The Best LED Lightbulbs
LED lightbulbs are known for being more energy-efficient and long-lasting than traditional incandescent bulbs, and there are options for every type of fixture. After speaking with several LED experts, we learned that the best for you will depend on how you’re using the bulb — whether it’s for general use, for outdoor lighting, or to set an atmosphere. After searching for reliable, high-quality, and well-loved products, we found a few favorites for a variety of needs.
How We Chose the Best LED Lightbulbs
The LED lightbulb market is large, so starting your search for the perfect bulb can be overwhelming. You’ll find everything from Walmart generic brand bulbs to obscure brands like Tenergy. It can be tempting to opt for a cheaper brand, but Arthur Smith, editor of LEDwatcher.com, told us that “you might end up either with a bulb that is very dim or one that is bright but won’t last very long.” We wanted our favorites to fulfill an LED’s promise of long-lasting efficiency and cooler light, so we focused our search on reliable brands that are widely trusted for their quality.
The 11 LED lightbulb brands we considered:
Color rendering index score
The quality of a lightbulb can be gauged using a color rendering index score (CRI). A higher score means the bulb is able to produce a more accurate reflection of color. Kevin Hathaway, CEO at GemLight Technologies, makes a case for a high CRI:
“Many LED bulbs, especially older and or cheaper ones, are very power-efficient, but their spectral quality affects the apparent color of the objects they illuminate. Although their light appears white, there are gaps or weak spots in the spectrum which most often exist in the red and in the green regions. This makes it difficult to differentiate between orange colors and deeper reds as well as telling green colors from blue ones.”
A high CRI score of at least 80 ensures that spectral quality — so we set that as our bar in the lightbulbs we considered.
Though we considered ordering products to test in-house, there simply wasn’t an attribute that couldn’t be attained online. Brightness and color tone are specs in the details of each product, and there’s no way to feasibly test a 10+ year lifespan. Even testing usability felt moot — the experience of twirling in a light bulb won’t have much variance. So to truly gauge the experience of each product, we relied on consumer reviews and feedback. A product’s reputation will help ensure that it can fulfill its promises and integrate into your lifestyle long-term.
We scoured the comments sections and ratings of Amazon and Best Buy, plus reader feedback on other review sites, for foolproof evidence about which products people love. For example, despite Cree’s popularity and its status as a top pick on review sites, customers frequently express disappointment in the bulbs’ tendency to buzz and burn out after only a few months (a fact that even led to a lawsuit).
After searching through comments and ratings, we found the bulbs that truly live up to their promises. Our top picks make appearances on “Best Of” lists, have high ratings and lots of consumer feedback, and boast quality specs.
A variety of purposes
Once we found reputable products with satisfactory light quality, we looked into the variables make bulbs best for specific uses. Maybe you’re looking to add a smart bulb, a workshop-friendly blue light, a softer shade for the bedroom, an outdoor option, or a unique shape for your themed dining room — whatever your needs, you’ll want an LED that caters to that purpose.
To find the best in every category, we looked closer at lumens, apps, color-changing options, and more. Our top picks in each category aren’t just the most popular (though they do have great reviews); they also host impressive specs and offer unique features that set them apart from the competition.
If one of our picks isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, we still back the brands behind each bulb; try exploring their other products to see if a different product better fits your needs.
The 5 Best LED Lightbulbs
Best LED for Versatility
A bulb that lets you switch shades or brightness levels on any normal fixture.
Why we chose it
Customizable light settings
The Philips SceneSwitch LED gives you all the benefits of a dimmer switch or three-way bulb but without a specialty fixture. The SceneSwitch line offers several different bulb options. The color changing bulb can alternate between soft white, daylight, and warm glow tones. The dimmer bulb (offered in either daylight or a soft white tone), on the other hand, allows you to adjust to three levels of brightness.
The best part of the SceneSwitch? It works like a regular lightbulb, no dimmer switch or special hardware required. Once you’ve screwed in the bulb, you simply toggle the switch to alternate between each option. The SceneSwitch bulb enables you to opt for different moods and atmospheres anywhere in your home. It’s a great option if a smart bulb appeals to you but you want a cheaper (and simpler) solution to customization.
Auto-memory for everyday use
If you prefer one setting for the majority of your light use, the SceneSwitch bulb will memorize your last setting — if the switch is off for longer than six seconds. So if you only use a lamp in your living room during evening wind-down, the bulb will remember your warm glow setting from the night before and automatically toggle to that setting. You can even sync up multiple bulbs in one room if they answer to the same switch.
A long warranty
Philips offers a five-year warranty on the product when you buy it. What’s more — you can opt in for a 10-year extension when you register the product online (within 60 days of purchase). This is much longer than most other LED bulbs, whose warranties average two to three years. This kind of backing not only ensures that you can replace your bulb if there are any issues, but it also indicates that the company is confident its product will last a long time.
