LED Product Directory
- LED Display
- LED Bulb
- LED Ceiling Light
- LED Down Light
- LED Energy Saving Light
- LED Flashlight
- LED Floodlight
- LED Garden Light
- LED Headlamp
- LED Lantern
- LED Light
- LED Solar Light
- LED Spotlight
- LED Street Light
- LED Strip
- LED Table Lamp
- LED Tube
- LED Underwater Light
- LED Wall Light
LED bulbs are one of the best gifts you can give to someone this holiday season. Why?
1. Manufacturers have only relatively recently started selling bulbs in the $20-$30 range at retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s so there’s a very good chance that your intended recipient doesn’t own one yet.
2. Quality has dramatically improved in the last few years. Gone is the bluish “alien autopsy” light of older LED bulbs. Now most put out a warm, white light that is more pleasing than CFLs and close to the aesthetics of incandescents.
3. Nonetheless, the marketing has been weak—it remains a bit of challenge to find LEDs amid the numerous racks of light bulbs out there—so the odds remain low that a fellow shopper will try to pepper spray you or snag your selection out of your cart before you get to the counter.
4. LED bulbs are practical: they use 1/5th to 1/10th the power of conventional incandescents and ½ the power of CFLs. But it’s also the kind of gift that won’t provoke feelings of guilt or an outpouring of emotion. It sends the ideal message to the people you want to remember at this special time of year, but not get too chummy with.
5. LED bulbs make great conversation starters. Look at the comments following most news stories on LEDs. Will they help us curb energy consumption and greenhouse gases or are they a front for worldwide socialist domination? Everyone has an opinion.
6. The science and future implications behind them is quite interesting. Solid state lighting marks the biggest sea change in lighting since Edison unveiled his bulb to the public nearly 132 years ago.
7. They already probably have an aluminum tub filled with popcorn.
8. And finally, the variety is far greater than you think. Most of the light emitting diodes—the chip inside of the bulb that actually produces light— inside the bulbs on U.S. shelves come from a few manufacturers like Osram and Cree. The bulbs, however, differ wildly because of the other components and optical systems. It’s similar to the computer market: nearly all of them have the same processors, but each has its own personality.
Over the past year, I’ve tested a bunch of bulbs. If you’re going to buy, here are some recommendations.
1. Cree-Home Depot EcoSmart downlight. The corner of our garage that passes for a laundry room has never looked more dazzling thanks to this Home Depot-branded Cree bulb. If I am working at home and the cleaning woman comes, I work by the washing machine. Call me crazy, but it’s the best light bulb I’ve ever seen. It consumes 10.5 watts and costs $39.97and washes the garage in a creamy yellow-white light.
The problem? It’s a downlight and it doesn’t fit in lamps or many ceiling cans. An interior version of this bulb would be a huge hit. (Note: earlier I called it a spotlight. See photo. In lighting parlance, it’s a downlight because of how the light gets directed.)
2. Lighting Science’s Definity Bulbs. Lighting Science Group (LSG) is one of the more innovative companies in the market. It encouraged big box retailers to start selling LEDs. It is working on a bulb with Google that can be controlled with an Android phone. Next year, it will release a $15 LED bulb that puts out as much light as a 60 watt-incandescent. It also hopes to market LED bulbs that can help you sleep better and clean your bathroom in the coming years.
LSGsells everything from spotlights to typical bulbs and mushroom-shaped “omnidirectional” bulbs. The quality is top notch and the prices are low: retail prices range from $10 to $50, depending on power, light output and configuration. It sells under its own brand and the Home Depot EcoSmart label. That 40-watt equivalent LED for $9.97 that last year would have gone for 20? It’s from LSG. There are a few flaws: the $9.97 bulb can buzz in certain dimmer sockets and the $25 60-watt equivalent isn’t as bright as some, but when it comes to the price/performance ratio, the company is tough to beat.
3. The EnhanceLite from LEDnovation. The Tampa-based company demonstrates why a bulb is more than the sum of its parts. LEDnovation inserts LEDs from Osram into its bulb, similar to other manufacturers, but the optical systems and components it combines with those chips result in the Alfa Romeo of bulbs. If you stare at most LED bulbs, you can pick out the actual LEDs:you can’t with the EnhanceLite. It puts out a large amount of warm light and distributes it evenly. The 60-watt equivalent consumes about 6 watts, making it more energy efficient than most other LED bulbs.
Plus, the company wraps the whole thing in a stylish aluminum heat sinks with a nice paint job.
