Everything you need to know about smart light bulbs, halogen lamps, light emitting diodes (LEDs), and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), including their energy efficiency, annual costs, and how to get rid of your old light bulbs.

How to buy the best light bulb

There are three different types of light bulbs that save energy: compact fluorescent lamps, also known as CFLs (which are the most prevalent type of energy-saving light bulb), halogen light bulbs (which are no longer for sale), and light emitting diodes (LEDs).

Whether you’re looking for traditional light bulbs or a multipack of internet-enabled smart bulbs, this in-depth guide will provide you with the information you need to make the best decision for the lighting in your house. If you choose to use smart bulbs, you will be able to command your lights either by speaking to them or by using your mobile device.

The following is an explanation of the primary distinctions between the many kinds of light bulbs. In addition, we provide information on how to select the appropriate brightness and colour of the bulb, as well as guidance on what to deal with your outdated and decommissioned bulbs.

The elimination of halogen and fluorescent light bulbs by phase-out

The sale of traditional “high-energy” incandescent bulbs was discontinued in the United Kingdom in 2009, although these are not the last light bulbs to be phased out due to the comparatively low energy efficiency of their design. In order to “reduce emissions and save consumers money on their energy bills,” the government of the United Kingdom decided to outlaw the sale of halogen light bulbs in October of 2021.

According to the government, “high-energy” fluorescent lights, such as the conventional tube-style fluorescent lights that are typically used in offices, will eventually follow suit. The removal of these lights from store shelves is scheduled to begin in September 2023, and there is currently a wide selection of LED strip-light replacements to choose from.

Since compact fluorescent lamps, also known as CFLs, are energy-efficient bulbs (albeit not quite as much as LEDs), the proposed ban does not appear to include them. However, we anticipate that manufacturers will cease production of them over the next years as they transfer their attention to LEDs. This is the case regardless of whether or not a restriction is placed on their production.

Because LEDs are expected to remain in use for many years to come, we strongly advise consumers to choose them whenever possible.

According to an article that was published on Gov.uk, switching to LED bulbs “would eliminate 1.26 million tonnes of CO2,” which is the same as taking more than half a million automobiles off the roads in the UK.

According to some additional statistics, almost two thirds of the light bulbs that are sold in the United Kingdom are LED lights. Despite the fact that they provide the same amount of light as conventional halogen light bulbs, LED lights are said to have a lifespan that is five times longer. There is a possibility that your neighbourhood hardware or home improvement store still carries a couple of dusty halogen light bulbs, but after the shelves are depleted, the stores will no longer be able to purchase new inventory.

Every new light bulb that is packaged for sale will have an up-to-date energy label on to the box it comes in. This will enable customers to better understand the advantages of switching from incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs to the most energy-efficient alternatives. The outdated (and somewhat confusing) A+, A++, and A+++ ratings will be replaced by a new, more straightforward scale that runs from A to G.

According to the website for the government of the United Kingdom, new labels will “raise the bar for each class,” which means that very few bulbs will now be designated as A. This will assist consumers choose bulbs that are the least harmful to the environment.

The explanation of CFL light bulbs

What kind of light bulbs are CFLs?

Light bulbs known as compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) were the first energy-efficient alternative to regular incandescent light bulbs, which have since been phased out. A CFL will normally use 60–80 percent less energy than an incandescent light bulb, while a halogen light will use 20–30 percent less, and an LED will use an incredible 90 percent less energy.

We predict that compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) will gradually become tougher to find as a result of the government’s plan to remove ‘high-energy’ fluorescent lights off shelves beginning in 2023 and the increasing focus of the industry on the transition to LEDs. As more consumers make the switch to LED lighting, CFL production will eventually be phased out by manufacturers.

Incandescent light bulbs in the past had a filament inside that had to be heated up until it glowed, which meant that the bulbs used energy in order to produce heat. There is no filament inside of a CFL bulb.

Instead, an electric current is used to stimulate gases within the bulb, which then cause a phosphorous coating on the interior to glow and provide light. This process is called “glow phosphor.” Because of this strategy, less energy is wasted as heat, and the light bulb consumes less power all together. Some compact fluorescent lamps require a few minutes to attain their maximum brightness.

