Philips’ new LED bulbs are cheap but have caveats

Later this week, Philips will be releasing a new, cheap LED bulb at an introductory rate of $5 for a pack of two. They are 800 lumen bulbs, equivalent to a 60w incandescent in light output, use 8.5 watts to give off an impressive 94 lumens per watt, and have a color temperature of 2700K that’s comparable to a soft white incandescent.

Sound good? It ought to, but there’s a catch. Often there is.

Catch #1: Dimmability. These bulbs aren’t compatible with most dimmers. Some people are able to dim them, but don’t count on it. Often cheap bulbs aren’t dimmable, and that permits a lower cost and better power efficiency. That’s fine, as long as you know up front. Don’t count on these bulbs working with your dimmer.

Catch #2: Longevity. Most LED bulbs are rated to last 22,000-25,000 hours. These are rated to last 11,000 hours, about half as long. That’s still 11 times as long as an incandescent and in the high end of the CFL range. For $2.50, that’s probably OK–the bulb will last 3 years under heavy use and by then we’ll have better bulbs available, and the bulb will save you several dollars by being cheaper to run than the other alternatives available today. And keep your receipt–I haven’t had great luck with low-end Philips bulbs. I’m more inclined to take a chance at $2.50 than at $10, though.

My recommendation: Buy a two-pack. The idea is to produce an inexpensive bulb that people will be willing to try, and at $5 for a pair, these will do that. Philips hopes you’ll try one in the laundry room and one in another low-risk area like the garage or a hallway. If they’re anything like other modern 2700K LEDs, you’ll move them into other rooms soon enough–you’ll like them too much to waste them on the laundry room.

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