Review: The Utilitech Pro 430 lumen 7.5 watt LED bulb from Lowe’s

LED lighting is slowly getting cheaper. Home Depot has its 40W equivalent bulbs under $10 now, and Lowe’s countered with a $13 40W equivalent. The Lowe’s bulb uses less wattage, so I think that’s the better value.

I bought some.
Here’s what you’ll want to know. The bulbs use 7.5 watts and give off 430 lumens. They’re highly directional. I replaced some burned-out 7W CFLs, also rated as 40w equivalent, and in a ceiling fan where the lights are angled about 75 degrees, they give off noticeably more light on the ground, while projecting very little at the ceiling. Three or four of these bulbs in a ceiling fan will light up a 9×13 room with what I would consider a generous amount of light–better than a 40w incandescent or equivalent CFL. I still have two 7w CFLs in that fixture, and the difference is significant.

The light temperature is closer to daylight than what I would call soft white, though they’re billed as soft white. I prefer soft white; my wife prefers daylight. She likes these bulbs; I tolerate them. You can’t get LED bulbs in the same range of color temperatures as you can CFLs right now.

I have few complaints about the bulbs. They look and work fine in a ceiling fan fixture, and the price difference between these and a CFL suitable for a ceiling fan is only a couple of dollars or so. And since they don’t emit any UV, they won’t contribute to things in your house fading, which is nice.

In a light fixture that points straight down, you may prefer a CFL. Since the light is more focused, a single 7W bulb pointing straight down doesn’t light a very big area. Fixtures that hold bulbs horizontal create another problem. The bulbs are much more effective when they’re pointing down at an angle. And I’d be extremely hesitant to put one of these bulbs in a fixture that points straight up. The ceiling will be really bright, but the rest of the room will have to make due with whatever light reflects off the ceiling.

In these situations, a higher-wattage LED bulb might fare better, but at that point it might be more cost-effective to replace the fixture. Or use CFLs.

I’d also be hesitant to put them in an enclosed fixture with no ventilation. The heat sinks on these bulbs get really hot, and if there’s nowhere for that heat to escape, the bulb’s life expectancy will drop considerably.

The quality control could be better. Two of the bulbs I bought fit right into the fixture. The other wouldn’t screw in. I looked at the base, and it wasn’t threaded properly. I was able to get the bulb to fit into another fixture and it worked, but if I were buying more, I’d examine the bulb in the package (it’s clear) to make sure the base looks right.

I’ve been flip-flopping. CFL wattages and prices keep dropping too, and a 40w equivalent CFL that consumes around 9 watts costs a couple of dollars. Specialty CFLs work with dimmer switches and/or look like incandescents cost $6-$8. An LED bulb will last 3 times as long, while using about a watt less. In the days of incandescents, a watt was nothing, but with 400+ lumen bulbs consuming less than 10 watts now, a watt amounts to a 10-15 percent difference. If a spiral CFL fails, it’s tempting to replace it with a new $2 CFL. If a specialty CFL fails, I might as well buy an LED to replace it.

This morning I had a CFL bulb fail. I checked in my closet, and found my last 40w equivalent CFL. I also had a couple of fixtures with burned-out bulbs that I’ve been putting off dealing with, so it was time to do something. I could buy another package of CFLs, or I could move forward. So I headed to Lowe’s, plunked down $40, and got three new LED bulbs. If I just continue to wait for better LED bulbs to appear next year, I’ll be waiting a long time.

If you’re concerned about longevity, do what I do. Save the receipt, and write the date of purchase in pencil on the base of the bulb. If you don’t disturb it, the pencil marks will stay readable–I started doing this in 2008, and can still read the marks like I wrote them yesterday–but you can rub the marks off easily in the event of failure, if you’re worried about an overzealous customer service rep calling the marks “tampering.”

Then, if it fails prematurely–they have a two-year warranty–take the bulb and the receipt back to the store to exchange it. Bulbs are available online for less than what they cost in the store–notably, this 6W LED bulb at Amazon–but if they fail and you have to return them, you’ll eat up your savings. If I’m buying a $10-$12 light bulb, I prefer to have someplace I can drive to and return it. Though I’ve been fine so far–it’s hard to believe, but I bought my first LED bulb more than a year ago. That bulb is fine, and it’s on sale right now for 10 bucks, but I paid extra to get a watt less consumption.

For what it’s worth, a funny thing happened after I started dating bulbs. CFL bulbs pretty much quit failing prematurely. I did have problems with Sylvania bulbs I purchased at Kmart prior to 2008. But I still haven’t had a bulb fail that I’ve purchased in 2008 or later. Perhaps I had been changing bulbs, then misremembering which bulb I changed, so when another bulb failed, I concluded my bulbs were only lasting six months. But I also think quality is more consistent now than it was when I started buying them, back in 2003.

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