Incandescent Vs. LED Which Light Bulbs Are Best?

Are you confused about which new light bulbs to buy when you end up at the store? First, we heard don’t buy traditional bulbs, switch to a compact fluorescent bulb. Now fluorescent lights are bad and everything is LED lighting.

Not only are there are a million types of light bulbs, there are just as many variations within each type and brand.

light bulbs

You can buy bulbs that are dimmable, three way, daylight, bright light, smart, soft white and so many more. There are also so many different measures of brightness, wattage, lumens and kelvins. Is this science class?

There are too many choices. Which one is the best for you? Read on to learn which ones work best based on where you need them to go. I’ll also share the ones I like to use in my home. Once you find one you like, take a picture of the box and don’t look at the rest. Just keep buying the same ones.

Incandescent VS LED Bulbs

The big push to switch to LED bulbs is because of energy efficiency, they save up to 75% on energy costs. But how much would you save if you switched every light bulb in your house from an incandescent to an LED bulb? USA Today says you will save $8.33 per month on your electricity bill, but that doesn’t factor in the upfront costs of the bulbs only the energy savings.

I don’t know how they calculated this monthly savings, but I didn’t experience any reduction in my energy bill when I switched to LEDs. Maybe it’s if you use every light in your house all day long? I’ll know one thing that wasn’t factored in – the cost of the bulb.

LEDs cost more, so I might actually be coming out behind. They say that LED bulbs have long life, lasting 10-13 years, but that isn’t the reality in my house. I still have bulbs that need to be replaced on the regular. The bottom line is that you should not buy LED bulbs to save money on the cost of electricity.

One of the reasons they are better is that they generate much less heat. If your home is really hot, this can be a good reason to switch to LEDs, even without the energy savings.

The one thing that LED fans don’t talk about is that traditional incandescent bulbs have a higher quality of visible light output. Incandescent bulbs use a full spectrum of light.

Pros of LED Bulbs Vs Incandescent

  • Uses less electrical energy.
  • Requires changing less frequently (the claims on the package foe 10-13 years are false in my experience).
  • Don’t give off much heat, not hot to the touch so you don’t burn your fingers on the bulb if you touch it.
  • Hard to break, even if you drop them.

Cons of using LED Bulbs

  • More expensive to buy. A 40 watt LED bulb can be $2.25 vs. $1.62. The price has come down a lot over the last 10 years.
  • LEDs have a lower quality of light because they give off more blue light, more on that below.

Kelvins And Lumens what do they mean?

Standard incandescent light bulbs used to be measured in watts of power alone. An LED light bulb will have two different measures, kelvins and lumens. Kelvins measures the temperature of the light. Higher numbers mean that the bulb will give off a cooler light (more blue than yellow light). Lower kelvin bulbs give off a warmer light.

light bulb terminology

This is more of a personal preference. See the difference in the photos below. Here are three examples of 60 watt equivalent LED bulbs in daylight, bright white and cool white. Soft white is the warmest light and daylight is the coolest light.

It’s hard to see in the photos but in person the bright white bulb feels like the doctors office or a dressing room where the light is awful.

Lumens are LIKE the wattage of LEDs, but different. Lumens measure how bright the bulb is. Higher is brighter. The typical range is between 450-2500. Since LEDs use less energy than traditional light bulbs, a 9 watt LED bulb can give you the same brightness as an incandescent 60-watt bulb. LEDs are labeled with a “wattage equivalent” for replacement bulbs, to try to signal how bright they are compared to incandescent lights. The higher the wattage equivalent, the higher the lumens will be.

What Bulb Is Right for My Lamp or Light Fixture?

Not all fixtures are meant to take a 100 watt traditional incandescent light bulb. Light fixtures tell you the maximum wattage they are meant to hold. A newer lamp will show you the wattage on the outer metal lip. If you don’t see it there, remove the bulb and use a flashlight to look inside the hole. It will show the wattage limit there.

That will also tell you if the fixture is a 3-way (three different brightness options). You have to buy special bulbs for 3-way bulbs if you want to have all three levels of brightness. If you put a regular bulb into a three way fixture it will turn on but only at the lowest level. This means your lamp has more light that you aren’t using.