Points to consider
Incompatible with dimmer switches and three-way lamps
Although SceneSwitch bulbs turn regular fixtures into dimmers or a three-way color changers, they are not compatible with specialty dimmer switches and three-way lamps. Technically, you can place the bulb in one of these specialty fixtures, but adjusting the dimmer on a specialty dimmer switch won’t have any effect. If you’re looking for a three-way bulb for your three-way lamp (or a dimmer bulb for your dimmer switch), this is not the product for you — but because it’s called a dimmer and color-changing bulb in retail sites, this can be a confusing point for consumers.
Sometimes out of sync
If you buy the bulb for multiple lights under one switch, reviewers have reported many instances of bulbs falling out of sync — for instance, two bulbs in one bedroom light fixture booting up with two different light settings. You can fix this by flipping the lights on and off a few times, so we wouldn’t call it a deal breaker, but it is an annoying quirk to be aware of.
Best Smart LED
Complete control over your lighting for a steeper cost.
Why we chose it
Endless smart features
The Philips Hue smart bulbs offer no limits to your lighting. With the Philips app, you can dim, brighten, change colors (16 million options), and sync with music. Name your bulbs, save your favorite lighting compositions, or choose from presets like “Read” for a warm glow or “Honolulu” for a peachy sunset. Philips can even bring memories to life by analyzing a photo and matching the lighting in it using a picture-to-light algorithm.
Philips Hue also eliminates the need for separate light timers. It offers schedule-based settings, turning lights on when you’re home and off when away (and continuing the cycle when you’re on vacation). You can also set the Hue like an alarm to mimic the sunrise or sunset.
Movies, music, and gaming can be synced with the Hue, too. The lights will change to match the beat, scene, or environment of your entertainment.
Philips Hue is the only smart lighting brand that works with all of the major voice assistants on the market — Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple HomeKit, and Microsoft Cortana. With any of these systems, you can use your voice to command different light settings. Philips Hue also works with IFTTT, Nest, Vivint Smart Home, Samsung SmartThings, and more. No matter the level of smart home you’ve built, Hue will fit in seamlessly.
Many shapes and sizes
If you’d like to outfit more complicated fixtures, Philips Hue offers smart lighting in every shape and size. You can integrate smart light strips, light bars, outdoor spotlights, pathway lights, floor lights, and ceiling lights.
Points to consider
An expensive investment
The smart Philips Hue light is by far our most expensive pick at nearly $50 per bulb. That’s five times more expensive than the Philips SceneSwitch. If you’re fine with the more basic capabilities of the SceneSwitch but want a smart bulb, the Hue White bulb is a fine alternative at $30; but be aware that it lacks the Hue’s color changing and fancy syncing.
Not a solo purchase
The upfront costs of the Hue don’t end with the bulb itself; you also have to buy the Philips Hue Bridge. Without the $50 Bridge, you won’t have access to the Philips app and all of the bulb’s smart customizations — which means you’ll have to drop at least $100 to take full advantage of this smart bulb. There are cheaper smart bulbs that don’t need an additional hub, but they offer a more limited scope of smart features and fewer integration options. Our recommendation? Check out the Hue starter kits, which provide you with four bulbs and the bridge for $200 (for total savings of $50).
Best Budget LED
An unbeatable price on a reliable, everyday LED bulb.
Why we chose it
If you’re just looking for a general use LED bulb, start with the SYLVANIA. SYLVANIA has the most common bulb shape on the market (A19 shape and E26 base), so it can fit in the vast majority of standard fixtures. Its soft daylight shade complements most any room, and its 800-watt brightness is pretty universal, too — the same brightness as both of our Philips brand favorites. This no-nonsense bulb is one you can store in the closet until another goes out, without worrying about compatibility.
Less than a dollar per bulb
Cheap packs of LED bulbs are notorious for expiring after just a few months or offering wonky color quality. The SYLVANIA 60W bulb, by contrast, offers a great price without sacrificing quality. The SYLVANIA garners a 4.5 out of 5 rating from 352 customer reviews on Amazon — impressive, given that it’s $0.95 per bulb for a pack of 24.
Points to consider
Have to buy in bulk for bargain prices
To take advantage of this bulb’s budget-friendly price, you’ll want to buy its 24-pack. That’s a lot of bulbs, especially with the LED’s long lifespan (10 years based on three hours of use per day). If you aren’t outfitting many fixtures with a basic LED, it may be an excessive amount to store. And while SYLVANIA does offer smaller packages, prices per bulb jump up to $3.20 — approaching the price of more customizable LEDs.
One of the perks of an LED light is all of the advanced capabilities — color changing, dimming, app integration, etc. But this SYLVANIA is just a bulb, plan and simple. You’re stuck with one color, one brightness level, and a standard shape. While it’s not a bad thing to have a lightbulb that’s just a lightbulb, it’s lackluster in the face of the unique features of our other picks. And while it’s more energy efficient and long-lasting than traditional lightbulbs, its lifespan is less than half of that of our other picks (about 10 years of use at three hours per day).
