efficient as LEDs
If you prefer to use incandescent bulbs, this GE Lighting 3-Way Incandescent A21 Light Bulb is a great option. It's a three-way light bulb designed to work with three-way sockets, allowing you to choose from three different light settings at 50/100/150 watts and 615/1540/2155 lumens for each setting, respectively. The lowest setting provides mood lighting, while the higher modes are better for general-purpose and task lighting.
Since this is an incandescent bulb, it isn't as energy efficient as an LED option. However, it's also much warmer than LED or CFL bulbs, which can seem harsh by comparison. It provides light in multiple directions, and it can last for over a year. This incandescent bulb from GE has other added benefits—it can be used with a dimmer and is less expensive to purchase initially than other bulb types.
Best for Bathrooms: AmazonBasics 75-Watt-Equivalent Dimmable LED Light Bulb
Soft and bright light
Can have a shorter lifespan than listed
Can’t be shipped to California
Since LED lights are more durable and use less energy than other bulbs, they make for wonderful bathroom lighting—and the AmazonBasics 75-watt-equivalent A19 LED light bulbs are a solid choice. In terms of durability, a single bulb has a lifespan of 15,000 hours (over 13 years) and provides 1000 lumens of light, which creates a bright and inviting atmosphere.
This bulb won't react to humidity and uses just 11.5 watts of energy, so it's an economical choice for rooms that see a lot of use. The soft white light is flattering and easy on your eyes, and the bulbs are dimmable. Some users note their bulbs did not last as long as advertised, but this product comes with an AmazonBasics limited three-year warranty for your peace of mind.
Best for Kitchens: Cree 100-Watt-Equivalent A21 Dimmable LED Bulb
Bright, white light
90+ CRI for accurate color rendition
Not ideal if you're looking for warm light
Lifespan can be shorter than listed
When it comes to kitchen lighting, look for a light bulb with higher Kelvin to provide clear and bright-enough light. And because we're talking about a room where good visibility is crucial, brightness and color temperature are important factors to consider. Enter the Cree 100W Equivalent Daylight (5000K) A21 Dimmable LED Light Bulb, which boasts a correlated color temperature of 5000 Kelvin, so you can clearly see everything you're cutting.
This bulb provides maximum visibility and makes the other colors in your kitchen nice and vibrant. It has a 90+ CRI, which means it accurately renders the colors of everything it illuminates. You can expect a bright, white (almost blueish) glow, so if you're looking for a bulb with a warmer glow, this may not be the option for you. This indoor/outdoor bulb is also dimmable and designed to last around 22 years.
Best Halogen: Sylvania 60-Watt Equivalent Dimmable Halogen Light Bulb
Warm and bright
Renders colors accurately
Comparatively short lifespan
If you're a fan of the look that incandescents give off you might want to try halogen light bulbs which give off an equally warm, natural glow. This Sylvania Halogen Light Bulb—which offers a 60-watt equivalent—works great for table lamps, pendants, and hanging fixtures, and it's also dimmable.
Unlike CFLs and LEDs, this bulb won't give you a long lifespan (1.8 years at three hours a day), though halogen bulbs provide more light than an incandescent and use less energy. The bulbs give off a bright (but not blinding) white light that makes them great for bedside reading, and they have a 90+ CRI, so colors appear accurately under them.
Best Vintage: Feit Electric 40-Watt-Equivalent LED Vintage-Style Light Bulb
LED, energy-efficient design
Not super bright
Unavailable in bulk packs
From trendy restaurants using them in breathtaking chandeliers to interior designers using them on sconces and hanging pendants, vintage (or Edison) light bulbs seem to be everywhere. The Feit Electric 40-Watt Equivalent ST19 Vintage LED has the look of an Edison bulb with the longevity of an LED and is also dimmable.
It gives off a 40-watt equivalent light, so you will need a few to light up your space. Unfortunately, this bulb isn't available in bulk options. However, it will last up to 15,000 hours, so you won't have to worry about changing it out monthly.
