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Release Date: 08/23/2012

LEDs Outshine CFLs In Consumer Reports Latest Lightbulb Tests

Survey finds 75 percent of Americans currently use CFLs; replacing traditional incandescent bulbs with CFL or LEDs can save consumers $60 to $130

YONKERS, NY — In Consumer Reports latest tests, light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs) from EcoSmart, GE, and Philips earned significantly higher scores than most compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) — but not all LEDs were top performers and they’re expensive. Most Americans have used energy-efficient CFLs or LEDs with a majority of them — nearly 75 percent — using CFLs according to a recent Consumer Reports survey.

The full report and complete Ratings of lightbulbs are available online now at ConsumerReports.org and in the October 2012 issue of Consumer Reports, which goes on sale Tuesday, September 4th.

While consumers won’t save money by switching from CFLs to LEDs until LED prices drop, those replacing incandescent bulbs may still want to consider LEDs — they use about 75 percent less energy, brighten instantly and are not affected by frequently turning them on and off.  Consumer Reports found good choices that cost $25 to $60.  And even at $25 per bulb, the best LEDs can save consumers about $130 over their 23-year life-span.

Consumer Reports’ tests also found plenty of fine, inexpensive CFLs from EcoSmart, Feit, GE, Sylvania, and Utilitech ranging in price from $1.25 to $18.00.  Overall, switching to CFLs can save consumers around $60 in energy costs and replacement lightbulbs when replacing a 60-watt incandescent bulb.

Fixes for Four Lightbulb Letdowns

The biggest beef people have with CFLs and LEDs is the price — 23 percent of those surveyed by Consumer Reports said they cost too much.  However, it’s not the only drawback of these lightbulbs. CFLs can take minutes to achieve full brightness compared to LEDs that brighten instantly, but in tests, one LED was dim, emitted a ghastly, bluish light color and others couldn’t cast light in all directions.  Consumer Reports has identified four lightbulb letdowns and ways to prevent them.

  1. Dim bulbs. Opt for more lumens. Check the Lighting Facts label on the packages of CFLs and LEDs for the number of lumens. The higher the lumens the brighter the bulb. When replacing a 60-watt incandescent look for an energy-saving bulb with at least 800 lumens, and 1,100 lumens or more for a 75-watt replacement. Watts tell you how much electricity the bulb uses so choose one with enough lumens and the lowest wattage.

  2. Weird light color.  Choose the right kelvin (K) number. Light color is expressed by its kelvin temperature.  The higher the kelvin number, the cooler the light. Those wanting to trim electric bills who prefer the warm light of an incandescent should choose a CFL or LED marked 2700 K or so on the Lighting Facts label. At 3000 K the light is whiter, like a halogen bulb, and it's cool and bright white at 3500 K to 4100 K. For bluer light, buy bulbs marked 5000 K to 6500 K.

  3. Unflattering light.  Choose bulbs with a higher CRI. When the colors of things look off, find out the color rendering index of the lightbulbs. CRI indicates how accurately a lightbulb displays colors and the higher the better. Incandescent bulbs are at or near 100; most CFLs and LEDs Consumer Reports tested are in the low-to-mid 80s. CRI isn't on the Lighting Facts label, but may appear elsewhere on the package and some online retailers note it.

  4. Early burnout.  Return the bulb to the retailer, like Home Depot or Lowe's, or contact the manufacturer. You may need the model number or UPC and a receipt. And, when buying replacements, be sure the bulbs can be used in existing fixtures. Putting a CFL or LED in a fixture it's not meant for can shorten its life.

Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications.  Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

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