Best Outdoor LED
Long-lasting floodlights for your outdoor and landscaping needs.
Why we chose it
Optimal for outdoor use
The Sunco Lighting Dimmable Flood Light is our favorite LED for outdoor use. If you’re looking to equip your home with bright LEDs that are safe for the outdoors, we recommend starting here. Sunco markets these bulbs as “durable,” making them ideal for outdoor and landscape lighting. Consumers also report that while they are too bright for indoor use, the brightness and tone is great for illumination outdoors.
Replacing outdoor lighting is rarely an easy feat; luckily, these LEDs boast an advertised lifespan of 23 years (this will vary depending on how often you have them on). An LED’s lifespan is naturally long (usually 10 to 15 years), but this Sunco bulb goes the extra mile.
Unlike our two Philips picks, the Sunco is fully compatible with dimmer switches. This allows you to tone down your porch atmosphere or create a softer vibe for an entryway.
Points to consider
Reports of buzzing/popping
Some consumer reviews on Amazon report that the bulb will occasionally buzz or pop. This doesn’t affect the quality of the light, but the noise may become annoying if the light is place close to a quiet room. Buzzing and popping are common flukes when using a dimmer switch, and it’s yet another reason to consider keeping the Sunco outdoors.
Best Decorative LED
An Edison-style bulb for the trendiest LED lighting.
Why we chose it
This Feit Electric bulb is purposefully styled to be reminiscent of vintage lighting. Its spiraled filaments and clear glass create a soft amber glow and set a romantic atmosphere. And because exposed is trendy for this Edison-style bulb, you don’t even need a lamp shade or fixture to accompany it. This makes it a great option for dining room lighting, where it can complement any vintage-modern vibe and set the mood for an evening dinner.
The Feit Electric vintage bulb is also dimmable, allowing you to further customize your nostalgic atmosphere by toning down the lighting. Unlike the Philips SceneSwitch, you will need a dimmer switch to dim the bulb, though you don’t need a dimmer switch to use the bulb.
Points to consider
Not very bright
The only downside of such a stylized bulb is that its brightness isn’t up to the task of most lighting needs. At 250 lumens, it’s by far the dimmest of our picks. One bulb won’t be enough to read by, especially if you hide it under a lamp shade. A few bulbs could center your kitchen island or dining room, where there’s usually more ceiling lighting to supplement if need be, but know that it probably can’t serve as stand-alone lighting for most rooms.
How to Find the Right LED Lightbulb for You
Determine fixture compatibility
Light fixtures and lightbulbs have compatible settings — essentially, codes to make sure that they’ll fit. A19 is the most common bulb shape, with E26 being the most common base type. You’ll need to know the requirements of your fixture before purchasing your bulb.
Consider purpose and aesthetics
The location and usage of your bulb also determines which one best suits your needs. Tone, style, aesthetics, and functionality can all change based on how the bulb will be used.
First, you’ll need to contemplate tone. Dana Knight, Senior Director of Global Marketing at Feit Electric, says that “the color temperature of the light makes a huge difference in the ‘feel’ of a space, whether it’s soft and relaxing or energizing.” Kelvins are used to measure that tone: The higher the number, the bluer and cooler the light. Knight broke it down for us like this:
- Soft White/Warm White (2700 Kelvin): Best for bedrooms, dining rooms and living rooms; a traditional warm hue, a yellowish glow, cozy and inviting
- Bright White/Cool White (3000-4000 Kelvin): Works in offices, utility rooms, closets, hallways, garages; gives rooms a whiter, more vibrant light
- Daylight (5000-6000 Kelvin): Best in bathrooms, kitchens and craft rooms; good for revealing details, reading, intricate projects, or applying makeup; provides the closest light to natural sunlight
Bluer light is good for work spaces, while warmer light is ideal for visiting areas. Think about spaces where you might want an adjustable tone, or where you might need good light for applying makeup or working in the garage.
Brighter isn’t always better
Beyond the shade and shape of light, you’ll need to choose a preferred level of brightness for the space you’re lighting. Brightness is measured in lumens: The more lumens, the brighter the bulb. Knight had some advice for us here, too. “You’ll need to consider the size of the space, wall color, ceiling height, and how bright you want the light to be. For task lighting, you will need more light. If it’s a decorative bulb in a fixture with multiple bulbs, then you are really only looking for accent lighting.”
800 lumens is pretty standard, and anything less will offer a dimmer-than-average experience. Some bulbs also offer dimming capabilities if you’re looking for a range. Workshops and large garages may peak 4,200 lumens in strip light fixtures, while a table lamp can do with just 250 lumens.
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The Best LED Lightbulbs: Summed Up