Best Eco Bulbs

Using a third of the energy required by their incandescent counterparts, Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) still do wonders for your budget and the environment, but the new generation of these energy savers doesn't require you to sacrifice an ounce of ambience. For a meaningful environmental impact, Energy Star recommends replacing at least five high-use bulbs. If every American household made the change, we could collectively save nearly $8 billion annually and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 4 million cars off the road for a year. The wide selection of bulbs now available makes it easy to take on the challenge. Here are our favorites:

Expert: Green architect and designer David Bergman, founder of Fire and Water lighting in New York City.

Best Traditional
Soft White CFL by N:Vision, 14-watt (60-watt incandescent equivalent). With dimensions and light quality nearly identical to an incandescent, this affordable bulb offers an easy transition for those unsure about CFLs. The more conventional-looking design means it produces a little less light per watt than bare spiral options, but the 14-watt model emits more than enough to read by. $8, homedepot.com.
Life: 8,000 hours (7-plus years)
Use: Desk, bedside, or reading lamps
Potential Savings: $45, 516 pounds of carbon dioxide

Best Daylight
A-21 Traditional CFL by BlueMax (Daylight A Series), 20-watt (70- to 85-watt incandescent equivalent). When you want cool light akin to midday sun, this full-spectrum model offers a long-lasting option that enhances the blues, greens, and violets in your home. The conventional A-line shape lends itself to lampshades, which also soften the bright-white glow. $20, bluemaxlighting.com.
Life: 10,000 hours (9-plus years)
Use: Kitchen task lighting, desk lamps
Potential Savings: $56, 871 pounds of carbon dioxide

Best Coil
Ecobulb by Feit Electric, 13-watt (60-watt incandescent equivalent). A low profile on this compact bulb makes it an easy fit for most fixtures. Its bare swirl design creates a diffuse wash of warm light and minimizes hard shadows. $6, feitelectric.com and Walgreens.
Life: 8,000 hours (7-plus years)
Use: Wall sconces, ceiling fixtures, table lamps
Potential Savings: $52, 591 pounds of carbon dioxide

Best Three-Way
Long life soft white Energy Smart Three-Way by General Electric, 12-, 23-, and 29-watt (50-, 100-, and 150-watt incandescent equivalent). New to the CFL scene, the strong light from three-way CFLs like this one requires more height. But the larger size also makes it brighter, so it can stand in for higher-watt incandescents -- helping you save more over time. $10, gelighting.com and Target.
Life: 10,000 hours (9-plus years)
Use: Three-way floor lamps; ceiling fixtures (including fans)
Potential Savings: $83, 1,182 pounds of carbon dioxide

Best Recessed
Marathon Classic by Philips, 20-watt (85-watt incandescent equivalent). Recessed bulbs aim light down and out of the enclosure. For smooth dimming, turn this light all the way on and then adjust to desired brightness; otherwise, it might sputter. Safe for outdoor use and damp locations with base end up. $12, lighting.philips.com and Home Depot.
Life: 8,000 hours (7-plus years)
Use: Dimmable recessed and track lighting
Potential savings: $57, 798 pounds of carbon dioxide

Text by Josie Garthwaite; photograph by Kana Okada

Net savings calculated for bulbs' expected life cycle if used for three hours per day in place of 50 cents incandescent bulbs that last 1,000 hours each. Based on average residential electricity rate of approximately 10 cents per kilowatt hour. Source: Energy Star (energystar.gov).

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