After talking about LEDs last week, a friend asked what my favorite LED bulbs today are. I’m not sure I would say I dislike any of the bulbs that are widely available today, but I do have two favorites.
Cree. The 60W-equivalent Cree bulb is my favorite. The quality of light is good and it’s the most efficient bulb in its class that I’ve found so far. Three of them can comfortably light any room in my house while using a mere 28.5 watts total to do it. It also helps that it’s backed by an aggressive 10-year warranty. A comparable CFL bulb uses 14 watts, so the Cree is nearly 47% more efficient than a CFL. Its life expectancy is about double that of a CFL. It’s dimmable, fits anywhere a regular bulb fits, turns on quickly and puts out a good quality light. It’s a Home Depot exclusive, but it seems like there’s always a Home Depot fairly close. It’s also available in a 6-pack.
Philips. The Philips Slimstyle 60W equivalent is my second-favorite bulb. It uses 10.5 watts, so it’s not as efficient as the Cree, but it’s more widely available. You’ll either love or hate the shape, but it’s not necessarily visible anyway so that may not matter. It will fit anywhere a regular bulb fits. Like the Cree, it’s dimmable and gives off a very similar light to the Cree. It’s also available in a 4-pack. Its life expectancy is comparable to the Cree on paper, but it’s backed with a more conservative 3-year warranty.
Locally the Philips costs less than the Cree, but if the Cree is in stock I pony up the extra money for it since the lower wattage will more than make up for that extra dollar over the life of the bulb. I think a lot of people think the same way, because my local store runs out of the Cree bulbs every so often.
I like to pair LED bulbs up with occupancy sensor switches. This ensures the light is on only when someone is in the room, which increases life expectancy and saves money. I’ve had no problem with turning LED bulbs off and on frequently. In bathrooms where other bulbs die after a month or two due to usage patterns, my LEDs have lasted years. The cheapest occupancy sensor switch I know is made by Enerlites. I have two of them and can report they work well and don’t need a ground wire, which is nice, but this switch’s bulky size makes it harder to install than the Lutron Maestro, which is pricey but works extremely well.
I’ve heard people question how much less power modern bulbs really use. I can say this: My electric bill is lower today than it was when I bought this house in 2002, even though electricity costs more than it used to, and now four people live here instead of just me. When you cut bulb wattage from 60 watts to 10, it makes a big difference. I started buying CFL bulbs as soon as they became commonly available and somewhat affordable, and I noticed the difference quickly. The LED bulbs of today are nearly twice as efficient as the CFL bulbs of a decade ago, fit better in fixtures, and give off better light.