Do you get confused when you walk into the light bulb aisle of your home supply store? Those old familiar incandescent bulbs are gone, phased out due to federal efficiency standards. In their place are options like compact fluorescent lights (CFL), light emitting diodes (LED) and halogen incandescents. What does it all mean, and how do you know which choice is best for you? Read on to catch up on the basics of home lighting technology.

  • Compact Fluorescent Lights: Think of a normal florescent light tube, but curled up to fit the shape of a standard light bulb. The best CFLs last 10 times as long and use a quarter of the energy of old incandescent bulbs, according to the federal Department of Energy. The drawbacks of CFLs are that they can be damaged if they are turned on and off too frequently, and they don't work well in the cold so their outdoor utility is limited.
  • Light Emitting Diodes: Traditionally, LEDs were for power lights on appliances and other limited uses, but advances in technology have greatly expanded their utility, and there are now numerous options for LED light bulbs available to consumers. LEDs are a fantastic value: they use only about 25 percent of the energy of standard light bulbs and can last up to 25 times as long.
  • Halogen Incandescents: Halogen bulbs are a twist on the old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. They function in essentially the same manner, except the glass globe is filled with halogen gas, which amplifies the light and therefore decreases the amount of electricity needed, hiking its efficiency rating. They aren't as stingy with energy as CFL or LED lights, but work well for outdoor spotlighting.

While modern bulbs cost more to buy than the incandescents you were accustomed to, their increased longevity and efficiency actually lead to big savings in the long run.