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The Best LED Light Bulb

Updated May 4, 2020

After another round of tests, we now recommend the Soft White and Daylight versions of the Feit 60 W Equivalent Dimmable A19 Light Bulb as our runner-up picks.

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If you want basic light bulbs that look great and will save you money in the long run, there’s no reason not to choose LED bulbs—they look as good as incandescents and are far more energy-efficient. We recommend Cree’s Exceptional Light Quality line of A19 bulbs. For general-purpose lighting, look for soft white LED bulbs, available in 60 W and 40 W versions. And for a whiter, cooler light for working, get Cree’s daylight LED bulbs, also in 60 W and 40 W versions. The Cree bulbs also function well with dimmer switches, neither flickering nor buzzing, and their color accuracy brings out the best in your decor, furniture, and food, improving the ambiance of your entire home.

Our pick

Cree 60 W Equivalent Soft White A19 Dimmable Exceptional Light Quality LED Light Bulb

The best soft white LED light bulb

Ideal for general use, Cree’s soft white bulbs make everything in your home look great, with better color accuracy and dimming capabilities—and a better warranty—than anything else we tested.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $4 .

Cree 60 W Equivalent Daylight A19 Dimmable Exceptional Light Quality LED Light Bulb

The best daylight LED light bulb

The Cree daylight bulb produces a white, cool light that’s suitable for kitchens or offices, and it stood out in tests for better color accuracy and more-even dimmability than its competitors.

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Everything in your home looks great under the light of these bulbs, which have a high color accuracy that made fruits and decor appear natural and realistic in our tests. Unlike some LED bulbs, the Cree bulbs could dim all the way to zero without flickering or buzzing. Both the Soft White and Daylight versions performed equally well across all our tests. Cree’s bulbs have a 10-year warranty—the longest we’ve seen—and they are affordable, too.

Runner-up

Feit Electric 60 W Equivalent Soft White Dimmable A19 Light Bulb

A soft white LED with crisp colors and wide availability

Feit Electric bulbs offer brilliant color quality at an affordable price and are easy to find in stores. They work with a range of dimmers, but at the lowest levels, they did not dim as well as the Crees.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $12 .

Feit Electric 60 W Equivalent Daylight Dimmable A19 Light Bulb

A daylight LED with crisp colors and wide availability

If you like a brighter bulb that’s more white than warm, Feit Electric’s 60 W Equivalent Daylight bulb is affordable and easy to find, and it dims without buzzing or flickering.

Buying Options

May be out of stock

*At the time of publishing, the price was $10 .

If our pick is unavailable, we recommend Feit Electric’s basic, dimmable bulbs, including the Soft White and Daylight 60 W Equivalent Dimmable A19 Light Bulb. Both produce crisp color accuracy that’s as good as or better than that of the Cree bulbs, and they are just as easy to find online or in stores across the country. The Feit bulbs also offer smooth dimming without flickering or buzzing, although these could not continuously dim at the absolute lowest levels as well as the Cree bulbs. At around $2.50 a piece (depending on how many you buy) with a five-year warranty, the Feit bulbs are a cost-efficient way to brighten up your home.

Everything we recommend

Our pick

Cree 60 W Equivalent Soft White A19 Dimmable Exceptional Light Quality LED Light Bulb

The best soft white LED light bulb

Ideal for general use, Cree’s soft white bulbs make everything in your home look great, with better color accuracy and dimming capabilities—and a better warranty—than anything else we tested.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $4 .

Cree 60 W Equivalent Daylight A19 Dimmable Exceptional Light Quality LED Light Bulb

The best daylight LED light bulb

The Cree daylight bulb produces a white, cool light that’s suitable for kitchens or offices, and it stood out in tests for better color accuracy and more-even dimmability than its competitors.

Buying Options
Runner-up

Feit Electric 60 W Equivalent Soft White Dimmable A19 Light Bulb

A soft white LED with crisp colors and wide availability

Feit Electric bulbs offer brilliant color quality at an affordable price and are easy to find in stores. They work with a range of dimmers, but at the lowest levels, they did not dim as well as the Crees.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $12 .

Feit Electric 60 W Equivalent Daylight Dimmable A19 Light Bulb

A daylight LED with crisp colors and wide availability

If you like a brighter bulb that’s more white than warm, Feit Electric’s 60 W Equivalent Daylight bulb is affordable and easy to find, and it dims without buzzing or flickering.

Buying Options

May be out of stock

*At the time of publishing, the price was $10 .

The research

Why you should trust us

We’ve read countless product reviews and articles about the science and design behind LED bulbs, and have interviewed lighting experts including Sal Cangeloso, author of LED Lighting: A Primer to Lighting the Future; senior lighting designer Geoff Goral, of the architectural lighting design firm Lighting Design Alliance, who assisted us with extensive professional testing; and Dr. Scott Brodie, an ophthalmologist at NYU Langone’s Department of Ophthalmology.