The problem? They aren’t easy to find—the company will ramp up production in 2012—and that means a somewhat high retail price. I’ve seen these sell in the $60 to $90 range. For now, a bulb strictly for connoisseurs.
4. The Noribachi Topaz. Similar story to the EnhanceLite: a fine, upscale bulb that is really priced only for bulb nuts right now. The heat sink is orange, giving it a bit of flair. It puts out a little more light than the omnidirectional Lighting Science bulb but costs nearly double at $45 to $50
5. The Pharox line from Lemnis Lighting. With Lemnis, you start to get into more generic bulbs. The Pharox bulbs might put out a little bit less light than the others above it on the list, but they still consume less power than incandescents or CFLs. The Pharox 400—which gives off more like than a 40 watt but less than a 60 watt—costs $20 to $25 online. It’s the Honda Civic of bulbs. More powerful bulbs were expected earlier in the fall but apparently have been delayed. Lemnis seems to have an inventive team, support from investors and a founder that comes from the Philips family so they are a name to watch.
6. The EnduraLED from Philips. Philips has won prizes for its LED breakthroughs. It’s also one of the oldest and largest names in lighting. Unfortunately, the bulbs sold to consumers, or at least the one I tested,fall a bit short. The light is a bit orange and the bulb doesn’t emit as much light as some others, but sell for about the same price. Philips has a 60 watt equivalent on the market for $24.97 and a 75 watt for $39.97.
Plus, the heat sink (see photo) looks disturbing. You don’t the design in lamps (where the bulb works best) but you can’t help but stare in a ceiling light. My wife calls it the Hannibal Lecter face mask bulb. Some bulb aficionados have told me to try the EnduraLED again. The technology continues to improve, but for now it ranks below other options.
7. General Electric. Two things to note. First, it costs $34.98, or more than other bulbs that put out 450 odd lumens (call it a 40 watt plus equivalent bulb). Second, the bulb is surrounded by a claw. Unless you’re going for that deranged magician look, the other options might be more appealing.
8. Switch. Switch, formerly SuperBulbs, burst out of stealth mode earlier this year with one of the wackiest LED bulbs yet: a liquid filled bulb. One of the chronic problems with LED bulbs is that the LEDs emit heat, lots of it. Most manufacturers wrap their bulbs in aluminum heat sinks to ameliorate the problem, but they also have to take other measures. Typically, the put in more LEDs than necessary and run them as less than optimal power levels.
The liquid inside Switch’s bulb changes that. The liquid, perhaps a basic mineral oil, helps dissipate heat by continually circulating. (Switch initially wanted to use gel, but gel doesn’t circulate.) Better heat flow lets Switch use fewer chips but run them at higher voltages, thereby increasing performance and reducing cost at the same time.
Plus, it’s intriguing. You actually end up staring at the bulb: the insides look like the city from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Others are working on liquid bulbs, but Switch could be the first in retail.
The problem? The bulbs are expected before the year end, but aren’t out yet. So keep looking. When they hit, they could jump to the top of the list.
9. MSI. The tiny company has locked up major contracts to install LED spotlights in Macy’s stores. One of the key attractions: a ring at the base of the bulb that allows you to adjust power consumption and light output.
While the ring adds a technical nuance, the optics and light output were middling in the sample we tried. We also tried an MSI pendant light. Both delivered a sort of a sterile, “hands behind your back” light similar to a police flashlight.
10. VU1. The VU1 bulb is actually not a solid state light source. Instead, the bulb contains a tiny electron gun that shoots energy at a phosphor, similar to how old tube TVs work. The idea is that the bulb will last a long time, consume little power, but won’t cost as much as LEDs. Despite several delays, VU1 now ships products.
We screwed it in. Immediately, we noticed two things. First, it wasn’t very bright. Second, we all looked green. Not vibrant, Incredible Hulk green. It was more like wearing pale green swim goggles, or looking at life from the inside of a stomach liner. We took it out immediately.
11. Lumiette. Another non-LED company with a television background. Lumiette’s bulb is based around a fluorescent technology devised in South Korea originally for TVs in the 90s. The selling point is supposed to be price and lifetime. The bulbs are supposed to last 35,000 hours or more, or as long as an LED, but cost half as much.
We put one in a ceiling canister. It produced far less than the other bulbs on the listand the light was a slightly dingy yellow. And after two minutes we heard a pop. It stopped working. Come to think of it, I saw this happen in a Lumiette demo in 2009.
If you need a strong argument for LEDs, there’s another.