Sunday, May 1, 2011

New LED Lights

One of my very first posts (here, published in November, 2009) was on a new LED light bulb. Though it was advertised as a 60 watt equivalent, it is 40 watts at best. These bulbs being what they are (namely, that they last 50 years) I still have both bulbs in light fixtures in areas that don't require much light.

Last weekend, I was busy collecting track light fixtures and bulbs for our new track lights at Home Depot and I ran across new LED bulbs that are also rated at 60 watt equivalent, in a indoor spotlight form factor.  These bulbs are, like the ones I bought 2 years ago, not cheap: $50 apiece, but they are supposed to last 50 years, for $1/year of light. Contrast that with CFLs, which run around $10 and are supposed to last for 5-8 years, for around $1.25-$2/year, and the LED lights seem a relative bargain. But, having been once burned, I was twice shy so I took the plunge on three: two large spots and one small one.

The large spots are Ecosmart brand, marketed by Phillips but manufactured by Cree:
 Unlike the Pharonx bulbs, these have a large plastic fitting around them, maybe a heat radiator?:
Here you can see it installed in one of the track light heads:
The bulbs might be ecosmart, but the way they are delivered was ecostupid. Here's the trash that was left over from one bulb:
I also bought a small spot, equivalent to a halogen bulb, for a pendant lamp for the upstairs front bedroom. Here you can see it next to the halogen bulb it replaces:
The halogen bulb is rated at 50 watts while the LED is rated at 5, for the same amount of light.

For the rest of the track heads, I bought a discount box of CFLs:

Strangely enough, I have to say I like the CFLs better. Contrary to what most people say, the light they give off is softly diffused and slightly yellowish, while the LED light is white and glaring, like normal halogen or incandescent spots. Since we use  spots through out the house, not having them glare into your eyes when you happen look their way is important. CFLs don't seem to glare as much.

When I was done with my task of separating the bulbs from their packaging material and installing them, I was left with a big pile of trash:
That's three subpiles: film plastic,  thicker plastic bubble wrap, and cardboard.  Theoretically, it is all recyclable and we have good recycling in our town, but did they have to include so much?


  1. LEDs are much more of a point source (or arrays of point sources) than CFLs, since the light comes from a small semiconductor junction. Therefore they will appear to be (and actually are) less diffuse than CFLs. Glass, reflector, and lens treatments can affect the ultimate perception, but LEDs are basically point sources.

    Aside from light quality, I was left wondering if the new LEDs lived up to their light output expectations, unlike the ones you purchased in 2009.

  2. Hi Brent,

    Your observations on LEDs are right on. We have track lighting in many of our rooms and have been populating the tracks with CFL spots to replace the incandescents there when we moved into the house. When the spots are CFLs, there is no glare if you happen to look in the direction of the light when you enter the room. It's like a fluorescent tube fixture, since the light comes from the entire bulb. But like incandescents, LEDs, as you say, are point sources, so there is glare if you happen to look in that direction.

    Regarding the light quality, these lights are much better than the ones we bought 2 years ago. I believe I can confidently say the light quality is equivalent to a 60 watt incandescent or halogen light. I think LEDs now are good value, if you need the kind of point source they provide. We are using them to illuminate a picture, where they are directed in such a way to avoid having people look at them.

    Now wonder how much of the generally reported dissatisfaction with CFLs has to do with the nonpoint source nature of their light? Of course, there are other problems with CFLs: they take some time (but not much these days) to come up to full brightness and they can't be dimmed unless you get a special (and more expensive) dimmable bulb. Finally, there is the issue of mercury. These won't go away, but at least the price of CFLs is now much lower than when we started buying them 15 years ago.

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