Spotlight on Lightbulbs: Which Ones Should You Buy?

Incandescent bulbs are no longer being produced in the United States, as they don’t meet federally mandated energy standards.

LED and CFL bulbs are now the primary options for homeowners. But which is best, and why?

LED bulbs

Pros: The main advantages to LED bulbs are that they last much longer, and make for beautiful decorative lighting in and around the home. General Electric claimed in 2012 that their LED bulbs would last up to 22 years!

Cons: You definitely pay more for a longer-lasting bulb, and they’re not always appropriate for table or floor lamps — in fact, they may work best for under-counter lighting, or similar uses. Some LED lights are being made with diffusers, which help to distribute the light.

CFL (compact fluorescent) bulbs

Pros: As a mini version of what we’re used to at schools or offices, these mini fluorescent bulbs can fit into a standard light socket. They can be purchased in a variety of softer wattages, so they aren’t harsh like the overhead lights you probably remember.

Cons: The biggest drawback to CFLs is that they all contain mercury – which is generally no problem unless the bulb breaks, and then cleanup can be a hassle. Mercury can’t just be thrown away with the rest of your trash – and Texas has specific laws in regard to household hazardous waste disposal.

The bottom line

Most people make their decisions based on cost, but keep in mind that how you’ll use the bulb is also important. It may be a good idea to use different types in different parts of your house, just to see how best to use them. If you like movable lighting for reading, cooking, or working, an LED may be the right choice. If however, you just need them for floor or table lamps and are on a budget, CFLs may be the best bet.1