Best CFL: Philips 60-Watt-Equivalent CFL Twister Light Bulbs
Great option for mimicking natural light
Shouldn’t be used with dimmers
CFL stands for compact fluorescent bulbs, known for their energy efficiency and long-lasting power compared to incandescent bulbs. Models like the Philips 60-Watt-Equivalent CFL Twister Light Bulbs are a good alternative to incandescent bulbs since you won’t have to replace them as often.
These 13-watt bulbs are the equivalent of a 60-watt incandescent bulb and provide a natural light similar to daylight. The bulbs are also Energy Star rated, last up to 12,000 hours. and won’t flicker like many other CFL bulbs do. Note that you shouldn’t use these with dimmers, though. And like all CFL bulbs, these need to be properly recycled when they burn out. Contact your city or town’s waste management department for instructions.
Our top pick for LEDs goes to the Philips 60-Watt Equivalent Soft White LED Light Bulb, which is available in two colors and is said to have a lifespan of over ten years. If you’re looking for a smart-home-friendly option, we recommend the Philips Hue 60-Watt-Equivalent A19 Dimmable LED Smart Bulb, which is Alexa and Google Assistant-compatible. Plus, the Hue app has a great design, offers convenient lighting control features, and makes using the smart bulb easy.
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, don'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. However, 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.
Dealing with burnt-out bulbs is becoming less of a routine event and more of an occasional annoyance, thanks to the long lifespans offered by the latest in bulb technology. LED bulbs typically offer a lifespan between 10 and 20 years and are the longest-lasting bulb. CFL bulbs will last for several years, and halogen bulbs typically need to be replaced once every year or two. In contrast, incandescent light bulbs will fizzle after about 1,000 hours of use, with some bulbs lasting slightly longer.
The amount of energy used by a light bulb is measured in watts. Incandescent and halogen bulbs have the highest wattage, making them less energy-efficient choices. CFL bulbs use fewer watts, but LED bulbs are the real winner in energy efficiency: an 8-watt or 9-watt LED bulb emits as much light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb.
A lightbulbs color impacts the mood and functionality of a room. For any room you're outfitting, decide whether you prefer a soft white bulb with a yellow hue or a whiter, brighter light (often called a daylight bulb). In between are warm white or bright white bulbs. Choose brighter bulbs for areas where you plan to read or study and softer, yellow-hued bulbs for accent lighting or a warm ambiance.
"Warmer colors such as 3000 Kelvins are ideal in spaces that you want to be warm and invited, such as the bedroom and living room," says Knopfler. "Whereas a colder temperature, such as 4000 Kelvins, may provide more functional lighting in the kitchen and bathrooms. In addition, many customers prefer a uniform color throughout the home and do not like the changing of colors in different rooms."
What are the three types of LED light bulbs?
LED light bulbs come in different categories according to the type of chip used. The three types are dual-inline package (DIP), surface-mounted diode (SMD), and chip on board (COB). The SMD variety of LED light bulbs is the most common, but COB LED light bulbs offer very bright light with less energy consumption. DIP LED bulbs were the original type and are still used today, but less frequently in consumer lighting applications than the other two types.
How do you dispose of light bulbs?
You can dispose of incandescent and halogen bulbs in your household trash. You should recycle LED light bulbs should since the microchips inside this type of bulb contain small amounts of heavy metals. CFL and fluorescent bulbs contain mercury and should always be recycled. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers information and resources on where to recycle light bulbs.
What happens if you use a light bulb with lower wattage?
If you use a light bulb with a wattage lower than the recommendation for your light fixture, you can expect less light output. However, it will not harm the fixture because of using a lower wattage bulb. "Technology improvements are constantly occurring, which provide greater light while using lower energy," says Knopfler. "It is much more accurate to look at the lumen output than the wattage." Keep in mind that using a bulb with a greater wattage than the fixture's rating is a safety hazard.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was 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. Emma Phelps, an Updates Writer for The Spruce, provided research assistance for this article. She reached out to Sheva Knopfler, the co-founder and creative director of Lights.com to learn more about best practices for choosing light bulbs.