From incandescents to CFLs to LEDs, American households have seen their lighting options multiply in recent decades, and not without some confusing strings attached. As new technologies and scientific findings have been developed, with the next ‘new-and-improved, ultra energy-efficient’ light bulb seeming to stock itself at the local hardware store every other week, it’s not exactly clear which bulb is right for you.

Currently, Americans have essentially three options when it comes to in-home lighting: the old-school incandescent, newer CFL’s (compact fluorescent lights), and the current breadwinner known as LED’s (light emitting diodes). Below, we’re breaking down the ins-and-outs of each light, complete with all major benefits and negatives that each kind of light offers you.


Until recently, incandescent were set to be banned in U.S. households beginning in 2020, mainly due to their inefficiency compared to other available bulbs. However, the scheduled ban was scrapped with recent government changes.

Still, the message is clear: incandescents are terribly inefficient. In fact, only 10% of the energy that an incandescent light bulb gives off is light, with the remaining 90% of the energy being lost as heat.

However, one big positive about incandescents is their economical price, which is part of the reason the scheduled 2020 ban was lifted, in an effort to cut costs for the everyday consumer.


At a glance, Compact Flourescent Lights are a step up from incandescents. In creating visible light by driving an electric current through an argon/mercury tube, CFL’s use 70% less energy than incandescents. They also last longer, and aren’t that much more expensive.

Where CFL’s come up short is their notoriously long fire-up time, meaning that they also can’t be used on a dimmer. Furthermore, recall that we mentioned CFL’s utilize mercury, meaning that they can be a pain to dispose of properly.


LED’s convert electrical energy directly into light through the movement of electrons. In other words, these babies are super efficient. What’s more, they last up to five times longer than any comparable bulb on the market.

Although prices for LED’s have dropped considerably throughout the years, they still seem to carry a bad rep for their high initial cost. Indeed, when they first hit the market years ago, LED’s lined the shelves for over $20 a bulb. Nowadays, though, the average LED only costs about $8, and you can find some for even less.


Despite their ‘high’ prices relative to the competition, it’s no question that LED’s are the bulb that you need to have when the next light in the home goes out. Extremely bright, dimmable, and carrying a lifespan of up to 25,000 hours per bulb, it’s certainly worth spending a little extra dough today if you plan on saving money in the long run. In fact, swapping out just the five most-used lights in your home for LED’s could save around $40 annually in your electric bill. Think about that the next time you’re wandering through your local hardware store.