Last Updated on December 4, 2022 by Dave Farquhar
I’ve been buying Ecosmart light bulbs at Home Depot since the summer of 2015. Ecosmart is Home Depot’s house brand. At the time I started buying them, they seemed like good bulbs for the money. The last time I bought bulbs, they had pretty much crowded everything else off the shelf. So let’s talk about Ecosmart light bulbs and whether they are any good.
Are Ecosmart LED bulbs dimmable?
Not all Ecosmart LED bulbs are dimmable. The bulbs that come in the bright blue multicolor boxes are dimmable. They also cost a little bit more, because they are more complicated and more expensive to manufacture.
If you look on the lower shelves in the lighting section, you may notice some bulbs in unassuming brown packaging. Brown, like an old fashioned paper grocery bag, with mostly black print and a couple of orange highlights. They are easy to overlook. They cost about $2 less.
It’s the same retail trick grocery stores use, putting name brand canned vegetables in colorful packaging up higher where you can see them, and generic equivalents in dull packaging on the shelf close to the floor, where they take extra effort to reach or to even see.
These cheaper bulbs aren’t dimmable. So if you want dimmable bulbs, don’t buy the ones in the brown box. Buy the ones in the bright blue box.
That’s not to say the ones on the brown box don’t have their uses. Besides costing less, they also use about 10% less energy. Being simpler to make, it means they’re also more energy efficient. Their life expectancy is also about 30% shorter, so the question becomes whether you want to save a bit of energy, or pay 25% more for 30% longer lifespan.
Are Ecosmart light bulbs LED?
Home Depot really pushes the Ecosmart LED light bulbs. But Ecosmart does also sell compact fluorescent light bulbs. The LED bulbs get a little bit better placement in the store, with the CFLs shoved off to the side and sometimes with a floor display sitting in front of them. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t get mixed up sometimes. We’ve accidentally bought compact fluorescent bulbs when we meant to buy LED bulbs, so double check the packaging before you put it in the cart.
I didn’t mind compact fluorescent bulbs nearly as much as some people did, but LED bulbs do last longer, use less energy, and they don’t emit UV the way compact fluorescent bulbs did. I do find the light from some LED bulbs a bit more harsh, but Ecosmarts are less harsh than many others I used. And using lamp shades and light fixtures with diffusers helps tone down any LED bulb a bit. It’s a trade-off, but lasting longer and being more energy efficient is worth the trade-off.
Are Ecosmart LED bulbs any good?
Years ago, I suspected my LED bulbs were failing prematurely. So I started writing the date that I bought them on the bulb. After I started doing this, I realized the bulbs weren’t failing as quickly as I thought they were. Or at least they stopped burning out prematurely as soon as I started writing the date on them.
Some of the bulbs I am replacing today are 10 or 11 years old.
The Ecosmart bulbs don’t last that long. They last about five years under the same conditions.
So the Ecosmart bulbs don’t have the longevity of the bulbs they are replacing. On the other hand, I can buy four bulbs in a package for $10 today. The first LED bulbs I bought cost $20 each.
Ecosmarts turn on faster than the older bulbs they’re replacing and the light is less harsh, and more evenly distributed.
Were the old bulbs better? More durable, yes. Better quality light, no. More energy efficient, no.
LED bulbs were expensive to make at first, and it also makes sense that they were made better, because the manufacturers didn’t want them to fail early. They wanted people like me to buy them and tell everyone how great they were, and they knew that if I was paying $20 for a bulb and it burned out in 6 months, I wouldn’t be telling people how great they were.
But the new bulbs are somewhat more efficient than the bulbs they are replacing, and they cost a lot less. And that’s the price without any subsidies. Sometimes utility companies subsidize the cost of energy efficient bulbs because it lowers the demands on their power plants. It is cheaper to get people to use more efficient light bulbs than it is to build additional power plants.
If you don’t like the idea of buying store brand light bulbs, you can do what I do. When you buy the bulbs, make sure you get an electronic receipt at checkout. That way you have the receipt in your email. Write down the purchase date on the bulb with a permanent marker. Also write down the length of the warranty. At the time I’m writing this, it’s 5 years, which has been pretty standard on LED bulbs for a while.
If a bulb fails, find the receipt in your email. You’ll know what date to look for, because it’s written down on the bulb. Then take the bulb back to the store.
Actually, I don’t do that part. I haven’t had one fail within warranty yet. All of the bulbs that I’ve been replacing have been about five and a half years old.
Do Ecosmart bulbs last?
Ecosmart light bulbs are rated for 10,000 or 13,000 hours, depending on whether you buy the ones in the brown package or the ones in the fancier package. In the past, bulbs were rated for more like 25,000.
The life expectancy on the package of 10 or 13 years is based on 1,000 hours of use per year. That works out to about 3 hours per day. I have some bulbs that may only get that much usage, but I have others that get closer to 12.
When I do the math, I’m finding the Ecosmarts are lasting their rated 10,000 hours, but in high traffic areas like the kitchen, 10,000 hours is more like 5 years than 10.
Also remember, incandescent bulbs lasted about 900 hours. Total. So they lasted around 3 months. I think we pay more attention to bulb life expectancy now because we expect more, and that 10 year claim on the package sounds outlandish.
Are Ecosmart LED bulbs smart?
The cheap Ecosmart LED bulbs that cost about the same as legacy incandescent bulbs are not smart. I’m fine with that. Smart bulbs use more power, and they use that power all the time for adjustments you rarely make. I’m also not wild about the idea of having all of my light bulbs on my wifi. I’m aware of the challenges keeping smart devices secure from my experience in my day job. There’s a serious lack of professionals who even know the names of the tools used for that, let alone who know how to use them.
If you must put your light bulbs, your smoke detectors, your TVs, your refrigerator, your dishwasher, your garbage disposal, and your garage door opener on your wifi, please put them on a guest network to contain the potential damage. Right now the danger is more theoretical than practical. But the data I’m seeing indicates the number of bad actors hacking into consumer devices is increasing, and if anyone knows why that is, they aren’t talking.
Even if you don’t care about all of that, consider this. That wifi functionality adds a great deal of complexity. That additional complexity brings opportunity for malfunctions and premature burning out. If you’ve decided that keeping a printer on your network isn’t worth the trouble because you don’t print enough and printers are too hard to troubleshoot, wifi light bulbs fall into that same category.
But for now, Ecosmart bulbs are the only bulbs that aren’t smart that I can buy at the store closest to me. That’s a selling point in their favor.