Three Alternatives to the Banned Light Bulbs – Halogen, CFL, LED

Halogen, CFL, LED light bulbs

With the phase-out of the 60 watt incandescent light bulb, finding these classic bulbs will get more and more difficult over time. Even now, just a few months after the ban came into effect in January, home improvement stores are doing everything they can to shift consumers into alternatives.

The big box stores are pushing LED bulbs, and hard. The reason? LED is getting all the media hype. It is also the future of lighting so the stores are getting in early and finding customers for the higher priced LED bulbs. Consumer lighting wasn’t a huge factor for Home Depot and Lowe’s when most people grabbed a $0.60 bulb and went on their way. But with a $20 bulb, suddenly lighting has gained greater focus.

But are LEDs the only way to go? Looking down any aisle at a home improvement store, and it sure seems like it. Savvy consumers, however, are taking a closer look at what’s on the shelves and what is available online, in addition to the popular-yet-relatively-expensive LEDs. Here are three types of bulbs to consider if you can’t get your favorite incandescent anymore.


Halogen A-type light bulbs technically are incandescent bulbs. Halogen gas surrounds the filament in these bulbs, allowing them to burn as brightly as an incandescent but using slightly less energy.

Halogen bulbs can be dimmed, look like standard light bulbs, and start instantly. They are also the cheapest alternative to the old A-shape light bulb, costing less than $3 per bulb for frosted versions, and even less for a clear bulb.

Compact Fluorescent

CFLs, the much-maligned bulb, are more efficient than incandescent or halogen, with a significantly longer life, and only a slightly higher cost. So why have consumers largely taken a pass on them?

Some quality issues dogged these bulbs when they were originally developed. Technical inconsistency was one problem, while weird color of the light was another. Thankfully, the vast majority of CFLs manufactured these days give off light comparable to incandescent bulbs, and are reliable.

With that said, CFLs are an excellent option, balancing energy efficiency and cost. The amount of mercury in the bulbs has gone down as technology has advanced, and there are even dimmable compact fluorescent bulbs widely available these days. While not as cheap as halogens, they will last longer and use less energy.


Once you realize that the life of one LED bulb is the same as 25 incandescent bulbs, the initial higher cost of the LED will seem a much better investment, especially if you factor in the energy savings.

LEDs work just like incandescent: instant on, dimming on most models, work great in low temperature and give the same great warm soft light. Dimming is an advantage LEDs have over CFLs, as dimmable CFL bulbs will be more expensive than a non-dimmable version.

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Nick Heeringa

Nick is a writer, publisher and editor for the Topbulb blog. Check back often for more of his writing on lighting applications and announcements for the Topbulb website and blog!