The 8 Best LED Light Bulbs to Buy in 2018

We've shed some light on the top energy-efficient bulbs

Buying a light bulb used to be straightforward — when the old incandescent one blew, you'd just buy one exactly the same, and away you go. As the price of LED lighting has fallen over the last few years, though, many people are looking to switch, harnessing the cost savings that come with lower energy use and much longer lifespans.

There is a wide range of styles, brightness, color temperatures and prices, and working out which is best for any given situation can be daunting, even before you add smart lighting and home automation into the mix.

We’ve tracked down the best LED light bulbs for a range of situations, from simple replacement bulbs for everyday use, to particularly-stylish models, and fancy versions that change color and turn on and off just because you tell them to.

All LED lights listed here fit in a standard A19 socket, the type you’ll find in almost every home lamp and fixture.

Best Overall: Cree Soft White 60W-Equivalent Dimmable LED

If you’re after a well-performing, affordable LED light bulb to replace most of your old incandescents, look no further than the Cree Soft White 60W-Equivalent.

It puts out a warm, bright light and uses just 9.5W of power to do it — that’s noticeably less than several competing brands, which means lower electricity bills. Color accuracy is good, with a color rendering index (CRI) of 81.

Unusually for a mid-priced LED bulb, it also works well with in-wall dimmers. These Cree bulbs have a particularly wide dimming range, with no noticeable hum or other noise.

Rated to last 25,000 hours (22+ years), and with an industry-leading 10-year, 100 percent satisfaction guarantee, this LED light is a solid choice for almost any home. It only comes in packs of four or more, though, but if you’re planning to replace a number of existing bulbs, that’s unlikely to be a problem.

Best for Accurate Colors: SORAA Radiant Dimmable 60W-Equivalent LED

All lights have a color temperature, from the warm yellow-orange glow of traditional incandescents to the distinctly blue shades of halogen bulbs. LEDs can produce color temperatures across the spectrum, but not all do so particularly well. Known as the "color gap," many bulbs add a yellowish tinge to pure white surfaces and can make red-colored items appear washed out.

SORRA’s Radiant bulbs aren’t cheap, but they give the richest, most-accurate color experience of any LED on the market. The company has been making lighting for museums and high-end commercial spaces for years, and recently expanded into the home market as well.

These 60W-equivalent "full spectrum" bulbs make colors pop, particularly noticeable with the reds and whites that other bulbs struggle with. While the best of the competition tops out with a CRI in the mid-to-high 80s, SORRA sits comfortably in the 90s.

There’s virtually no buzzing when using these lights with a dimmer and they’re rated to over 20 years usage. Coupled with a five-year warranty, these are the bulbs to go for if you truly care about your colors.

Best for Flexibility: Philips SceneSwitch 60W-Equivalent LED

Until recently, if you wanted to add a bit of flexibility to your lighting but your fixtures weren’t wired with dimmer switches, you were out of luck. The Philips SceneSwitch bulbs give options to even the most basic of lamps, via a simple but ingenious approach that doesn’t require specialized wiring, smart hubs or apps, or anything beyond a flick of the switch.

By turning the light off and back on again within a couple of seconds, this SceneSwitch LED switches between a bright 5000K daylight setting, a standard 2700K soft white light and a warm glow ideal for before bed or as a nightlight.

When leaving the switch off for longer, the SceneSwitch behaves like any other light and returns to the last setting when you next use it. If you don’t have the option of using a dimmer​ and don’t want the cost or hassle of a smart lighting system, this is the way to go.

Best for Candelabras: Cree TW Series 40W-Equivalent Candelabra Dimmable LED

There are surprisingly few good options when it comes to replacing your existing candelabra bulbs with energy-efficient LED versions, but Cree’s come up with a winner. Stylish in an understated way, these dimmable bulbs are ideal for exposed indoor candelabras and chandeliers, as well as fully-enclosed outdoor fixtures.

Outputting plenty of light with a high color accuracy, there’s minimal (although not non-existent) flicker when dimmed. While you’ll still pay more for any candelabra-style bulb than a standard LED, the pricing is also noticeably more reasonable than much of the competition.

Cree also sells this bulb in a 25W-equivalent version for more decorative uses, and in various sizes of multi-pack. With a 25,000-hour lifespan and backed by a five-year warranty, it’s hard to go wrong.

Best Smart LED Starter Kit: Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit

The world of smart lighting can be confusing, with a range of competing models and standards, and a wide variety of ways to control everything. Philips was one of the pioneers with its Hue range of white and multi-colored bulbs​ and has been the industry leader ever since.

This starter kit contains the Hue Bridge, which controls all of the bulbs, and four smart bulbs that can put out light in 16 million different colors. Each bulb can be given a name within the Hue app (iOS and Android) and be controlled manually or as part of a color "scene." Lights can be set to turn on and off on a timer or as part of a geo-fenced system that works based on your phone’s current location.

As well as being excellent LED lights in their own right, the strength of the Hue system lies in its wide compatibility. Other than the standard app, you can control your smart lighting with all major voice assistants, plus many third-party apps that extend the system’s usefulness even further.

Once you’re set up with the Hue bridge, you can use it to control many other times of home automation equipment as well. Everything from thermostats to remote controls hooks into the Hue, letting you manage everything in one place. It’s not the cheapest smart lighting system on the market, but it’s the best.

Best for Spot Lighting: Philips Non-Dimmable Frosted 100-Watt Equivalent LED

If you’re just after a bright, reliable LED light for areas like bathrooms and kitchens, there’s no need to spend a fortune. These Philips 100W-equivalent bulbs put out daylight-style light, at a fraction of the energy consumption of traditional incandescent or fluorescent bulbs.

They’re non-dimmable, so are ideal for project or task lighting, or just brightening up a large space. The bulbs are available in several different pack sizes​ and turn on instantly.

Inexpensive, especially in larger multi-packs, and rated to last over ten years, these bulbs are a solid, well-performing option. If you don’t need quite as much light, Philips also makes 40W and 60W-equivalent versions.

Best Basic Smart LED Lightbulb: TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi LED

If you’d like to try out the idea of a "connected home," but don’t want to invest large amounts of time and money up front, dip your toes in the water with this simple smart light bulb. Rather than requiring an expensive hub, the TP-Link Kasa connects directly to your existing Wi-Fi network and can be controlled by a smartphone app, or Amazon, Google or Microsoft’s voice assistants.

The Android and iOS app lets you turn your connected light(s) on or off from anywhere, or set a schedule for them to do so automatically. You can also dim the light to between 1 to 100 percent of its full brightness, either manually or via preset "scenes" you create. The bulb is available in 50W and 60W-equivalent varieties, in soft white, daytime and multi-colored versions.

With day-to-day and historical tracking of energy use​ and a straightforward setup process, there’s a lot to like about the Kasa smart light bulbs, at an all-in price ideal for those on a budget.

Best for Vintage Styling: Feit Electric 6.5W Vintage Style LED

Looking for something a little more stylish than your standard generic lightbulb? Feit sells a range of far more attractive bulbs, including this one with gorgeous vintage styling. Complete with twisty (fake) filament, it’s an ideal option when the look of the fixture really matters.

The Feit Electric 6.5W Vintage model casts a warm amber glow that persists even when dimmed, which is relatively unusual for an LED bulb. Roughly equivalent to a standard 40W bulb, don’t expect it to put out large amounts of light — it’s intended more for decorative purposes than anything else, and at that, it excels.

Rated to last over a decade, reasonably priced, and with a tiny impact on your electricity bill, it’s the one to go to when you want to put your light bulbs on display.

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