Guide to LED light bulbs

Want to save money every month on your electricity bill and also reduce your carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions? Then it’s time to change EVERY light bulb in your home to energy-efficient LED! These days, it is easy to buy LED light bulbs at supermarkets, pharmacies, hardware stores, big box stores, or through online retailers. You can even get free LED replacement bulbs if you schedule a Home Energy Assessment through MassSave ( But with a dizzying array of choices in LED bulbs, there are a few important steps to make sure that you buy the right bulbs for your needs -- without wasting money or energy in the process.

Create an organized list: Start with a floor plan of your home or a list of each of the rooms, and write down notes about all of the incandescent or compact fluorescent light bulbs to replace with LED. Some bulbs will be in light fixtures installed on the wall or ceiling; some will be in table or floor lamps. Be sure to include light bulbs in closets, hallways, basements and other areas of your home.

Verify the bulb details: For each bulb to be replaced, note all of the details so you can select the proper replacement bulb:

  • Is the bulb standard size and shape (“general purpose” or “A19”), or is it a special shape such as a globe, flood light, or candle flame shape;
  • Is the bulb screw base standard size or is it a special type (usually on smaller bulbs);
  • Is the bulb in an enclosed fixture, or is the bulb open to the surrounding air;
  • Is the lamp or light fixture controlled by a standard on/off switch, or is there a dimmer switch or timer switch, or is it a lamp with a 3-way bulb (low/medium/high settings);
  • What is the wattage of the incandescent or fluorescent bulb.

Shopping for LED replacement bulbs: When you head to the store with your list of bulbs, be sure to find LED replacements that match the details of the existing bulbs -- size, shape, screw base type, equivalent wattage, etc. If you have some non-standard bulbs, you may need to take samples to the store to verify that you are selecting the correct LED replacement. A few additional details to verify on the LED bulb package:

  • Look for bulb color temperature noted as Soft White (2700K) to provide a warm light similar to incandescent bulbs or Bright White (3000K - 3500K) similar to fluorescent. Bulbs noted as Daylight (5000K) will likely seem too harsh for a home.
  • Look for indications that the bulb is suitable for enclosed fixtures, where needed
  • Look for indications that the bulb is dimmable, where needed. Note that dimmer switches used with incandescent or fluorescent bulbs may not work with LED bulbs, and the switch may need to be replaced by an electrician (see below).
  • Look for bargains! You can purchase heavily discounted bulbs online through the MassSave program (; at local Home Depot stores and elsewhere, some LED bulbs may also be offered with a MassSave discount.

Where you may need an electrician: There are some situations where you (or your landlord) may need to hire an electrician to complete parts of the LED bulb replacement in your home:

  • If a dimmer switch or timer switch needs to be replaced to an LED compatible device.
  • Where it may be better to replace a light fixture with a new LED model, such as linear fluorescent strip or circline light fixtures.

Remember that if you are replacing any fluorescent bulbs, these bulbs contain small amounts of toxic substances inside the bulb and need to be recycled at stores with bulb recycling bins, or through Household Hazardous Waste collections -- they should NOT be included in your weekly trash collection.

Your new LED light bulbs can last 20 years or more! You may only have to do this bulb replacement project once, so it’s important to gather all of the details and shop in an organized way to have the greatest success.

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