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Light Bulbs: What Kind to Use in Different Situations

Written by The SOE Team

Last updated 06/16/2022

Klaus Vedfelt/DigitalVision/Getty images

Changing a light bulb isn’t as easy as it used to be. When one burned out in the old days, you replaced it with the same type of incandescent bulb you’d been using for years. Now, there are better choices – CFLs, LEDs, halogens – but so many variations that it can be hard to figure out which to pick. In fact, some types of light bulbs do better in certain situations, so it’s a good idea to think about where a particular light is going to be used before you make a purchase.

First of all, let’s take a look at the different types of light bulbs you can find on the market today.

  • CFLs: Compact fluorescent lights are about 75 percent more efficient than incandescent bulbs and last about six times longer. This can save you about $40 over the life of the bulb in replacement costs alone. There are many situations in which CFLs aren’t ideal though, such as in rooms with high moisture or in appliances with lots of movement. They also contain small amounts of mercury, exposure to which can be toxic.
  • LEDs: Light-emitting diodes are also extremely energy-efficient – even more so than CFLs – and can last more than 20 years, making them a definite money-saving buy despite their higher up-front cost. The technology is still developing for very bright LEDs, so they are best for situations that need a little less light.
  • Halogens: A type of incandescent bulb, halogen lights are less energy-efficient than CFLs or LEDS but about 30 percent more efficient than the traditional incandescent bulb thanks to their special infrared coating. They also last about three times longer than a traditional bulb.

No matter which type of bulb you choose, make sure it meets high energy-saving standards, such as those set by ENERGY STAR, to ensure you get the most life out of the bulb.

Now, let’s go room by room to learn what type of light bulb is best to use and why.

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