Energy costs keep on rising, so any way we can reduce the impact is welcomed. Energy-efficient light bulbs use anywhere from 70 percent to 90 percent less electricity than standard incandescent bulbs. While the purchase price may be a little higher, they are invariably cheaper over their lifespan. That lifespan is also 10 to 25 times longer, so they are both more convenient and better for the environment.
However you look at it, changing to energy-efficient light bulbs makes sense. The only challenge is choosing the right model. There are dozens of options, from those that are a straightforward replacement to smart light bulbs that offer voice activation, color changing, and remote control. We’ve been looking at all the features and checking performance. Here’s what you need to know to find the best energy efficient light bulbs for your home.
— Best Overall: Philips Hue A19 LED Smart Bulb
— Best Budget: Sylvania LED A19 Light Bulb - 24 Pack
— Best Smart: Lumimam WiFi LED Smart Light Bulb
— Best CFL: EcoSmart Spiral CFL Light Bulb
— Best Outdoor: GE LED+ Motion Sensor Outdoor Security Light Bulb
HOW WE PICKED THE BEST ENERGY-EFFICIENT LIGHT BULBS
Not so long ago a light bulb was something people barely thought about until it failed and needed to be changed. Today’s energy-saving bulbs are very different. They range from the simple to the technologically advanced. The Futurism team has been researching the leading brands and the wide range of products available, so we can recommend the best energy-efficient light bulbs for a range of purposes. Here’s how we made our picks.
Bulb Type: LEDs are the most common and the most energy-efficient type of bulb. Early LED light bulbs had a drawback in that the light produced wasn’t omnidirectional. It would produce a cone of light, often leaving dark corners in a room. However, CFLs (compact fluorescent) are much more efficient than incandescent, and they behave much like an incandescent in terms of light transmission. However, the latest generation of LEDs last longer and produce a much better spread of light. We have included a CFL bulb for comparison, but LEDs are now usually the best all-round choice.
Features: Even the cheapest LED light bulb is more efficient than an incandescent alternative and will save money. However, you may also want to change up and take advantage of the extra features available. However, care is needed. Sometimes seemingly basic functions may not be provided. For example, not all LED light bulbs are dimmable, so they may not work with existing switches. Of course many are, and have a whole range of other features, from changing hue to remote control. In searching out the most energy efficient light bulbs, we also wanted to include different feature sets to suit both a variety of locations and personal preferences.
Price vs Value: The lifespan of an energy-efficient bulb can be anywhere from 8,000 to 25,000 hours (manufacturers give these figures based on the bulb being in use for three hours per day). Those with shorter lifespans tend to be cheaper, but it’s worth checking the math. An LED bulb that at first seems better value may not be if it burns out more quickly. Of course, it’s also important to compare features. Taking a few minutes to do so can reveal some models that just seem flat-out expensive. While we looked to include energy efficient bulbs to suit all budgets, some of the higher-priced models didn’t make the cut.
Best Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Philips Hue A19 LED Smart Bulb
Why It Made The Cut: The Philips Hue comes from arguably the world’s best-known light bulb brand, and provides a low-energy solution to a huge variety of lighting needs.
— Lumens: 800
— Color: Adjustable 2,200K to 6,500K
— Lifespan: 25,000 hours
— Works with free app
— Easy to use
— Extended features with hub
— White only
— Premium price
— Not for fully enclosed fixtures
Given the immense choices available and the differences in individual preferences, picking the best energy-efficient light bulbs is an almost impossible task. We decided on the Philips Hue White because it has arguably the widest appeal. It is certainly tremendously popular and provides excellent versatility.
At its simplest, the Philips Hue is a 60-watt equivalent that provides 800 lumens of light. It screws into an existing socket and links up to the free Philips app, providing adjustable color temperature and dimming. In theory, up to 10 bulbs can be controlled, but because this is functioning via Bluetooth, these must all be in the same room.
To extend capabilities across the whole house and allow remote control, some kind of home hub is required. Philips’ own Hue Hub is one option, others include Amazon Alexa, Apple Homekit, Google Assistant, and Zigbee. Set up is straightforward, allowing zones, lighting moods, and a variety of timers to be set and monitored from anywhere. It can also add voice control, though Hue Hub cannot do so on its own. Using these devices, the network can handle up to 50 bulbs throughout the house.
The Philips Hue energy efficient LED bulbs are approved by Amazon as ‘Certified for Humans’ devices, which means they integrate with Alexa and according to the company are ‘struggle-free, tinker-free, stress-free’. However, these are not recommended for fully-enclosed light fittings that can interrupt Bluetooth and WiFi signals. While a good value in the long term, the initial cost of the Philips Hue is above that of many competitors.
Best Budget: Sylvania LED A19 Light Bulb - 24 Pack
Why It Made The Cut: Sylvania makes an enormous range of LEDs. This entry-level model offers the brand’s renowned reliability and provides a low-cost way to change to energy efficient bulbs.
