CFL and LED comparo

With incandescent light bulbs going the way of Disco Music, what should you buy?  A regular old edison bulb like we have known for years is under $1 at most stores.  A compact florescent or CFL is anywhere from $3 to $6 depending on the brand and store.  LED’s can be up to $30.  So are they worth it?

LED Light

I have to say I am a self-professed tech nerd.  I like anything that saves time or energy.  The idea of a solar house and an electric car off the grid is intriguing to say the least  Lighting controls are one of my favorite home automation toys.  Even the simple ones like motion switches are cool to me.  I don’t mean the cheapo ones that you have to keep waving your hands to keep the lights on, I mean the nice commercial grade units.  Setting up your house to turn lights on and off all by itself is a nice feature.  Hitting the “all off” switch with a cool remote going to bed is really cool too.  The problem is they don’t play nice with CFL lights most of the time.   I don’t want to ever be in a dark room, but I am one of those people that always has my hands full.  Sorry, I am too lazy to make two trips mom…

Anyway,  I found that CFL lights just don’t play nice with automation and more importantly, they don’t dim “naturally”.  When you run the dimmer down about 50% you still get about 80% of the light.  When I set the dimmer down to 20% a couple of rooms start flickering and a couple of rooms just turn off.   In my kitchen where there are 8 can lights they dim to a point then turn off one at a time until the last three blink.  It is really strange.

The Reliability of CFL bulbs hasn’t been the greatest either.  In three months, 5 have failed already.  Some go with a “pop” others just stop.  I have a chandelier in the stairwell that is up high so changing a bulb is a hour long event just waiting for an OSHA inspector to knock on the door.

In the interim, I found a really cool solution, LED lights.  I still can’t figure out how LED light bulbs “don’t give off heat” and yet most of them have fins large enough to cool an Porsche Speedster engine.  The LED bulbs I used this time are quite a bit heavier than the review I did three years ago.  When I put the first one in a can light, as soon as I let go, the adjustment let go and the thing dropped 2 inches with a pretty good bang.  It almost scared me off the ladder.  So I made sure to add “tighten wing nuts inside can” as step 2 to my replacement checklist.

The LED lights are not quite as bright so check the Lumens to see what you are really getting.  What I really like about the LED lights is they do dim very nicely.  Even at nearly $30 a bulb, I have already replaced over half of the CFL’s in the house.  The rest I will swap out as the CFL bulbs fail. My electric bill is now down to $50 for a 2500 square foot home.  That I like too.

I also tested the Sylvania, Phillips, and EcoSmart brands.  EcoSmart is Home Depot’s house brand.  The EcoSmart LED Bulbs are by far the heaviest of the bulbs and I have been getting them from the clearance rack for testing.  I don’t know why so many have been returned.  All of the clearance LED lights are still working fine and at 25% off it was worth a try.  Another great things, so far 0% failure.  Every brand has performed perfectly for at least 3 months now.  I have never had a 100% success rate with CFL after even 3 days let alone 3 months.  If it means less ladders on stairs, then the price might be a bargan.

If anyone has use the Lights of America bulbs from Costco post what you think please.  Two years ago, Costco pulled the first Lights of American PAR 30 bulbs because they failed quickly.  I just don’t have a place to try the new replacement bulbs out yet.  I already put the Phillips LED in all of my porch lights.

I have used PAR 20, PAR 30, Bulb Replacement, and I have not used the little candelabra LED bulbs.  My neighbors replaced all the lights in the coach lights on their drive way (non-dimming) and they have been working fine for a year now. The light isn’t as even as some of the other bulbs with creates a nice “sparkle” effect at night.  I am not sure this is what you want in the house though.

Yesterday walking through a big box store I saw a dimmer switch made for CFL lights, and I think I will give it a try as soon as the three way version is available. The bottom line is that each type of light has an application, and the choice really depends on what you are using it for and the cost. If you just want to save money, and aren’t using a dimmer and the bulbs are easy to replace, CFL will save you money in the long run.  If you need to dim, or the bulbs are very difficult to change, it appears that LED is the way to go even with the hefty price tag.

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