Over the years, we’ve also spoken with engineers and representatives from major lighting companies such as GE, Philips, and Cree, as well as with industry experts from the Illuminating Engineering Society, the California Lighting Technology Center at UC Davis (PDF), and the California Energy Commission.

Who this is for

We generally recommend LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs if you’re shopping for any light bulbs, regardless of whether you’re furnishing a home or replacing a burned-out pantry light. LED bulbs are better for the environment and your budget. They’re significantly more efficient and longer-lasting than CFL, incandescent, or halogen bulbs, so this ultimately saves you money over the life of the bulb. They’re also much less prone to breaking than the fragile filaments that comprise their incandescent counterparts. Many LED bulbs are actually made of plastic, which makes them safer to touch and more durable when you’re screwing them in or accidentally knocking them onto the ground, like we’re constantly doing—oops. (Don’t worry, that’s fine, because they’re LED.)

The Department of Energy estimates that LED bulbs use up to 80 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, while also lasting up to 25 percent longer—leading to serious savings over time. A Bush-era regulation would have required inefficient incandescents to be phased out, by 2020, in favor of bulbs like LEDs that reached a certain threshold of energy. As of this writing, this regulation is still being contested at the federal level, although some states have gone ahead and implemented their own standards—such as California’s Title 20—that largely favor the cost and efficiency of LEDs.

Meanwhile, LEDs have entered the mainstream, with more affordable, widely available options in most bulb shapes and base types, and manufacturers have even embraced lighting trends like Edison filament bulbs. The best LED bulbs now have high color accuracy and warmer color temperatures that mimic the effects of incandescents. And as of 2020, the average LED bulb costs around $3—still slightly more than an incandescent, but undoubtedly a better long-term value once you factor in the energy savings and longer lifespan. These products are here to stay, too: According to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, LED bulbs account for about 70 percent of the shipments in the general service lamp category, as of September 2019.

If you’re making the switch to LED bulbs, you’ll want to make sure your fixtures and switches are compatible. We tested bulbs using several types of dimmers and found that dimmers designed for LEDs really make a difference in a bulb’s performance. With compatible dimmers, our picks dimmed all the way to zero without plateauing and didn’t flicker, buzz, or hum—but with other dimmer styles, the same bulbs didn’t work as well. You can check whether your fixtures are compatible if you know the make and model (this blog from 1000bulbs.com has some helpful tips), or get a dimmer switch (we like Lutron’s in-wall or lamp options).

How we picked

We set out to recommend a satisfying and reliable LED version of your basic replacement light bulb. There’s no single perfect light bulb for every lighting situation, so we looked for a line with options for color temperatures and brightness levels to offer flexibility for different preferences or applications. We considered these factors when choosing which bulbs to test:

Shape, base, and materials: Light bulbs come in many shapes and sizes, and they have different types of screw-in bases. We narrowed this guide’s focus to the most common type, an A19 shape with an E26 base. This chart shows all of the shape and base styles, ranging from candelabra to trendy globe G-shape bulbs. Bulbs can be made from plastic or glass. GE’s Mathew Sommers said there isn’t much practical difference between the two materials for 40 W or 60 W bulbs, but that plastic bulbs can be better for higher-wattage bulbs. He told us that people (and companies) generally go for whatever is most affordable.

Brightness level options: LED bulbs labeled “60 W–equivalent” are bright yet subtle enough for most scenarios, although many people prefer 40 W–equivalent bulbs for places like a bedroom, where a softer glow helps make the space feel relaxed. Even though we measure LED brightness in lumens, which describe how much light a bulb puts out, people are so used to describing light bulb brightness using watts that most brands categorize bulbs using a wattage equivalency. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) now requires brands to label all LED bulbs with a lighting facts label, which includes the bulb’s brightness in lumens and how much energy it uses in watts. Here’s an estimate of how LED wattage equivalents convert to lumens:

40 W = 450 lumens
60 W = 800 lumens
75 W = 1,100 lumens
100 W = 1,600 lumens

Dimmability: We chose to test only dimmable bulbs, because they offer a better ability to customize lighting to suit your mood, and also to future-proof your purchase. An LED bulb should last for years—manufacturers promise at least 10,000 hours of continuous use per bulb, and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy estimates at least 25,000—so it’s wise to choose dimmable bulbs, in case you change your fixtures, move, or upgrade a lamp or switch (for example, with a Lutron dimmer). Dimmable bulbs work fine in a non-dimmable fixture; the reverse is not true.

Color temperature choices: We sought a bulb line with a range of color temperatures. Color temperature is measured in kelvin, and cooler light has a higher value, ranging from 3,600 to 5,500 K, while warmer light ranges from 2,700 to 3,500 K. Most brands describe 2,700 K temperatures as “soft white,” 3,500 K as “bright white,” and 5,000 K as “daylight,” with some in-betweens. People may prefer cooler light for bathrooms, kitchens, workspaces, and garages, and they may prefer warmer light for bedrooms and sitting areas.

