About 5 years ago I decided to swap out all of my incandescent lightbulbs for LED bulbs. Back then, it wasn’t a quick and easy task to find a replacement. LED bulbs at that time were really just getting started. It was difficult to find ones that were bright enough for many rooms – 100 watt equivalent. Many on the market had large bases to accommodate the electronics and for dissipating the heat. The majority of these didn’t fit in my fixtures, and those that did were frankly, quite ugly. Some of the designs incorporated weird metal fins and others had strange plastic enclosures.It was the early days of getting something to market that could work for the residential market. After alot of research and visits to all of the home stores, I eventually found ones that were almost like the filament bulbs they were replacing, with the proper sizing, output and color (e.g., soft, warm, cool or daylight depending on where they were going to be used).
The biggest obstacle was the LED bulbs were $20 to $25 *EACH* compared with under a $1 for the regular light bulbs. The average house has between 25 and 50 lightbulbs, inside and out. Take a moment to visualize your house and count the number you have … don’t worry, I’ll wait. Done? How many did you come up with? Now imagine times $20. Five years ago that meant roughly $750 to convert the entire house. But with the energy savings and 10,000 hour lifetimes, it made sense to convert.
Jump ahead to today. The 10,000 hours was pretty accurate – it works out to around 30 ~ 40 hours a week. And now it’s time to start looking at replacements again as the current bulbs are, one by one, going dark. The good news is that there are many dozens of manufacturers to choose from, lots of different wattages and color temperatures and a variety of sizes. Best news is that the prices are way cheaper now – just a fraction of what I paid only 5 years ago. But with so many to choose from, I was back to doing alot of research again.
With such relatively low costs, I was able to test out a number of different brands and types of LED bulbs. The ones that didn’t meet up with expectations were going off to college with the neighborhood kids. They weren’t picky about color temperature, hue or even the longevity of the bulbs! The winners in my roundup have been illuminating the house for the past few months and still going strong with no failures. Given they all come with a 10,000 minimum life-time usage guarantee, I expect I won’t be updating this review anytime soon.
Here’s the judging criteria:
Wattage / Lumens – Does the stated watt equivalent (W-E) match up with reality? Some 100 W-E bulbs were closer to 75 or even 60. Similar with some of the 60’s that were more like 50’s or 40’s. I also bought the bulbs in packs of 6 or 8, so was also looking for consistency across the batch.
Color Temperature – Does the color match the description? For home use, I needed a mix of “Daylight” (garage and exterior), “Cool White” (hallways and bathrooms) and “Warm White” (kitchen and bedrooms). But there are ranges for each of these – for example some of the Daylight were at the upper end of the spectrum (6500K) while others were closer to the middle (5000K). Whereas a lot of the Warm White were either 2500K or 3000K. Your needs / preferences may vary, so you may also be buying some different ones to test out on site. By purchasing in multi-packs I was able to look for any variations across the bulbs from a single vendor.
Size – How close does this match that standard A19 bulb? There are still some bulbs with very large bases and these may not work well in some fixtures. I was happily surprised to find some that were slightly smaller as these actually worked better in some spaces.
Heat – LEDs are supposed to be cooler, much cooler, than incandescents. A digital IR Thermometer made it easy to check the temperature at the base. Much better than the “finger test” since a few got a bit hot. Out those went!
Cost – Are these inexpensive? With so many good LEDs bulb to choose from, there’s no need to pay a lot these days. I was looking for value in these replacements.
Features – Dimmable or not? There are some high-tech bulbs that are smartphone controllable to set the brightness, hue and do other interesting things – but expect to pay for those features. My needs were simple, in that a few areas needed bulbs to be dimmable but most fixtures were only on or off. Keep in mind that with LEDs and Fluorescent bulbs, you’ll most likely need a special light switch dimmer to work correctly. Many people in reviews blame the bulbs, not realizing that their current dimmer switch isn’t compatible.
Here’s the round-up that made the finals:
60 Watt Equivalent (9W), Soft White (3000K),Pack of 6 ($12.99 – pack of 6 bulbs)
100 Watt Equivalent (11W), Daylight (5000K), Pack of 6 ($20.69 – pack of 6 bulbs)
100 Watt Equivalent, (12W), Cool White (6500K), Pack of 6 ($20.45 – pack of 6 bulbs)
In the Dimmable Category, there was only a single 60 W-E from Phillips:
60 Watt Equivalent (9.5W), Soft White (2700K), Pack of 8 ($25.72 – pack of 8 bulbs)
Coming soon we’ll review the PAR30 Floodlight LED bulbs … those are needing replacing next.
If you are looking for an LED lightbulb that is truly a work of art (and priced like one), check out the “003” from Plumen – Is This The Worlds Most Expensive Lightbulb?
See here for more information on the pricing.
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