Improved LED lightbulbs

September 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
When it comes to lightbulbs, almost 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.

In Consumer Reports test lab, lightbulbs are turned on and off every 2 minutes. Some CFLs burned out. But all the LEDs are still going strong after 200,000 cycles. And 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. Consumer Reports found that some LEDs have the same warm glow as incandescent bulbs.

But not all LED bulbs are stellar. The MiracleLED that claims to be equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent is 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 or more per bulb. But they're designed to last so long, 23 years or more, so Consumer Reports says that you'll likely save about $130 over their lifetime.

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.

So which LEDs are best? Among 60-watt equivalents, Consumer Reports top-rated two, the EcoSmart from Home Depot, which produces a white light, and the 12.5-watt Philips that has a warmer, yellower light. Both cost around $25.