Saturday, November 06, 2010

Product Review: Ecosmart LED Lightbulbs

I have been struggling with the appropriate light bulbs for the recessed lights in our kitchen since we moved in over two years ago. The previous owners had traditional flood lights installed which heated up the kitchen like McNuggets under a heat lamp. So I switched to CFLs, as I am want to do. But there were two problems. First, the kitchen lights are on a dimmer switch and CFLs, at least all those with which I am familiar, are not dimmable (they just switch from on to off and when the dimmer switch isn't totally on, they buzz at the resonant frequency of my frontal lobe). Second, with six CFLs, the kitchen was as bright as the surface of the sun. So I had put off replacing light bulbs in there until we were literally down to one functioning light bulb. I ventured to Home Depot this week to see if I could find a solution to my lighting conundrum. And I think I did . . . LED light bulbs.

The brand is Ecosmart, which I'm 98% sure is Home Depot's brand. They're made in the U.S.A., which is just lovely. I bought three different bulbs, each with a different watt equivalency: 40, 60, and 75. They look pretty different too. The 40 watt equivalent LED bulb, pictured above, looks the most like a standard light bulb. Actually, it looks more like those bulbs that are supposed to go in bathroom vanity lights. The other two look like medium and large halogen bulbs. But all three fit in my standard sized recessed fixtures.

I thought that the 40 watt equivalent might be too dim for the kitchen. I was wrong. When the dimmer is set to maximum the kitchen is as bright as the surface of the sun, which is totally cool when you're trying to do delicate cooking procedures or cleaning . . . which this totally makes you realize you need to do a lot more frequently and vigorously. I'm guessing they would also be excellent at staving off Seasonal Affective Disorder. But unlike the flood lights, the room temperature does not seem to be affected by the blazing light. More importantly, you can actually use the dimmer switch to make the light significantly less intense, which is nice for when you're just working on your morning bowl of cereal. I am very happy with their dimmability thusfar.

According to the box, these give off light at about 3000K (correlated color temperature), so they right between warm light and bright white light. They certainly don't seem as blue as fluorescents, and I don't think they're as blue as CFLs. They're not as yellow as conventional bulbs, but I kinda like the slightly more daylight accurate nature of non-conventional bulbs anyway. That way your food that looks great in the kitchen still looks great at the backyard barbecue.

Another reason I'm interested in moving toward LEDs from CFLs is I'm kinda wigged out by the mercury in CFLs. LEDs don't contain mercury. So I'm definitely thinking I might change the light bulbs most in danger of being broken, like those in floor lamps, to LEDs from CFLs.

One ginormous caveat: these LED light bulbs are expensive to purchase. The 40 watt equivalent LED bulbs cost $29.97 each. The 60 watt equivalent LED bulbs cost $39.97. The 75 watt equivalent LED bulbs cost $44.97. That said, they claim 50,000 hour lifespans. Based on the manufacturer's calculations the 60 watt equivalent bulb uses $75.00 of electricity over its lifespan while a 60W halogen bulb uses $360 over the sam period resulting in a savings of $285.00 per bulb. I believe that calculation is solely based on kilowatt hour usage, so it doesn't include the cost of replacing the comparable light bulb multiple times. For example, over the 50,000 hour lifespan of this LED light, you would have to replace a CFL at least 3 times. So I think if we ever move out of this house, we're taking these light bulbs with us.

Another caveat: these LED light bulbs interfere with radio communications. We don't get great radio reception here to begin with, but now, when the LED lights are on in the kitchen, the radios throughout the house get even more static. They do not seem to interfere with our baby monitor, cordless phones, or wi-fi.

A little more technical data for you:
The 40 watt equivalent LED bulbs output 450 lumens and use 8 watts of energy. So their lumens per watt is 56, which is apparently some wonderful measure of luminous efficiency at least as good as a CFL. The luminous efficiency of the 75 watt equivalent LED bulb is 47, so if you don't actually need to perform brain surgery, you should probably stick with the 40 watt equivalent LED bulb. The color accuracy for all the LED bulbs I looked at on the Color Rendering Index is 85, which seems to be good as that's out of 100.

Long story short: other than the hefty upfront cost and the static on my radio, I love my new LED light bulbs.

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Terri said...

Hmm... I'll have to try those! And don't worry about the mercury too much. I bit through at least 5 mercury thermometers back in the day and I'm fine.

Really. I'm fine....