If you haven’t noticed, there’s a lightbulb revolution in full swing, marching double-time to an energy-efficiency beat. Incandescent bulbs, once the king of home lighting, are relinquishing more and more shelf space to bulbs such as CFLs (compact fluorescents) and LEDs (light-emitting diodes). These technologies aren’t new, but they have gained far more momentum thanks to recent federal legislation (see below).
Today, these energy-conserving bulbs come in so many shapes and sizes, with prices all over the map, that a trip down the lightbulb aisle can leave you bewildered. Many shoppers have resorted to buying a bulb, bringing it home to try it out, and then returning it if they don’t like the color of the light, its reaction time when switched on, or its behavior when dimmed. For this article, I knew I’d have to try as many bulbs as I could in my home. I couldn’t possibly test all of the various brands and sizes, so I focused on bulbs that were available at the stores in my area of Austin, Texas. I also limited myself to screw-in replacement bulbs—the type in table lamps, ceiling lights, and recessed cans.
Incandescent bulbs have been warming our faces with their light (and their heat) for so long, though, that considering any substitute is, for some, a Herculean task. Unflattering light color, early burnouts, and high costs kept many consumers from accepting earlier versions of energy-saving bulbs. If you’re one of those skeptics, I believe that today’s better bulbs will change your mind.