Come January 2014, it’s the end of the bulb as we know it. The incandescent light bulb, which has been phasing out since 2012 (first went the 75-watt bulb, with the 100-watt bulb following this year), will be gone for good in the next few months. “The lights are about to go out on the last of the incandescent bulbs, said ABC Local. “Popular 60 and 40 watts will no longer be manufactured come January.” While you still may be able to find incandescents online or buy up available stock in stores, they won’t be making any more of these energy suckers.

That means filling your home with light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs), and their less-expensive–and some would say less less efficient–cousin, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Confused about which is which, which are best, and what will work for you? Read on for a few LED tips.

LED Basics

Incandescent bulbs are cheap, but their upfront affordability is deceiving. “Incandescents are “really only cheap if you never turn them on,” said Consumer Reports. “They cost about eight dollars a year to power. And that’s compared with only $1.70 for an LED.”

The upfront cost of an LED is greater than both incandescents and CFLs, but LEDs also use up to 80 percent less energy than incandescents, which, over the lifespan of the bulb, can create significant savings. Especially when you consider that the average household uses 50 light bulbs. “Most CFLs cost under $3. LEDs are more expensive, “But even at that price, they still save you about $125 over their lifetime on electrical costs and on the cost of replacing bulbs.”

Additional advantages of LEDs:

  • They can last for decades, more than twice as long as CFLs
  • LEDs light instantly, whereas CFLs can take 30 seconds or more to reach their full brightness level
  • Many LED bulbs are dimmable, unlike CFLs
  • LEDs are especially ideal for areas where changing a light bulb often is not feasible, like stairwells, hallways, and high ceilings
  • They can be dimmed and placed upside down unlike many CFLs
  • They are mercury-free; CFLs still contain small amounts of mercury

Top LED Picks

Consumer Reports’ recently released its list of recommended light bulbs based on testing of more than 750 different models of LEDs and CFLs. Their recommendations “also include three that were also evaluated by 19 Consumer Reports staffers in their homes,” according to lighting.com:

  • The Philips Ambient LED 12.5W, which can be used for table or floor lamps and costs about $40
  • The EcoSmart LED Downlight 10.5W, dimmable and used for recessed or track lights, which costs about $50
  • The EcoSmart PAR38 ECS 38 Bright White 75W, a dimmable outdoor floodlight, priced at about $45

Top Ten Reviews’ top pick, which received a 10 out of 10, was the Philips L-Prize, acclaimed for using “just 9.7 watts to create a warmer, brighter light than a 60-watt incandescent bulb.” It can be used both indoors and out, “works in a dimmer and runs for 30,000 hours.”

The Wirecutter, a technology testing and reviewing site, also sings the praises of the L-Prize, which is “based closely on the bulb that won the $10 million government contest to create the future of light bulbs.”

A more recent entry into the LED world has quickly become a favorite among industry experts: Cree’s Warm White Blub, revolutionary for its brightness, its energy-saving capacity, and also its price. Starting at just $10 for the 40-watt version, Cree is making fans of more than just homeowners looking for an energy-efficient and cost-efficient solution to the demise of the incandescent bulb.

“A regular incandescent bulb costs $1 and uses $7 of electricity a year if used three hours a day. A Cree bulb may cost $10, but it uses 10% of the electricity, costing $1 a year,” said Forbes. “And while an old-school bulb will burn out in less than two years at that rate, LED bulbs will keep working for more than 20 years. At a cost of $9.97 for the equivalent of a 40-watt incandescent, or $12.97 for a 60-watt replacement, the Cree bulbs are cheaper than comparable LED offerings from rivals.”

Technology website The Verge called Cree’s offerings “as bright, efficient, and long-lasting as practically anything on the market, and they look like incandescent light bulbs to boot.”

Consumer Reports recently did a preliminary test on Cree’s 60-watt bulb (as well as another new low-cost LED, the $15 Philips A19 10.5-watt bulb), and also has positive things to say. Three-thousand-hour testing to measure long-term performance on both bulbs is currently in progress.

The best news yet: Both the Cree and the Philips A19 are available at Home Depot, so getting your inexpensive LEDs will also be super EZ.