CFL bulbs exist in a variety of designs, including stick and spiral, however some are now disguised to look like traditional bulb types. They normally range in price from £3 to £15 each. Although most contemporary dimmer switches should be compatible with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), certain older models might not be.

CFLs have a few advantages:

CFLs may be purchased for rates as low as £3, making them one of the more affordable lighting options.

They soon recoup their initial investment thanks to the energy they save. It is possible to save almost $7 annually on your electricity bill by switching out just one incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb rated at 60 watts.

The lifespan of compact fluorescent light bulbs is around 10,000 hours (or roughly about 10 years of use).

Negative aspects of compact fluorescent lights include the following:

When first turned on, it takes a little while for them to get bright and reach their optimal temperature. Because of this, CFLs aren’t always the greatest option for lighting restrooms or staircases.

There are some CFLs that should not be used in conjunction with dimmer switches.

These bulbs have a tendency to perform badly in freezing temperatures, which makes them less ideal for use in areas that are not heated, such as a garage or other outside space.

There are several compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) that look very different from traditional light bulbs, and it might be difficult to get CFLs in specific shapes and sizes, such as little candle light bulbs.

As the industry moves its focus more fully on to LEDs, we anticipate that compact fluorescent light bulbs will become increasingly difficult to get over the next few years.

How to buy the best light bulb

The explanation of LED light bulbs

What exactly are these new LED light bulbs?

LED lights have been heralded as the future of residential lighting due to the fact that they consume very little energy, are said to have a very long lifespan, and, unlike traditional energy-saving bulbs, become bright as soon as they are turned on.

LEDs are used in the vast majority of smart light bulbs (see below).

LEDs produce light through the utilisation of a semi-conductor that emits light energy when an electrical current is passed through it. Incandescent light bulbs produced light by passing electricity through a thin wire filament. LEDs produce light through the utilisation of a semi-conductor that emits light energy.

The early versions of LEDs had some drawbacks, including very low light output and comparatively high pricing, but the technology has advanced significantly in recent years. You can now obtain LED bulbs that are brilliant, efficient, and look exactly like conventional light bulbs, yet they put out the same amount of light as 100W incandescent bulbs.

Additionally, prices are continuing their downward trend. Although the brightest bulbs can still cost you around £20, the majority of them cost less than £10, and the fact that they can help you save money on your monthly energy bill makes it well worth your while to think about purchasing them.

LED light bulbs have a number of benefits.

LEDs consume only one-tenth of the power required by conventional incandescent bulbs, and they can often recoup their initial investment in just a few short months through the energy savings they provide.

Depending on which ones you buy and how you put them to use, these light bulbs can have a lifespan anywhere between 25 and 30 years.

You won’t have to tolerate a low light while your LEDs get going because they send off light practically quickly as you click the light switch.

They function perfectly well even when the temperature is low.

Cons of using LED lights:

Because LED light bulbs are capable of producing a cooler and more bluish light, the quality of light that they emit is disliked by certain individuals.

To control the brightness of LED lights, you may need to invest in a dimmer that is capable of detecting low electrical demands. It ought to be clear from the packing whether or not the LEDs can be dimmed.

If you want to get a uniform appearance across your home, mixing different LED brands and types can be a challenge. Traditional light bulbs are limited in their ability to accommodate a wider range of colour temperatures and colour rendering indices (CRI).

Are digital radios susceptible to interference from LED light bulbs?

Electromagnetic interference (EMI) is something that is produced by all electrical products, including light bulbs; nevertheless, this is something that is strictly regulated inside the EU. EMI has the potential to interfere with the DAB radio signal under extremely unusual circumstances.

In the past, we conducted tests to determine whether or not lower-priced LED bulbs generated radio interference, but we were unable to identify any bulbs that did so. Despite this, we are aware that just 1-2 percent of the people who are members of Which? have encountered this problem.

If you are experiencing issues with radio interference, check to see if the light bulbs in your home have a CE mark and get new ones if they don’t have one. If this doesn’t solve the problem, there might be something wrong with the way you have things set up; in that case, you should talk to an electrician.

How to buy the best light bulb

The explanation of smart light bulbs

What exactly are these “smart” light bulbs?

If you have a data or wi-fi connection, you may operate your smart light bulbs from virtually any location in the globe. This is because they are connected to the internet. If you purchase online, you might be able to locate some incandescent smart lights, but the most majority are powered by LEDs.

