Testing LED lightbulbs

August 23, 2012 2:32:05 PM PDT
When it comes to lightbulbs, nearly 75 percent of Americans are now using CFLs, according to a Consumer Reports survey. Far fewer have tried LEDs. They're expensive, but Consumer Reports tests show they're well worth considering.

Consumer Reports tested both types and says LEDs have some real advantages.

In the test, lightbulbs were turned on and off every two minutes. Some CFLs burnt out, but all the LEDs are still going strong after 200-thousand cycles.

Unlike CFLs, some LEDs can be dimmed as low as an incandescent bulb.

Another plus - they come to full brightness instantly.

Consumer Reports also tests lightbulbs' brightness and color temperature in this sphere. A computer analyzes the results.

"We found that some LEDs have the same warm glow as incandescent," Dan DiClerico of Consumer Reports said.

But not all LED bulbs are stellar. This Miracle-LED claims to be equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent. But it's not as bright as a 40-watt bulb. And while it's long lasting, it gives off a strange bluish-white light.

With all LEDs, the big disadvantage is the price. Many cost 20 dollars or more per bulb.

"LEDs are more expensive, but they're designed to last so long - 23 years or more - that you'll likely save about 130 dollars over their lifetime," DiClerico said.

So which LEDs are best? Among 60-watt equivalents, Consumer Reports top-rated two - this EcoSmart from Home Depot that produces a white light and this 12-point-5-watt Philips that has a warmer, yellower light. Both cost around 25 dollars.

Consumer Reports says prices of LEDs are coming down and are expected to continue to drop. And here's another plus. Unlike CFLs, LEDs don't contain any mercury. That means cleanup is easier if a bulb happens to break.

This report is based on an article in the current October 2012 issue of Consumer Reports magazine, pages 32-35. The issue will be on newsstands from September 4th to October 1st.

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