The new Philips 420240 10.5-watt 800-lumen LED bulb

I picked up a couple of the new Philips 10.5-watt 800-lumen LED bulbs this weekend. All around, they’re the best sub-$20 LED bulb I’ve seen yet.

They are the same size and shape as the 60-watt incandescent bulb they are designed to replace. They turn on immediately, at full (or very nearly full) brightness, and they don’t hum. They give off a warm white light that feels natural, though not quite as nice as Philips’ pricier bulbs. Philips has a soft white bulb, but it consumes more power and costs $5-$10 more.

The bulb’s packaging warns against using it with dimmers, though I sure thought the in-store literature said it works with certain dimmers. That doesn’t matter to me, as I only have two dimmers, and all the bulbs on those are in good working order.

The packaging also warns against use in enclosed fixtures. I have this theory, that you could perhaps make LEDs work better in enclosed fixtures if you ran a big piece of copper wire from one of the screws on the base of the fixture to the fins on the bulb in an effort to turn the fixture into a big heat sink. But with no fins, this bulb wouldn’t accommodate that potential solution. (Maybe I need to patent that idea, just in case it works.)

And speaking of those fins, I think the most distinctive thing about this bulb is its resemblance to the traditional light bulb shape. The heatsink is smooth and white, with no fins, so it doesn’t call much attention to itself. It just looks like a light bulb that’s been partially painted white for some reason.

And, unlike many 60W-equivalent bulbs, it uses less power than a CFL of comparable brightness. Not by a lot, mind you, but progress is progress. At 11 cents per KWh, the energy savings over a CFL is pretty much break-even, because you’ll save about $10 worth of electricity, and it will outlive two CFLs. But I don’t expect the cost of electricity to necessarily stay at 11 cents per KWh, either. In some parts of the country, where electricity is costlier, it’s an easier sell.

The other advantages of LEDs come into play with this bulb too. The bulb contains no mercury, and would be extremely difficult to break. I’m not going to drop one, but it’s a circuit board encased between a plastic lens and a metal heat sink. There’s no glass to shatter, and if it did break, it would probably separate into those discrete parts. And even if the plastic lens broke, the bulb probably would still work somewhat, with diminished light quality.

What about ultraviolet light? Unlike CFLs or even incandescents, they emit no ultraviolet light, so they won’t fade your furniture, your floor, or the pictures on your walls, or the paint on your walls.

So I have a new favorite LED bulb now.

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