Consumer Reports tests news light bulbs

December 1, 2011 7:45:18 AM PST
Regular incandescent 100-watt light bulbs are the first to be phased out under new government regulations. No more will be imported or produced after January 1.

Consumer Reports just finished testing energy-efficient alternatives, CFLs and halogens, as well as a combination halogen-CFL bulb from GE.

That bulb had trouble in the rapid-cycle test, where the light is turned on and off every two minutes.

"With the six we tested, the CFL part burned out after only about around 3,000 cycles," Consumer Reports' Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman said. "That's much faster than any other bulb."

Consumer Reports also evaluated seven regular CFLs. Each promises to last 10,000 to 12,000 hours. They say claim to produce 1,600 lumens, the equivalent of a 100-watt incandescent.

Testers measured a bulb's brightness after it burned 3,000 hours.

"With all the CFLs we tested, the brightness dropped, down to between 1,280 lumens and about 1,400," Lehrman said.

The brand new bulbs also burned a little brighter than ones that were burning 3,000. But when reading, panelists didn't necessarily prefer the brighter light.

Among 100-watt equivalent CFLs, Consumer Reports says your best choices are the Ecobulb Plus from Feit Electric for around $2. And for even less, the Utilitech Soft White from Lowe's and the Ecosmart Soft White from Home Depot also scored well.

"Halogen bulbs don't last anywhere near as long and they won't save you very much money, but they did keep their full brightness in our tests," Lehrman said.

Consumer Reports recommends the 100-watt equivalent Philips Halogena Energy Saver for $5.50. Also, halogens can be dimmed, unlike many CFLs, and they reach full brightness immediately.

Consumer Reports calculates that CFLs can save you $100 or more over the lifetime of the bulb. Halogens will only save you about $3.