You will typically need to purchase a smart hub in order to set up a smart lighting system. A smart hub enables your light bulbs to interact with your router, which in turn enables them to connect to the internet. Through the use of an ethernet wire, the smart hub can be connected to your router. After everything has been configured, you will be able to begin adding light bulbs to your smart lighting system. However, you will need to ensure that these two components are compatible with one another; for instance, smart lights manufactured by Philips can only be used in conjunction with a Philips Hue Bridge.

Even without the hub, certain smart bulbs can perform their intended functions. For instance, certain LIFX bulbs are equipped with wi-fi already built in, which enables them to function on their own.

Additionally, we have seen smart lights that function through the use of Bluetooth in addition to (or in instead of) wi-fi. This indicates that in order to operate the bulbs remotely using a phone or tablet, you must be within a certain range. However, this does not preclude you from doing so. For instance, Philips Hue sells smart lamps with a Bluetooth range of ‘approximately 30 feet.’ These bulbs are controlled by the Philips Hue Bluetooth app.

However, because Bluetooth lights aren’t linked to the internet through a smart hub, you won’t be able to manage them remotely even if you have a smartphone. When looking for a smart light bulb, it is important to select a bulb that is compatible with the fitting that is already in your home. For instance, Philips carries GU10, Edison screw, and bayonet bulbs in their inventory.

If you are upgrading from halogen fittings to LED smart bulbs, you will be happy to learn that the new lights have a lifespan that is significantly longer than the old ones. The disadvantage is that the initial expenses might be quite costly if you intend to replace a large number of your home’s light bulbs with smart bulbs.

The benefits and costs of using smart bulbs

You may use an app to turn smart bulbs on and off, and the majority of smart lighting systems are compatible with voice commands through Google Assistant or Alexa from Amazon. You could, for instance, tell Google, “OK, turn the lights down in the living room to twenty percent,” and see what it does.

The appearance of your living space can be altered to reflect your current state of mind or the time of day thanks to the capability of many smart lights to change colour.

A single color-changing smart bulb can run you up to approximately £50, so be prepared to invest that much money. You may expect to pay somewhere between £10 and £30 for a smart bulb that only varies the temperature of the white light between warmer and cooler.

The advantages of using smart light bulbs

If you leave the house and realise that a light is still on, you may turn it off remotely using a smart light bulb, which is a convenient feature.

Most smart bulbs come equipped with either a bayonet cap, an Edison cap, or both types of caps. This is because smart bulbs are designed to be retrofitted into existing light fixtures and lamps.

You may add an extra deterrent to your security system by turning on your lights remotely to ward off potential thieves.

There are a lot of smart home hubs on the market now, and many of them come equipped with motion sensors. You can programme these motion sensors to turn on your smart bulbs whenever they sense motion.

The drawbacks of using smart light bulbs

The expenses can quickly add up if you want to replace many “ordinary” bulbs with smart equivalents.

Problems with your wireless internet connection or mobile data signal will prevent you from remotely controlling your smart light bulbs.

Beyond a certain distance, you won’t be able to manage smart bulbs that only use Bluetooth.

How to buy the best light bulb

The explanation of halogen light bulbs

What kind of light bulbs are halogen ones?

The filament of a halogen light bulb is encased in halogen gas, which allows it to burn hotter than an incandescent light bulb while yet consuming less energy. Halogen light bulbs are often more expensive than incandescent light bulbs. Even while they use less energy than conventional incandescent bulbs and were previously a good option, technology has advanced to the point where there are now much more ecologically friendly choices available.

As a direct result of this issue, the sale of halogen lamps has been made illegal.

Should I switch out the halogen light bulbs that I now have?

Since the sale of halogen bulbs has been made illegal in the UK, you may be thinking if it is now time to replace the halogen lamps in your own home.

Because of the higher operating costs associated with halogens and the fact that they do not last nearly as long as LEDs do, we recommend that you replace your halogens as soon as possible. You shouldn’t wait for your halogen bulbs to burn out before making the transition to an LED light because LEDs are better for the environment.

