If you’ve found yourself in the market for new lightbulbs recently, you’ve likely faced what seem like infinite options. Recent innovations have brought us all kinds of new light technology. From lightbulbs designed to react to sound waves (yep) to those intended to fight off deadly bacteria (seriously, this is a real thing), what used to be a simple source of light continues to evolve.

But when you simply need a new bulb for your bedside lamp, how do you know that you are making the right decision? Which lightbulbs are designed to be better for the environment and to help us cut back on our electric bills?

What are LED bulbs?
Technically, LED bulbs aren’t bulbs – LED stands for “light-emitting diode.” They’re tiny semiconductors (diodes) wrapped in plastic to protect the elements and focus the light. According to Dictionary.com, a diode is “a semiconductor device with two terminals, typically allowing the flow of current in one direction only.” The current comes into an anode (+) and flows out of a cathode (-). LEDs don’t even have wire filaments like a lightbulb does.

How is LED different from incandescent?
When we talk about a “regular lightbulb,” we mean an incandescent bulb, the type that’s been around since Thomas Edison patented his invention in 1879. These bulbs have filaments that glow, producing both heat and light when energy flows through them. LEDs, on the other hand, have electrons that flow to create photons – light we can see. Photons generate almost no heat. LEDs also require much less energy to create the same amount of brightness as incandescent lights, and last much longer.

Read more: LED vs. regular lightbulbs: Do they really make a difference?

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