Not every energy-saving lightbulb can be used in every fixture. In fact, incorrect use of an energy-saving bulb can affect its performance and shorten its life. Before buying a replacement bulb, check the package for proper use. Here are some standouts from Consumer Reports lightbulb tests as well as some tips on how to choose the right bulb for the fixtures in your home.
Lamps and ceiling fixtures
Make sure the bulb can be used in a fully enclosed fixture, if that’s what you have. Consider covered CFLs if you don’t like the spiral look, but those bulbs take longer to warm up.
Standouts from our tests: EcoSmart 60 Watt Soft White 423-599 ES5M8144 CFL, $1.50, sold at Home Depot. It brightened faster than others we tested. GE Energy Smart Saf-T-Gard 60W 78961 CFL, $10. The bulb has a protective coating that contains the pieces if it breaks—a plus if you’re concerned about mercury exposure from a broken CFL. Philips AmbientLED 12.5W 12E26A60 60W, $25. The dimmable bulb outperformed all other tested bulbs.
Recessed or track lights
The interior color of the recessed can or track head affects brightness. Shiny metal and white interiors reflect light. Black absorbs some light, so you might want more lumens to compensate.
Standouts from our tests: EcoSmart LED Downlight 10.5W 65W E26 ECO-575L, $25. It’s sold at Home Depot, is dimmable, and instantly brightens. Feit Electric EcoBulb Plus Soft White R30 65W Rohs BPESL15BR/2 CLF, $9. It trades a lower price for a much longer warm-up time. Both replace 65-watt bulbs.
The colder the temperature the longer it will take for CFLs to brighten up. LEDs aren’t affected by the cold. Bulbs in the 2,700- to 3,000-kelvin range flatter warm-colored exteriors; bulbs with 3,500 or more kelvins enhance grays and cool colors and can appear brighter.
Standouts from our tests: Utilitech’s SoftWhite Par38 90W Outdoor Flood 075232 60064 CFL, $13, sold at Lowe’s. It replaces a 90-watt bulb and provides ample brightness. Swap your 75-watt bulb for the EcoSmart PAR38 ECS 38 Bright White 75W 866194 LED, $33. The dimmable bulb is sold at Home Depot.