How to buy the best light bulb

Here are three things to keep in mind when shopping for light bulbs:

1. Ensure the light bulb you purchase has the appropriate fitting and shape.

Cross-check the fitting reference number to ensure that the bulb fitting and shape are identical to the one you are replacing before installing the new bulb. Bringing the old bulb with you can be helpful if you are making your purchase in a store. In the event that this is not the case, jot down the fitting reference number and locate it on the package of the new bulb you purchased.

The graphic that follows demonstrates some of the most typical fittings that can be found.

How to buy the best light bulb

You also need to consider about the bulb shape you want — there’s a confusing range, and different manufacturers have a significantly different look and features.

How to buy the best light bulb

The light emitted by each of the various forms is dispersed and directed in a somewhat different manner, ranging from the almost complete illumination of a room provided by a globe or golf bulb to the pinpoint accuracy of a spotlight.

The “right” shape of the bulb and the spread of the light is essentially up to your personal preference. However, you should think about how the bulbs will look when they are switched off as well as when they are on, and you should also consider whether or not they will fit sensibly in the location that you have chosen. For instance, you probably don’t want a shape that looks like a huge stick if it’s going to stick out of the top of your bedside lamp.

2. Don’t let the initial investment in LED lighting deter you from making the switch.

In the long term, switching to LED light bulbs could save you several hundreds of pounds. If you use an LED light bulb for three hours each day, the usual one that emits more than 700 lumens will cost you approximately $1.71 per year to operate. That works out to be $2.04 for an alternative that uses CFLs, or $8.42 if you utilise the halogen lamp you already have.

3. Ensure that the light bulb you purchase has the appropriate brightness and colour.

Watts, as well as lumens (brightness)

Wattage has become a less relevant measurement of brightness ever since the advent of energy-saving bulbs. This is because modern bulbs need a lot less electricity to produce the same amount of light as older bulbs did. Therefore, the amount of light produced is measured in lumens. The higher the lumen count, the greater the light output of the device. As a general rule of thumb, a table lamp the size of a bed would require approximately 400 lumens, whereas a good-sized living room may require anything from 1,500 to 3,000 lumens in total (from more than one bulb).

How to buy the best light bulb

Kelvin scale (colour)

The Kelvin scale, which is more commonly used to measure temperature, is the one that is used to quantify the colour of light. Because of this, producers of light bulbs frequently mention “colour temperature” on the packaging of their products. The colour of light that will be produced by the bulb is indicated by the numbers that are printed on the side of the bulb package.

On the Kelvin scale, incandescent light bulbs have a colour temperature of 2,700, which produces a warm, yellowish light. Most people have grown accustomed to this colour of light. The colour temperature of sunlight at midday is approximately 5,500 kelvin, whereas the lighting at sunset or sunrise is approximately 2,500 kelvin, and a candle is approximately 1,600 kelvin. Kelvin scale (colour)

The Kelvin scale, which is more commonly used to measure temperature, is the one that is used to quantify the colour of light. Because of this, producers of light bulbs frequently mention “colour temperature” on the packaging of their products. The colour of light that will be produced by the bulb is indicated by the numbers that are printed on the side of the bulb package.

On the Kelvin scale, incandescent light bulbs have a colour temperature of 2,700, which produces a warm, yellowish light. Most people have grown accustomed to this colour of light. The colour temperature of sunlight at midday is approximately 5,500 kelvin, whereas the lighting at sunset or sunrise is approximately 2,500 kelvin, and a candle is approximately 1,600 kelvin.

How to buy the best light bulb

CRI (colour rendering index) (colour rendering index)

Every bulb is given a CRI score. CRI stands for colour rendering index and is a measure of the ability of a light source to accurately depict different hues. Put simply, you want to make sure you get a bulb that makes your tomatoes seem red, rather than an odd orangey shade.

Traditional incandescent and halogen lamps have a near-perfect CRI and score in the upper 90s. LEDs and CFLs are a touch behind this and are more likely to have a CRI score in the mid 80s. 80 is regarded a decent level, although like many things it comes down to personal choice.

The image below exhibits the impact of CRI – the left-hand image is photographed under light with a CRI value of 100, while the one on the right has a CRI value of 80.

How to buy the best light bulb

Where can we get light bulbs?

There are a number of well-known internet stores that sell light bulbs.

There is a huge variety of light bulbs available on Amazon, ranging from smart bulbs with affordable prices to LED multipacks that are efficient in their use of energy.

