It's become impossible to keep using wattage when picking out your light bulbs. A 60 watt bulb used to be fairly consistent in the past, from shape-to-shape and brand-to-brand. Now, if you were to install a 40 watt standard bulb, a 40 watt compact fluorescent, and a 40 watt metal halide light bulb, you would see a massive difference. So, which bulb SHOULD you use to replace your 40 watt light bulb?
Find the lumen output on the package for your bulb, and make a note of it. Most 40 watt standard bulbs have a rating of around 450 lumens. This is the amount of light the bulb emits. Now, compare a list of CFL light bulbs for their respective lumen rating. This Halco compact fluorescent light bulb shows a rating of 500 lumens. If your 40 watt bulb is brighter than you actually need, then the Halco 9 watt bulb is too bright, and you should look for an 8 watt or 7 watt. If your 40 watt light bulb is bright enough, and you can handle a bulb that is slightly brighter, then the Halco bulb would be great.
The US government has been requiring light bulb manufacturers to list the lumen output for quite some time now, but the fact is the general public simply isn't aware of what that very important number really means. So, don't replace your old bulb with the same wattage in a new CFL bulb. Double check the lumen output first, and then you'll be able to find a suitable replacement in an energy saving model on your own!