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The Right Way to Spend Up to $60 on a Light Bulb

Pick the right bulb
Selecting a tradition incandescent bulb is pretty easy -- you just decide whether you want a 60-watt bulb, 75-watt bulb or something brighter or dimmer.

LEDs are a lot more complicated and require looking at three ratings: "lumens," "color temperature" and the "color rendering index."

Lumens measure a bulb's brightness. Lehrman says you'll want an 800-lumens LED to replace a 60-watt incandescent bulb or an 1,100-lumens one if you're looking for the equivalent of a 75-watt traditional light.

Color temperature refers to an LED's brightness and warmth and is expressed in "Kelvins" (the lower the rating, the greater a bulb's warmth). Lehrman suggests buying around a 2,700-Kelvin LED if you're looking for something that puts out light similar to what you get from a traditional 60-watt incandescent bulb.

The CRI measures the accuracy of the colors you'll see when you use an LED for illumination. The best score is 100 -- the rating traditional incandescents carry. Most LEDs score in the mid-80s, while the top-of-the-line Philips L Prize bulb -- winner of a $10 million U.S. government prize for the best LED to replace a 60-watt traditional bulb -- garnered a 93.

If you plan to use a bulb outdoors with a dimmer switch or in a fully enclosed space like a ceiling fixture, check the box to make sure an LED you're considering can handle such applications.

Consider Consumer Reports' top picks
"Not all LED bulbs are great, so it's really important to stick to bulbs that are EnergyStar qualified or that have gone through third-party testing like ours," Lehrman says.

Consumer Reports recently checked out 50 LEDs, CFLs and other high-efficiency bulbs for price, quality of output and other factors. Among lights designed to replace traditional 60-watt bulbs, the $26 EcoSmart A19 60W Bright White 400674 Dimmable LED took first place, scoring 99 out of a possible 100.

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