Argos carries a variety of light bulbs that may be purchased and are organised according to the following categories: Edison screw (ES), bayonet (BC), small Edison screw (SES), GU, and smart bulbs.

LED bulbs, ornamental LEDs, and smart lights are just some of the options available at B&Q.

There are literally hundreds of different light bulbs available to pick from at Ikea, ranging from LEDs that cost only two dollars to internet-connected lights that are part of the Ikea Home Smart ecosystem.

Lightbulbs Direct has an extensive inventory of CFLs and LEDs available for purchase.

Both traditional LED lights and smart light bulbs from well-known manufacturers such as Hive, Philips Hue, and TCP are available for purchase at Screwfix. Discover which stores have received positive feedback from Which? members by consulting our in-depth guide to the top and bottom shopping destinations.

How to properly discard your outdated light bulbs

CFL bulbs – If you have an old CFL bulb that you want to get rid of, you shouldn’t throw it out with the rest of your garbage. Because compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) contain trace levels of mercury, they must be recycled at a recycling centre or at one of your community’s recycling drop-off stations.

LED bulbs have a very long lifespan, so you won’t have to replace them as frequently as other types of bulbs. In the event that one of yours finally burns out, you can toss the light bulb away with the rest of your regular garbage. Keep in mind that the warranties on LED bulbs normally last between two and four years, so if the bulb breaks during this time, you should be able to get your money back. LED bulbs have been increasingly popular in recent years. Check the box for additional information, and get in touch with the store or the customer service department of the manufacturer.

Halogen bulbs are not recyclable due to the fact that they comprise a network of very small wires that are quite challenging to detach from the bulb. Wrap the light bulb in case it breaks, and then dispose of it with the rest of your regular household garbage.

Are there any health concerns associated with using CFL light bulbs?

Anecdotal evidence has associated the use of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) with a number of different health concerns; the following is what we now know about these bulbs.

Do cancer-causing chemicals leach from compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL)?

In October of 2008, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) issued a warning on certain energy-saving light bulbs that were found to generate higher amounts of UV radiation than what is considered safe according to guidelines.

It is recommended that you don’t use spiral and tube-type energy-saving CFL light bulbs for more than one hour every day if you’re less than 30 centimetres away from the bulb, such as when you’re using a desk lamp. This is because of the potential for burns. You should either replace the bulbs with those that have a globe shape or move the lamp further away.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) is quick to stress out that compact fluorescent light bulbs will not directly cause skin cancer. However, because the consequences of walking outside on a sunny day are comparable to those of sitting very close to a light bulb that generates more than the appropriate quantity of UV light, some degree of caution is advised in this situation.

There is no cause for alarm and no requirement to immediately replace all of your CFL light bulbs.

Can CFL light bulbs trigger epilepsy?

The non-profit organisation Epilepsy Action has received several anecdotal complaints from individuals who believe that energy-saving light bulbs have led them to have adverse effects, such as headaches and dizziness.

Epilepsy Action has said that they are not aware of any proof that low-energy light bulbs can directly induce epileptic seizures in those who suffer from photosensitive epilepsy. On the other hand, we have been approached by a number of epileptic patients who believe that switching to energy-efficient light bulbs has had an effect on their condition.

“We are not able to estimate how many people with epilepsy are harmed by these bulbs, nor are we able to declare with certainty how energy-saving light bulbs may affect people who have epilepsy.” In the event that people with epilepsy have concerns regarding the use of energy-efficient light bulbs and their epilepsy, we are urging the government to reaffirm that regular light bulbs will continue to be available for purchase in the event that they have those worries. We are going to keep a close eye on the developing situation.

Do compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) trigger migraines?

Migraine Action and other support organisations for those who suffer from migraines have expressed worry about this issue.

As a response to the question, the Department of Health issued the following statement: “The Department is aware of concern from migraine support groups that the usage of some energy-saving light bulbs could potentially harm migraine sufferers.” We are continuing our collaboration with clinicians and support groups to investigate the type and degree of any health problems that have been documented, and we are exerting our influence wherever it is warranted.

If you suffer from migraines, you may want to consider switching to a different kind of bulb even if there is not yet conclusive proof between CFLs to the condition. Standard painkillers may only alleviate the symptoms of a migraine to a limited extent, but if you choose the proper kind, they can be useful for treating aches and pains that are not as severe.