— Lumens: 800
— Color: 2,700K (others available)
— Lifespan: 11,000 hours
— Simple, efficient replacement
— Great value
— Single color temperature only
— Shorter lifespan
— Not available in California
The headline feature of the Sylvania A19 LED bulb is undoubtedly the low cost. It is the most affordable energy efficient bulb we found. Yet, this is far from just a cheap import. The Sylvania brand is well-known for its lighting expertise, and in addition to household bulbs, produces a huge range of LED lighting for cars and trucks. This LED bulb is shock and vibration resistant and suitable for damp environments. From an environmental point of view, it also contains no mercury or lead.
This model is a direct replacement for 60-watt incandescent, producing 800 lumens of soft light at 2,700K. It cannot be adjusted or dimmed but is also available in 3,000K, 3,500K, 4,000K and 5,000K color temperatures. Thus, Sylvania provides affordable options for different purposes. Energy consumption is just 8.5 watts, and the manufacturer estimates energy cost at only $1.05 per year.
The Sylvania A19 is a very basic LED bulb with no Bluetooth or WiFi control. However, that’s a benefit because it can be installed in fully enclosed light fittings. Life expectancy is considerably lower than some at 11,000 hours, but the bargain price for a pack of 24 means these LED bulbs still offer outstanding value. That said, they’re not available in California. Not because there’s any problem with the bulbs themselves but because the packaging doesn’t carry the appropriate warning label.
Best Smart: Lumimam WiFi LED Smart Light Bulb
Why It Made The Cut: If you put together a wish list of desirable features for smart LEDs, it would look very much like the specifications for these energy efficient Lumimam bulbs.
— Lumens: 800
— Color: White from 2,700K to 6,500K, plus 16 million colors
— Lifespan: Not available
— Feature-rich lighting
— App or hub options
— Sync with music
— Fussy app
— Not for fully-enclosed fittings
— Cannot be used with dimmer switches.
Lumimam will be a new name to some people, but they claim to be one of the top five specialist smart-lighting makers in the world. Their range includes not just bulbs but also lamps and some of the best LED strip lights and strings available.
This model can be operated via the free app provided. As is common, the app can control multiple lights within a single room, and voice control can be added without a full hub using a device like Echo Dot. However, to operate remotely across the whole house, some form of hub is necessary. The Lumimam bulbs work with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri via Apple Homekit. This opens up a whole world of possibilities including the ability to set different lighting zones, lighting moods, dusk and dawn timers, and other schedules.
The Lumimam bulbs can also sync with music (as long as the device with the app is in the same room). They offer a choice of 16 million colors and full control over brightness, although the Lumimam bulbs cannot be used with existing dimmer switches. Despite all this versatility, power consumption is only 7.5 watts.
At under $10 each, the Lumimam A19 smart bulbs are very competitively priced. A number of people found the app fussy but alternatives are available. These LEDs are not recommended for fully-enclosed light fittings that could interrupt the Bluetooth or WiFi signal. Somewhat surprisingly, we were unable to find a lifespan either at retailers or the Lumimam website.
Best CFL: EcoSmart Spiral CFL Light Bulb
Why It Made The Cut: In situations where there is no WiFi, EcoSmart’s Spiral CFL bulb can be almost as economical as LEDs, and produces a clearer, brighter light than a number of rivals.
— Lumens: 800
— Color: 5,000K
— Lifespan: 10,000 hours
— Bright, daylight bulb
— Energy Star-compliant
— Not as economical as LEDs
— Shorter lifespan
— Not dimmable
EcoSmart has built a reputation for quality products at budget prices. They focus on everyday products rather than smart bulbs. This CFL (compact fluorescent) model is a direct replacement for standard 60 W incandescents, yet only uses 14 watts.
CFL bulbs are around 75 percent more efficient than ordinary bulbs and have a much longer lifespan, in this case almost as long as some LEDs. They produce omnidirectional light, whereas some cheap LEDs produce a cone effect that leaves dark shadows. This EcoSmart CFL produces daylight brightness that can be important for visual clarity. It doesn’t have WiFi or Bluetooth features so it can be used in fully enclosed light fittings.
The challenge with CFLs is that while less expensive than smart bulbs, they generally cost more than the equivalent white LED. They don’t have quite the lifespan, and they aren’t quite as energy efficient. The EcoSmart is the best CFL light bulb we found in terms of performance and value, but in most cases LEDs offer either greater features or better economy.
Best Outdoor: GE LED+ Motion Sensor Outdoor Security Light Bulb
Why It Made The Cut: The GE LED+ is an energy-efficient replacement for the type of 75-watt incandescents found in many types of outdoor home lighting and also includes a motion sensor.
— Lumens: 1,100
— Color: 3,000K
— Lifespan: 15,000 hours
— Convenient and economical
— Always on feature
— Senses dusk and dawn
— A little pricey
— Some prefer brighter
— No smart features
Few brands have a better reputation for quality electrical devices than GE. They are also renowned for innovative, user-friendly features, and the GE LED+ is a good example. It not only provides energy-efficient outdoor lighting, but it also has a built-in sensor that turns ordinary light fittings into motion-activated security lights.
