LED light bulbs score better than CFL lights in Consumer Reports testing

Consumer watchdog magazine, Consumer Reports (CR), has announced on Friday test results of compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL) and light emitting diode lightbulbs (LED) show significantly better test scores for LED’s over CFL’s. While LED’s are more expensive than CFL’s, Consumer Reports recommends their purchase, and recommends the purchase of either over incandescent bulbs, because of energy savings. The majority of Americans who buy energy efficient lightbulbs are buying compact fluorescent’s.

CR found good LED lightbulb choices in the $20-$60 price range, and found those from the EcoSmart, GE and Phillips brands to significantly outscore CFL bulbs in tests. Not all LED bulbs scored well in the tests. The cost of LED lights is significantly more than the price range of CFL light bulbs, from $1.25-$18, however LED bulbs will save about $130 in electricity costs over their 23 year life-span.

Both LED and CFL bulbs have an economic advantage over incandescent bulbs because of the money saving potential. Both consume less electricity to produce light, in other words both produce more lumens per Watt of electricity. The lumen is a measure of light output, while the Watt is a measure of electrical power. Producing more lumens per Watt is the correct way to measure the efficiency of a lightbulb. Because both LED and CFL bulbs are more efficient than incandescent bulbs, both cost less to operate on a day-to-day basis. Over time this cost savings ends up paying for the higher purchase price of the lightbulb.

The energy savings potential is an example of “dematerialization,” a concept referring to achieving the same result with a smaller expenditure of resources. Using an LED or CFL light does more than save money. Consuming less electricity also causes less electricity to be produced at the power plant. Since most electricity in the U.S. comes from burning Coal, less electricity consumption means less Coal is burned, and less coal ash and other pollutants are released.

According to Consumer Reports, LED lightbulbs have other advantages over CFL’s. They brighten instantly, and are not affected by repeatedly turning them on and off.

CR also delineated four common issues with both LED and CFL bulbs, along with preventative measures:

  1. Dim light: Make sure to look carefully at the package and choose bulbs based on the lumens they produce. To replace a 60 watt incandescent choose a bulb that produces at least 800 lumens, and to replace a 75 watt bulb, choose one that produces at least 1100 lumens.
  2. Weird light color: The common complaint of fluorescent lights is the bluish shade of light, versus the reddish shade of incandescent bulbs. Look for bulbs with a lower kelvin temperature (K). The higher the kelvin number the cooler (bluer) is the light, whereas incandescent bulbs are closer to 2700-3000K.
  3. Other light issues: The Color Rendering Index (CRI) of a light bulb indicates how accurately a lightbulb displays colors and the higher the better. Incandescent bulbs have a CRI near 100, while CFL’s and LED’s have a CRI near 80. You may have to look carefully to find the CRI number.
  4. Early burnout: Both CFL’s and LED’s have a long lifespan, but of course can burn out early, especially the CFL’s. Make sure to install the bulbs in a fixture they’re meant for. CFL’s, for example, generally cannot be put in a dimmable fixture. To return a burnt out bulb for a refund you must of course have the sales receipt.

The report is available now on ConsumerReports.org and will appear in the October 2012 issue going on sale in early September.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.
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About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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