Some halogen lightbulbs are brighter than others

Posted on Mar 26, 2015


When it comes to energy-saving lightbulbs, LEDs and CFLs spring to mind. But what about halogen bulbs? They don’t get much attention, partly because they’ve been around for a long time and they use a lot more energy than LEDs and CFLs. But halogens are cheap and you don’t have to put a lot of thought into buying one, or that’s what we thought. And then Consumer Reports’ lightbulb experts found something you really should pay attention to.

We put three halogen bulbs from GE, Philips, and Utilitech through initial tests and found they were as bright as claimed—the GE Reveal was even brighter—but they were much dimmer than the 60-watt incandescents they replace. What gives? The answer was on the back of the box of the GE and Philips bulbs. These halogen bulbs have a color filter that improves the light’s color, but it also reduces light output.

Not all halogen bulbs have this filter. Our bulb boxes mentioned “modified spectrum” or “glass filters.” Manufacturers developed modified spectrum bulbs in the 1980s and 90s and consumers liked the color because it made skin tones look better, says Terry McGowan, director of engineering for the American Lighting Association, a trade group. He says the filter subtracts light in the yellow part of the spectrum.

So if halogens are for you, focus on lumens when shopping. The more lumens, the brighter the bulbs, and you’ll see lumens noted on the box. A19 halogens are general-purpose bulbs that are used in lamps and other fixtures. Look for close to 800 lumens when you want a bulb as bright as a 60-watt incandescent. And if you like light that’s warm, similar to an incandescent, then you want a halogen that has a color temperature around 2700K (the K is for Kelvin). You’ll see this in the Lighting Facts label on the box. For white light pick a bulb that’s 3000K or so.

Keep in mind that halogens use about 25 to 30 percent less energy than standard incandescents, while CFLs and LEDs use 75 to 85 percent less. And some halogens last only 1,000 hours yet cost about as much as CFLs, which are meant to last around 10,000 hours. See our lightbulb buying guide for the pros and cons of halogens, LEDs, and CFLs. Then use our lightbulb Ratings to find out how the LEDs and CFLs did after 3,000 hours of testing. Questions? E-mail me at kjaneway@consumer.org.

Kimberly Janeway 

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