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What’s the Best LED Light Bulb?

LED bulbs are great. They use a little less energy than CFLs (about 1/6th of what incandescents use) and last longer (around 20 years). And people tend to prefer them to CFLs, because they don’t contain mercury or have a discernible flicker.

Earlier this year we put out an RFP for a lighting distributor at work, and while we were discussing which light bulbs to choose for the program I felt woefully underinformed. I only had one in my own house (the result of a home energy assessment). So I got five different kinds and tested them  out. There are LEDs for almost any type of bulb you can think of, but all of these bulbs are dimmable replacements for 60-watt incandescents—the most common kind in my house. They were, from best to worst:

l_7157Phillips 11-Watt A19 LED – This was amazing. Its design was the prettiest—slimmer than an incandescent, smaller and lighter than the other bulbs. It dims well and has a warm light. Its directions say it shouldn’t be used in completely enclosed fixtures, because the heat will shorten its lifespan, but I ended up using it in my enclosed fixtures anyway, because I liked it the best. If you live in Massachusetts, your local utility buys down the cost of this bulb to make it more affordable—just $7.50.

51dGBqOxv0L._SL1000_Phillips 10-Watt A19 LED – This bulb won the U.S. Department of Energy’s L Prize, which encouraged lighting companies to design an affordable LED replacement for 60-watt incandescents. It’s weird looking, but cool. It has the warmest light, uses less power, and has a longer lifespan than the 11-watt. Like the 11-watt it’s dimmable and isn’t designed to be used in enclosed fixtures. I’m not sure this is available anymore, since the 11-watt is Phillips’ newer, more affordable version.

s_8388TCP LED Dim A Lamp – This is completely unobjectionable. Of all the bulbs, it’s shaped the most like an incandescent. It’s not as warm a light as the two Phillips, but much better than any CFLs that I’ve seen. Like the first two, it’s dimmable and isn’t designed to be used in enclosed fixtures. This is another bulb where your local utility buys down the cost (to $6.25), and it’s most likely the kind you’ll get during a home energy assessment.

71yDWOycm8L._SL1500_Rambus A19 LED – This bulb’s light is as warm as the TCP’s. Of all the bulbs, it diffused light best into the corners of the room.It’s also dimmable. However it’s big, heavy, and weird looking and the ceramic base of it got hot quickly. But this is because the base disperses the heat better than the first three, so it’s designed to be used in an enclosed fixture. It costs around $20.

71xth4u5t+L._SL1500_Bright Value LED A Lamp – Like the Rambus, this is designed for an enclosed fixture, so it’s also big, heavy, and weird looking. However, although it was advertised as dimmable, it wasn’t any more dimmable than a CFL, flickering and going out halfway. It costs around $15.

It can be confusing to figure out what bulb to get if you’re used to thinking of them in terms of watts (or how much energy they use). With all the different kinds of light bulbs out there, it makes more sense to think of them in terms of lumens (or how much light they give off). 800 lumens is the equivalent of the old 60-watt light bulbs—and it actually seems brighter than that to me.

Do you have LED bulbs that you prefer? Let me know which ones and why!


Comment from Piero
Time January 7, 2015 at 4:50 pm

I kitted my house out with the 60SMD ones, a fraction of the cost of the ones in shops and really are very bright!

Don’t get ripped off buying crummy retail ones…

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