It is designed to be a direct replacement for 75 watt, A21-sized incandescent or halogen bulbs commonly used for outdoor lighting and flood lights. Although at 1,100 lumens, it’s considerably brighter than most household bulbs, energy consumption is just 11 watts.
Sensor range is 26 feet, with a 90-degree angle of detection. Once activated, it stays on for five minutes so it’s useful for security and moving stuff to and from a vehicle when you have your hands full. There is an ‘always on’ override, and it detects sunset and sunrise so it doesn’t keep coming on in the daytime. A 90-watt replacement (1,300 lumens) is also available for those who want more brightness.
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING ENERGY EFFICIENT LIGHT BULBS
It’s not difficult to find cheap LED light bulbs, and these will almost certainly be more energy efficient than existing incandescent bulbs. However, lifespan can often be an issue. In our opinion, it’s worth spending a little more and buying from recognized brands. In general, this means the product will live up to the manufacturer’s claims. The following will help focus on the actual type of energy-efficient bulb that will suit you best.
Technically-speaking, brightness is measured in lumens (lm). Many people are still used to bulbs being rated in watts (W) but this is actually a measure of energy consumption not brightness.
Comparison charts are readily available, but as a quick example:
— To replace a typical 60W incandescent bulb, a 800-lumen LED would be used.
— To replace a typical 100W incandescent bulb, a 1,600-lumen LED would be used.
If we return to watts for a moment to give a measure of energy efficiency, an 800 lm LED uses just 7 to 9 watts. A 1,600-lumen LED uses about 17 watts. When compared to the incandescent alternatives, the energy savings are quite dramatic.
For some purposes, for example when looking for the best grow lights, light color is a key issue because it impacts actual plant health. For household use, color is more about personal choice and room ambience.
With white lights the color temperature, measured in Kelvin (K), is a key factor. It is often described as brightness but is more accurately how we perceive white light. It can make a big difference to how a room feels.
A candle, for example, is around 1,900K and provides white light with a reddish tone. However, it’s not a very practical color temperature for day-to-day use. Most LEDs start at around 2,700 to 3,000K, which provides a warm, yellow tint. The higher 4,000K is considered neutral white light, and 5,000 to 6,000K is bright daylight.
A dimmable LED gives good flexibility, though doesn’t necessarily change its color temperature. Changing color is a feature offered by some smart bulbs, which we’ll look at next.
Simple dimming can be handled by a light switch, but it’s important to check if the LED has that capability. Not all do. Changing color is a function of a smart LED. It’s important to recognize that there’s a difference between color temperature (variations of white), and color as in red, yellow, and blue. If an LED is described as white, it may be able to change shade but won’t produce the millions of colors of which some smart LEDs are capable.
There are also two levels of smart LED in terms of function. Many don’t need a home hub to work but will be limited to some extent by the capabilities of the app. Voice control, for example, is often only available once combined with Alexa, Google Assistant, or similar systems. It’s important when choosing the best energy-efficient light bulbs to consider what features are available, whether they work with existing home controls, or whether additional devices are necessary to make the most of them.
Maximizing Energy Efficiency
Throughout this article we’ve looked at the efficiency of different light bulbs, but user habits also have a major impact. A recent article highlighted how energy-saving LED light bulbs are contributing to light pollution, in part because people are using more lights or leaving them on longer. It seems counterintuitive to invest in energy-efficient light bulbs, then leave them on all the time. The good news is that with many smart LEDs, you don’t have to remember to turn the lights off. You can program them to suit your own schedule. It’s more convenient, saves money, and it’s good for the planet.
Q: Is it worth switching to LED bulbs?
Yes, it is worth switching to LED bulbs. They last much longer than standard incandescents, and use far less energy so they save you money and are better for the environment.
Q: How much do energy-efficient light bulbs cost?
How much energy-efficient light bulbs cost depends on their capabilities. Simple white LEDs bought in bulk packs can cost a little over a dollar each. Smart LED light bulbs can cost between $10 and $20 each.
Q: What kind of light bulbs use the least electricity?
Generally speaking, LEDs are the kind of light bulbs that use the least electricity. CFL light bulbs are also energy efficient, as discussed in the article above.
Q: Are LED lights more energy-efficient than fluorescent?
Yes, LED lights are more efficient than fluorescent, though fluorescent bulbs are more efficient than incandescent bulbs.
Q: Are LED lights cheaper to run than energy-saving bulbs?
LED lights are one of the most popular kinds of energy saving bulbs, so the question should perhaps be whether they are cheaper to run than other types. In most cases, they are cheaper than other energy saving bulbs, though life expectancy and the features are also important parts of the buying decision.
The Philips Hue LED light bulb is one of the best energy efficient light bulbs. While also being affordable, and works with or without a home hub. However, linking it with Alexa, Google Assistant, or other systems does make a big difference to the features available. The only thing it lacks that some other smart bulbs offer is color-changing ability. The Sylvania LED is a remarkably low-cost LED bulb, and is environmentally-friendly, though it only offers a single white tone.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.