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.

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Home Depot’s Ecosmart 40w replacement is a good $5 LED bulb

So I took the plunge and bought a package of the Ecosmart 40w equivalent soft white LED bulbs last week. As long as you’re aware that it’s not dimmable–let me repeat that, it’s not dimmable–it’s a really good bulb, especially at $10 for a package of two, assuming no local subsidies.

For $5 each, you get 450 lumens of soft white light while consuming only 6 watts of power.

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Compact fluorescent life expectancy

There’s a lot of talk about compact fluorescent life expectancy. I actually tracked my CFL lifespan. Here’s what I found.

I noticed this week that a compact fluorescent bulb in the kitchen had burned out, so this week I bought an LED bulb to replace it. I started writing the dates on bulbs back in 2008 so I could track how long they last. This particular bulb was dated 1-2011. So the bulb lasted 3 years, 8 months. That’s a lot better than a standard incandescent light bulb. I suspect I may have had CFL bulbs last less time than that, but I know I’ve had bulbs last longer, too. The most recent bulb I replaced prior to this one was from 2008.

If your CFL bulbs are burning out early, here are some tips. They work. Remember, my bulbs lasted three years or more.

I have about 16 CFL bulbs left in the house now, and I’ll continue using those until they die. I have around 28 LED bulbs. All in all I prefer LED; they give more lumens per watt, tend to reach full brightness faster, and generally give off a better quality of light, but the biggest advantage–an advantage they have over incandescent bulbs as well–is the complete lack of ultraviolet light so they don’t fade the paint on your walls or the stuff hanging on your walls. Supposedly they don’t attract bugs either, but that seems to not be entirely true. Still, cutting down on ultraviolet light and saving money are good things.

Cree releases a $20 100W-equivalent LED bulb–but do you want one?

Cree joined Phillips in offering an LED bulb in the 1600-lumen class, suitable for replacing 100W incandescents. The Cree bulb costs $5 less than the Phillips competitor, in unsubsidized markets. (Many utilities subsidize energy efficient bulbs because it’s cheaper than building more power plants. Really.)

I own several Cree 60W equivalents and I’m very happy with them. They’ve been dependable, the price is reasonable, the quality of light is outstanding, they turn on instantly, and, believe it or not, they’re designed and built in the United States.

Now that Cree has four different bulbs at different ratings and three different price points, I weighed the pros and cons of each. Read more

Another month, another go-to LED bulb

LED lighting seems to change constantly. I read about Cree’s LED bulbs a good 12-18 months ago and they sounded too good to be true. In a way, they were, because you couldn’t buy them anywhere. The wait is finally over–they’re finally available, though only at Home Depot. I tried out their 800-lumen (60W equivalent), 2700K, 9.5W bulb, which currently costs about $13. It’s a good bulb that lives up to the hype.

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The lightbulb reinvented

Timothy Hunt asked me (via Twitter) if I’ve seen the lightbulb reinvented, an LED bulb that screws into a standard socket but has wi-fi capability so you can tune its light temperature and otherwise control it with a smartphone.

I hadn’t. But I found it interesting, and appreciate the mention. Read more

When to upgrade to new LED bulbs

PC Magazine asks when it’s worth upgrading to the new Philips L Prize-winning LED bulb, lamenting its high price and long payback time. I can only say what I plan to do, based on my experience with high-efficiency bulbs. I was one of those guys paying $9 for CFL bulbs nearly a decade ago. Read more

I got an LED bulb, and it is fabulous.

I half-heartedly checked Home Depot’s web site today, and saw they had 429-lumen, 8.6-watt (40W equivalent) LED bulbs at my local store. Finally!

So when I had a chance, I drove over, plunked down my 19 bucks, and brought one home.

It’s not perfect. But I like it an awful lot.I tried the bulb out in a lamp first, to test the light quality. It’s very similar to the last batch of CFLs I bought. Not quite as yellow as my remaining incandescent bulbs, but nice.

It’s not quite bright enough to use in a lamp, and it’s fairly directional. You’ll want at least a 60W equivalent for that, and probably more. Give it time.

In my son’s bedroom, the light worked great. It works nicely in overhead lights, and it’s dimmable. Dimmable CFLs are expensive and hard to find, so I might as well buy LED bulbs instead since they use less power and last 2-3 times as long.

In operation, I found the LED bulb never got uncomfortably hot to the touch.

LED bulbs produce no UV light, so they won’t attract bugs and they won’t cause the pictures on your walls to fade. That sounds like a plus to me.

And, believe it or not, they’re assembled in the USA. Presumably most of the components, if not all of them, are made in China, but LED bulbs are one of the few things you can buy that support manufacturing jobs here in the States.

The bulbs have a five-year warranty. I suggest saving the receipt and perhaps the packaging, and writing the date of purchase on the base of the bulb in pencil. That way if the bulb fails prematurely, you can do something about it.

The 46-year life expectancy claim sounds overly optimistic, but 15-20 years wouldn’t surprise me.

I suggest you “burn in” the bulb by leaving it on for 24 hours straight. Like any other electronic device, if it survives that first 24 hours of running continuously, it’s likely to last years.

If the bulb is going in a bedroom or someplace else where leaving it on for 24 hours is impractical, put it in a lamp and leave the lamp on for 24 hours, then install the bulb where you intend to use it.

At $19 a pop, I’m not going to run out to convert the whole house. But as old bulbs burn out, I’ll buy LEDs to replace them. As time goes on, they’ll only improve, and prices will come down. But these bulbs are good enough to be useful today.

The energy savings isn’t chump change–LED bulbs pay for themselves in a couple of years if they replace old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. Not only do you get more lumens per watt, but the less wattage you consume, the lower your cooling bills will be. I was an early adopter of CFLs–I have them everywhere but my kids’ rooms, and a seldom-used light in the shower of one bathroom. Between that, my thermal curtains, and a programmable thermostat, I haven’t had a $200 electric bill in years.

Energy isn’t going to get any cheaper, and we consume more of it per person than the rest of the world. We can voluntarily cut our energy usage, or we can wait for China and India to show up with guns and force the issue. I’d rather cut it voluntarily.

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