A lightbulb guide to turn you on

The transformation of the American light bulb market has been under way for several years.

Early adopters have had a blast. For others, it’s been tough.

Either way, the number of incandescent bulbs available on the market is shrinking. And the number of alternatives — halogens, LEDs and CFLs — is growing.

Walking down the bulb aisle is more confusing than ever.

Help is at hand. The issue of Consumer Reports that hit news stands last week is one of the most comprehensive guides to bulbland that I’ve seen yet.

The bottom-line message is encouraging. “There’s no need to hoard bulbs,” the magazine insists. “Our tests found that new LEDs and CFLs are light-years ahead of earlier versions.”

Those bulbs flickered, weren’t bright enough or cast a yellow pall over everything. And many complained that they malfunctioned, countering the bulb manufacturers’ efficiency claims.

The newer versions are bright, use 75 to 80 percent less energy and can save $60 to $125 over the life of the new bulb, CR’s testing confirmed.

Think they’re still a significant initial expense? The CR ratings list several bulbs that are $20 or less.

The magazine’s eight-page section take readers on a room-by-room guide to which bulbs might work best. It rates individual bulbs. (Click here for the online ratings.) And it gives a close-up look at several different ones.

There’s even a guide to lumens and Kelvin, terms we’ll all need to become familiar with to navigate this new lighting world.

One thing I was looking for -- and didn't see -- was an evaluation of the new Cree LEDs, which broke the $10 barrier. So I'm still curious about how they measure up.

Meanwhile, experts say that the best way to wade in is to switch out the bulb in a few lamps you use most often.  Once you've saved enough money on those bulbs, you'll have more funds for more bulbs!  

For all her helpful info, my elderly mom probably won’t read the new CR section. But I certainly will. Her last 100-watter just burned out, and she wants me to get replacements.