When should I buy LED light bulbs?
May 9, 2013 12:52 PM   Subscribe

Dimmable LED light bulbs seem more economical than halogens. But they're really expensive. Will they quickly come down in price, so I should wait? Or will they come down slowly, so I might as well start saving? Also, how good is the dimming? I tried dimmable CFL's, but they don't seem to dim past 50%.
posted by musofire to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I have dimmable LEDs and the dimming is fine - cannot tell the difference between them and incandescent bulbs. I just replaced hard to change bulbs so far as they are $$, but I hope to switch more over time.
posted by shothotbot at 12:57 PM on May 9, 2013

you might look into philips 'eco-vantage' bulbs (i think the name is new...i forget what they were calling them before) They're incandescent (thus easily dimmable), but energy efficient. They use a second glass 'capsule' around the filament to trap heat, keeping the filament hot and bright with less power.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:58 PM on May 9, 2013

I installed seven recessed fixtures in my bedroom with dim-able LEDs. They don't work with a standard dimmer though you can easily buy the right switch at Home Depot. They dim down pretty low, lower than I'd ever want them. The dimming is MUCH better than dim-able CFLs.

When I bought them, the guy at Home Depot told me that they were in the process of building more factories and the price should be cut in half every year or so for a bit. He was just a guy in an orange apron though, not any kind of industry analyst.

I love them and hope to eventually convert the recessed fixtures in my kitchen to LEDs.
posted by bondcliff at 12:59 PM on May 9, 2013

One expert recommendation: "I've been writing about the electronic design industry for over 15 years and I’ve never seen an LED light bulb with a better combination of features than the Cree. At $13, it’s dimmable, has high quality color, is long lasting, has a 10 year warranty and makes as much light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb. It’s my new favorite LED light bulb."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:02 PM on May 9, 2013 [9 favorites]

I would honestly wait. It really didn't take that long for CFLs to go from expensive to ridiculously cheap.

I think they're way too expensive to be worth it right now. $12 a bulb? I remember still getting incandescents until CFLs were $12 a 4 pack.
posted by emptythought at 1:17 PM on May 9, 2013

Halogen bulbs will burn out in no time if you put them in a dimmable fixture. Go with LEDs. Even at today's prices, they are the smartest lighting you can buy. A good LED will in all likelihood outlive you; you will never buy another bulb for that fixture.

you might look into philips 'eco-vantage' bulbs (incandescent)
These offer 60 watt equivalents that use 43 watts and cost about $3.50 apiece. The are rated at 1250 hours. You can get good dimmable LEDs for around 10 times that price that will last 40 times as long, AND, will save you another 30 watts every hour they're on. No contest.
posted by beagle at 1:22 PM on May 9, 2013

I'm going the route of slowly replacing all my bulbs with dimmable LEDs. I don't want to buy new dimmer switches, and I'm very concerned about reports of dimmable LEDs that make noise, have a horrible color, need to warm up, don't have a good dimming range etc. So I read some reviews and tried these Phillips dimmable LEDs, which seemed to get universally good reviews. I am very happy with them, they function just as well as the old incandescent ones, and they have a nice warm light. They are expensive, so I just buy 2 every 6 months or so to spread the cost.
posted by Joh at 1:47 PM on May 9, 2013

One thing to consider is how long you're going to stay in your current place and/or how willing you are to go through your home and remove all the light bulbs when you move.
posted by mskyle at 1:49 PM on May 9, 2013

This article from Farhad Manjoo was good.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 2:46 PM on May 9, 2013

I've just installed dimmable LEDs in my downlights. I experimented with a bunch of different bulbs. I got some cheap chinese ones for $12 each that supposedly weren't dimmable that dimmed just fine down to about 25% anyway.

I then tried Nichias at $24 each that buzzed and flickered and barely dimmed at all (but worked just great in the kitchen where I don't have a dimmer, and where no other LED had worked at all).

Then I tried Brightgreens at $50 each which dimmed right down to zero smoothly on one dimmer circuit (with two bulbs) and only down to 50% with buzzing on the other circuit (with four bulbs).

Then I replaced our dimmer with a universal dimmer, and that made no difference whatsoever, but for some people it supposedly helps.

What I learned is that no matter what other people tell you about how well an LED dims, it will depend hugely on your specific set-up. (For example if you have a 12V system, it will depend on what type of transformer you have, and that in turn will determine what sort of dimmers you can use). And it might depend on what sort of dimmer you have and how many lights are wired to it.

So your best bet is to buy a variety of different ones with good return policies and experiment.
posted by lollusc at 5:12 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just dropping back in with some calcs. Let's say you use light around 3.5 hours per day, around 365 days a year. You'll hit something in the neighborhood of 12,500 hours over a 10-year period.

With incandescent bulbs, assuming the 43-watt Ecovantage ones cited above, the 60-watt equivalent light over 10 years will cost you:
10 lightbulbs (1250 hours each) x $3.50 apiece = $35
Electricity: 12,500 hours x 43 watts = 537.5 KWH x 15 cents per KWH= $80.65
Total cost over 10 years: $115.62

With LED, assuming the Philips 409904 12.5 watt cited above:
1 lightbulb, costs $24.
Electricity: 12,500 hours x 12.5 watts= 156.25 KWH x 15 cents per KWH= $23.44
Total cost over 10 years: $47.44

Your savings: $68.18. And, that LED will probably go much longer than 12,500 hours. Nobody really knows how long — there are figures of 25,000-50,000 hours out there, but I have a clock radio with a dial illuminated by a circa-1968 first generation red LED, used continuously for 45 years and still going strong at nearly 400,000 hours.

Why wait? As my CFLs wear out I'm going with LEDs.
posted by beagle at 6:13 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

If I had to do it again, I'd go LED now for closets and other places where you need light mainly for short (<5 min) durations. Cycling CFLs will kill the lifespan.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:13 PM on May 9, 2013

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