Unless there is some big action by conservatives to repeal Bush administration legislation that requires more efficient lighting, many old incandescent bulbs (or lamps) will become unavailable over the next few years. This will leave most of us having to look for alternative products to light our homes, the most common being Compact Fluorescent Lamps or CFLs, and Light Emitting Diodes or LEDs.
The Home Depot's Scott Krueger is busting some myths versus facts on LED versus CFL light bulbs.
CFLs have come a long way, since they were introduced. They originally had a poor reputation because they flickered, the color of the light wasn't good, they took a while to get to full power, and they couldn't dim. On top of that, there is a tiny amount of mercury in them, so there are some safety issues, when they break. But CFLs no longer flicker, cost a fortune or have limitations for dimmer switches. The bulbs burn cooler, last longer and are energy efficient. The light will use about 75% less energy and last about 10 times longer than the old style bulbs.
LEDs are electronic, solid state lighting, and we've been looking at it for years in our clock radios, microwaves, and other equipment. The technology has advanced far enough to provide interior lighting, although it is still evolving and not all lamps are quite ready for prime time. People like the fact that LEDs don't have any mercury in them, so there is no fear of difficult cleanup (and they generally don't break like a regular bulb anyway). They last a really long time, an estimated 30,000 - 50,000 hours, compared to about 10,000 for CFLs and about 1,000 for incandescents. They are, however more expensive, although prices are coming down. LED efficiency is similar to CFLs, and getting better all the time. In terms of light quality, LEDs are getting pretty close to CFLs and incandescents.
You can also look for the Lighting Facts label, and sort of nutrition label for lamps that includes the energy used in watts, brightness in lumens, estimated yearly energy costs, lamp life, and the light appearance. This helps you compare different lamps.