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So you still aren't using LED light bulbs...

From efficiency to smart features, upgrading your light bulbs to LEDs is a complete no-brainer. Here's why.

Ryan_Crist2.jpg
Ryan_Crist2.jpg

Ry Crist

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1 of 21 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The age of the LED is here, and with it, light bulbs that use a fraction of the energy of old-school incandescents. The glut of affordable new lighting options offer all sorts of no-brainer benefits even beyond the lower energy bills -- but a lot of folks still haven't bought in.

Whether that's because people are skeptical of the new technology or because their old fluorescents and incandescents simply haven't burnt out yet is an open question, but speaking as a guy who evaluates light bulbs for a living, I really don't think there should be any debate. So please, allow me to pull up a chair and make my case for why it's long past time for you to make the switch.

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2 of 21 Chris Monroe/CNET

Run the numbers

Let's start with the core point of appeal for LED light bulbs: Efficiency. To be specific, we're talking about a given light bulb's ability to convert electricity into light -- and LEDs are much, much better at it than the bulbs that came before.

How much better? Consider the Cree LED seen here. It puts out the same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent, but it does so using just 9.5 watts. That means it'll only add about a buck to your yearly energy bill -- about $6 less than that incandescent. The upfront cost per bulb? Just $4. That means that it'll pay for itself in less than a year, then keep saving you money for years to come. Even if someone offered to pay you a few bucks to use the incandescent, buying an LED like this would still be the less-expensive option.

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3 of 21 Chris Monroe/CNET

Pick your tone

You've got lots of choices, too. Today's LED offerings come in a diverse mix of shapes, sizes, styles, brightness levels and tones. If you want a warm, candle-like glow from your lights, you can find it. If you want light that's hotter, whiter and closer to daylight, you'll find options for that, too.

4 of 21 Chris Monroe/CNET

Why not both?

Some LED bulbs, like this Philips SceneSwitch LED, even offer multiple color and brightness settings. Just turn the light off and back on to switch between them.

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5 of 21 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Dimming tricks, too

Here's an LED from Feit with a similar trick up its sleeve -- just turn it off and back on within a few seconds to switch between multiple brightness settings. It's a perfect pick if you want to dim the lights but your home doesn't have dimmer switches.

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6 of 21 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Dimmability? Check.

Of course, if you do use dimmer switches in your home, you'll find lots of very good LED options that will work with them. The 100W replacement version of that Cree LED is a good example -- it aced our dimming tests, with smooth, flicker-free dimming on every switch we tested it with.

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7 of 21 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Brightness coming right up

If you're concerned about brightness, don't be. Shop around, and you'll find lots of perfectly decent LED light bulbs that offer lots and lots of light.

Take this Utilitech LED, for instance. If puts out the same approximate amount of light as a 100W bulb, it works well on dimmer switches in case you want to be able to dial that brightness down, and it offers best-in-class efficiency, too. Best of all, the cost is still less than $5 per bulb.

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8 of 21 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Color quality

Maybe you're more interested in lights that help the colors in your home pop -- no sweat, you've got options there, too. This Soraa bulb is one of the better ones, with exceptional color clarity and strong overall performance. It's a great choice for a kitchen, a walk-in closet or an artfully decorated living room -- places where you want colors to look as true as possible.

9 of 21 Ry Crist/CNET

See for yourself

The GE Reveal line of LED bulbs are another good option for better colors. Here's one compared with the more typical GE Relax LED, both in front of a bright purple wall. Which one looks like true purple to you?

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10 of 21 Ry Crist/CNET

Color-changers, too

You'll also find plenty of LED options that offer multiple RGB color settings, and, if you're willing to spend a little more, smart options that you can program from your phone or change using voice commands. These Lifx Z light strips are a good example. They look great behind a TV of under a cabinet, they work with Siri, Alexa and the Google Assistant, and you can control each individual zone of lights on the strip for multicolor effects.

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11 of 21 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Room for creativity

Upgrading to lights like these gives you lots of room for creativity, too. For instance, you could spice up the look of the entire living room with the artful, colorful Nanoleaf Aurora smart LED wall panels. They'll sync with all of the major voice platforms -- and with your music, too.

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Up next for Nanoleaf

Soon, Nanoleaf will start selling touch-sensitive, square shaped versions of its popular panels. I'm dying to test them out.

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13 of 21 Extract from Disney Moana “How far I’ll go” by Auli’i Cravalho, in a tech showcase with new Philips Hue entertainment, synchronizing Philips Hue lights with entertainment content. Image (c) Disney Music

Colorful entertainment

Color-changing light are taking big steps to win people over this year. With Philips Hue, the big thing is a new feature called Hue Entertainment that lets you sync your color-changing lights with your favorite media. Integrations that incorporate dynamic lighting effects into popular PC games are already live, and software that'll sync your lights up with whatever's on your screen are coming soon. 

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14 of 21 Chris Monroe/CNET

Cheaper smart lights? Sure thing

Of course, a single color-changing Hue bulb sells for $50, which is probably too much for a lot of folks. The good news: Smart lights are going through a bit of a boom these days, with lots of new options that don't cost quite as much. For example, this Eufy Lumos LED works with Alexa and the Google Assistant, it doesn't need a hub and it's available right now for less than $20. A color-changing version is available for $35, and has often gone on sale for even less.

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15 of 21 Ry Crist/CNET

Voice-activation

Smart lights like those are a perfect partner for voice platforms like Alexa and the Google Assistant. I'm telling you, once you start controlling your lights using voice commands, you'll wonder why you didn't upgrade sooner.

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16 of 21 Ry Crist/CNET

All sorts of options

And, like I've said, you've got tons of new options to choose from. These Sylvania smart lights come in a variety of different shapes, including candelabra bulbs and floodlights, and prices start at just $12.

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Like, seriously

You'll even find bargain-priced smart LED lights at Ikea!

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Vintage-style

But hey, maybe smart lights don't interest you. Maybe you haven't upgraded yet because you're reluctant to give up that classic incandescent look. Well, a glut of new "vintage-style" LED bulbs might be just what you're waiting for. Many, including these LED bulbs from GE with spiral "filaments" that are really just strings filled with light-emitting diodes (LEDs), arguably nail that old-school incandescent appeal even better than actual incandescents, and they're far more efficient.

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19 of 21 Ry Crist/CNET

Feit, too

Lights like these look terrific in exposed bulb setups. This version from Feit actually weaves two of those fake filaments into a double-helix pattern. It looks gorgeous, and it also does a nice job of putting light out evenly in all directions.

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20 of 21 Ry Crist/CNET

Vintage options

Bulbs like these are on the rise -- these days, you'll find all sorts of shapes and designs in the lighting aisle, including candelabra bulbs like this one.

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Vintage and smart

There's even a smart version of the vintage-style bulb, in case you want the best of both worlds.

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