People may prefer cooler light for bathrooms, kitchens, workspaces, and garages, and they may prefer warmer light for bedrooms and sitting areas.

High CRI and R9 values: CRI (Color Rendering Index) measures color accuracy relative to incandescent bulbs, or natural daylight. Although LEDs still can’t match incandescent bulbs, which have a CRI of 100, they’ve improved significantly in recent years. A CRI of 80 is now standard for LED bulbs. Higher is better, and great LED bulbs should accurately render colors. Lighting designer Geoff Goral told us that CRI as a metric has come under fire for measuring bulbs based on how well they portray pastel colors (instead of more saturated colors). Some bulbs now also list an R9 value, which indicates how well a bulb depicts red tones (making art, food, and people look better and less washed-out).

Compatible with enclosed fixtures: Not all LED bulbs will work with enclosed fixtures; we looked for bulbs that do. We limited our search to bulbs meant for indoor use, but some indoor bulbs will have a weather rating that allows them to be used outdoors as well.

Up to current regulations: California adopted Title 20 regulations, effective January 1, 2018, which outline strict energy-efficiency requirements for light bulbs and restrict which bulbs can be purchased in the state. To shop for compliant bulbs, use a search filter at Home Depot or Lowe’s.

Low price: If you’re furnishing a home or even a rental, the price of light bulbs can quickly add up. We calculated costs per bulb and looked for the most affordable options.

Long warranty: Because LED bulbs are designed to last for thousands of hours and many years, we favored bulbs with longer warranties. LED bulbs don’t burn out—as they age, they fade and lose color accuracy.

No noise: Good bulbs shouldn’t flicker, buzz, or hum. GE’s Sommers explained that poor-quality drivers—the electronic part of the bulb that converts power to your home—or incompatible dimmers can cause these effects.

With these criteria in mind, we looked for new and notable bulbs in reviews from Digital Trends, Lifewire, and New York Magazine (many of the reviews were outdated or listed unavailable products). We read about what makes the best LED bulbs, from sources including Energy Star, Popular Mechanics, 1000Bulbs.com, and Lightology.com. We scoured the available bulbs on retailers like Amazon, Home Depot, and Lowe’s; compared offerings from brands like Philips, GE, Feit, Cree, AmazonBasics, Sylvania, and Eco Smart; and also considered bulbs from niche brands like Soraa and Green Creative.

How we tested

We decided to test 40 W–equivalent and 60 W–equivalent bulbs, in soft white and daylight color temperatures, both in a real-world scenario at home and in a lab setting, with specialized equipment and help from lighting designer Geoff Goral at the Lighting Design Alliance in Long Beach, California.

We mostly wanted to test for color accuracy. That’s because even though a bulb can have a high CRI value, design variations make each bulb show colors differently, and many manufacturers do not include information on a bulb’s R values, which describe how a bulb shows more saturated colors. We also wanted to test for dimmability, because LED bulbs often struggle to dim completely and sometimes won’t work with older dimmers (resulting in unpleasant flickering, buzzing, or humming).

We weren’t as concerned with measuring other specs. The LED light bulb industry is closely regulated by the IES, or Illuminating Engineering Society, and the Department of Energy. The FTC now requires that manufacturers label all bulbs with a lighting facts sheet that outlines a bulb’s lifespan, brightness, and color temperature.

For the apartment tests, we set up a colorful, fruit-and-flower-filled still life scene on a kitchen table. Then, we screwed each bulb into an overhead fixture that was plugged into a Lutron dimmer, noting whether bulbs buzzed or flickered, how well they dimmed, and how well they showed colors. We conducted all tests in the late afternoon and with other lights turned off for consistency. We took photos of the scene under the light of each bulb using a manual white balance to compare colors and brightness levels. Our photo editor adjusted the exposures and white balances for consistency among photos with 60 W and 40 W bulbs, and we compared the photos.

Although these tests were interesting, they were inconclusive and subjective, with observations we couldn’t quantify. So we asked the Lighting Design Alliance’s Geoff Goral for help. Wirecutter editor Tim Barribeau brought 21 bulbs to Long Beach, California, where Goral measured and compared each bulb for color accuracy, dimmability, and relative brightness levels. Goral used an illuminance meter, to measure how much light emanated from a bulb onto a surface, and a spectrometer, to read the spectrum of light from each bulb, to see how much light was in each wavelength and measure color values R1-15. To test for compatibility and to calculate how dim the bulbs could get, Goral tested each bulb in a dimmer box with four styles of dimmers—ones designed for LED, incandescent (TRIAC), MLV, and ELV, all of which Lutron explains in detail.

With Goral helping us interpret the test results, we compared the bulbs’ performance and came away with conclusive results.

The best daylight and soft white LED bulbs for basic around-the-house use.

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