Consumer Report: Energy-Efficient Lightbulbs

The lights are about to go out on the last of the incandescent bulbs. Popular 60 and 40 watts will be no longer be manufactured come January. But resist the urge to run out and hoard. Consumer Reports’ latest tests show that energy-saving bulbs are better than ever.

Incandescent bulbs are really only cheaper if you never turn them on. They cost about $8 a year to power. And that’s compared with only $1.70 for an LED or CFL. Most CFLs cost under $3. LEDs are more expensive—$20 to $30 a bulb. But even at that price, they still save you about $125 over their lifetime on electrical costs and on the cost of replacing bulbs.

LEDs have advantages. They can last for decades, more than twice as long as CFLs. And they light instantly, unlike CFLs that can take 30 seconds or more to reach full brightness. Plus many LED bulbs are dimmable; most CFLs are not.

Consumer Reports has tested more than 750 CFLs and LED bulbs. The lab measures warm-up time, light distribution, and how long the bulbs last. And testers use a sphere to measure brightness and color temperature.

The best LEDs outperform CFLs on all counts. For 60-watt equivalents, Consumer Reports named two $20 LED bulbs Best Buys: the 3M LED and the Utilitech A19 13.5 60-W, which is sold at Lowe’s. Both produce a white light that’s dimmable.

If you can’t bear to spend $20 on a lightbulb, consider CFLs instead. Among 60-watt equivalents, Consumer Reports’ top-rated Walmart’s Great Value Soft White CFL. It costs $1.25 a bulb.


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