There are some fixtures that don’t take high wattage bulbs. For example, if you have an enclosed ceiling light there is a limit due to the heat that builds up inside the fixture. Also most multi-light fans accept bulbs only up to 40 watts.

Kinds of Light Bulbs

Each type of light bulb gives off a different kind of light. We’ve been hearing blue light is bad for your eyes and computers give off lots of blue light. What about light bulbs?

  • LED – AKA Light-emitting diode bulb has a fair amount of blue light. It is not a full spectrum of light.
  • Halogen – Halogen bulbs get very hot. They can be full spectrum, but can be a fire hazard. These are often used in overhead lighting. The bulbs have prongs on the end instead of a screw.
  • Indandescent – The spectrum of light is similar to daylight. Not very much blue light.
  • Fluorescent (CFL)- These bulbs have fallen out of favor because they contain mercury, which makes them very hard to recycle. You aren’t supposed to just pitch them in the trash due to their environmental impact.
  • Flood or spotlights – Used outside and in overhead “can” type fixtures.
  • Chandelier bulbs – These have a very narrow base and a lower wattage.

As I was researching to write this I learned WHY blue light is harmful to your eye. It’s because it has a shorter wave length. The shorter the wave length, the more energy the wave has.

Best Light Bulbs For Each Room In yoUr House

Bathrooms – The bathroom is one place where you don’t necessarily want to have mood lighting. Bright white light works better over the bathroom vanity. My favorite bulb to use is bright white/cool white (depending on the brand). Day light bulbs look way to blue. It’s also better to use the highest wattage your fixture allows. This is not a space that needs to be cozy.

Bedrooms – Bedrooms tend to be cozier rooms. Soft white bulbs are good for these spaces. You can add a task light near your bed for reading, but if you have lamps, don’t use daylight bulbs.

Kitchens – Kitchens are like bathrooms. Warm light is not as important as the amount of light. Use cooler white bulbs, like bright white or cool white.

Living Room – Living rooms are more like bedrooms. You want them to feel more cozy. It’s better to use a soft white bulb instead of something as harsh as daylight.

What if you don’t want a different types of bulbs for all of these rooms? Too bad, unfortunately. Most of the fixtures in kitchens and bathrooms take different types of bulbs than lamps. If I had to choose one LED bulb, I would choose the soft white for all lamps and a cool white or bright white for other light fixtures.

What are flood light bulbs?

When you hear the term flood light you probably think outdoors. There are many fixtures inside that use a flood light. They are recessed fixtures like the ones in many kitchens and bathrooms. The bulb has a flat head.

Before you run to the store to buy a replacement for one of these it’s important to pop out the old one. Sometimes it isn’t just the bulb you replace. You replace the entire “light kit”. These cost a lot more to replace than just a bulb, but they are more common in newer fixtures.

What are Edison Bulbs?

I heard the term Edison bulb tossed around but I wasn’t sure what that means. These bulbs are supposed to have a vintage look because you can see the filament. They are good for light fixtures with a clear globe where the light bulb is visible. Don’t bother if you will put them behind a shade.

My Favorite light Bulbs

I choose every product I review. I may earn an affiliate commission if you buy from one of the product links, at no extra cost to you. This income supports this site. See the full disclosure.

I don’t like the light that bright white bulbs give off. It makes you feel like you’re in a dressing room. I have different go-to bulbs depending on where I am shopping. Not all brands are created equal, but sometimes you need to pick up a bulb while you are out. My favorite brand is CREE because they have a look that is more similar to incandescent bulbs.

Home Depot – For lamps I use the Cree brand soft white dimmable (even though I don’t have dimmers on most of my lights). For ceiling fixtures Ecobright brand (because Cree usually isn’t there) bright white bulbs. For recessed lights I like these Ecobright flood bulbs.

Amazon – If I’m shopping for bulbs and I can wait 1-2 days I get them on Amazon. I can always find the Cree brand on Amazon and I like the soft white for lamps. For kitchens and bathrooms I prefer these bright white Cree bulbs. For recessed lights I like these Cree flood bulbs.

I hope this helps you the next time you need a light bulb. learn more lamps and lighting, check out these posts that cover all the details to make sure you get the right lamp for your space.

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One Comment

  1. Lot’s of good information. I will reread this. Thank you!

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