Which LED light bulbs do I want in my bathroom?
October 10, 2013 2:47 PM   Subscribe

My bathroom has six light bulbs in it and, to my shame, they're incandescents. I'd like to replace them with LEDs so I never have to think about them again. Which LED bulbs are most like your standard 60W incandescents?

The lights are all on one switch, which is on or off (no dimmer). The current bulbs, which are perfect except for the whole "destroying the Earth" thing, say "SATCO 60 W" on them, and I guess they might be these ones. The bottom of the bulb shows in the fixture, so it would be best if they didn't look too hideous. I'd like the light to be flattering and not at all motel-like, and to come on instantly.

I'm in the US.
posted by The corpse in the library to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I tried a Feit dimmable "40 watt replacement" that I had lying around, one of the ones Costco sells in three-packs. and it was too bright. The Feit says it has 500 lumens and the Satco one, if I'm looking at the right bulb, says it has 580 lumens, but isn't as bright.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:58 PM on October 10, 2013

Lighting seems like a real personal thing, a matter of taste as far as what people prefer from the variety of options available.

There are different "temperatures" or colors of lighting, for instance. Some of the bulb colors are too bluish and make me feel like I'm on an operating table, so I avoid those.

For enclosure style, you might search the web on A19 LED bulbs (example) but as far as color and intensity preference goes, perhaps head to a hardware or dedicated lighting store to see various bulbs in action.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:04 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Obligatory Sweethome link that recommends the Cree 9.5W. A six-pack will set you back $75.
posted by caek at 3:05 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I can't tel you which brand to buy but... I will tell you that I bought some at Lowes for my range hood, because I, too, didn't want to ever have to replace them again. I have had to replace them both. I don't know about other stores but Lowes replaced them, no questions asked, without a receipt in one case. I mention this because they apparently don't last as long as advertized and if I were you, I would want to know if I can bring them back with no hassle.
posted by brownrd at 3:07 PM on October 10, 2013

The Cree bulbs are pretty good, and come in "40 Watt" versions, but I'm not sure what to say if the Feit 40 watt was too bright. Just remember to get the proper color before dropping some coin on some! Those "daylight/cool" bulbs drive me up the wall.
posted by 2N2222 at 3:14 PM on October 10, 2013

Do you (or does anyone else) put on make-up in that bathroom? If so, you want to be concerned with the Color Rendition Index (CRI) of the bulb you choose. This ranges from 0 (crappy) to 100 (same as natural daylight); incandescent and halogen bulbs have a CRI of 100, while LED and compact fluorescent bulbs usually have something way lower. This wikipedia link gives a list of LED bulbs with CRI above 90.

Personally, we've decided to use LEDs almost everywhere in the house except the bathroom, where we're sticking with light fixtures that use halogen bulbs. Halogen is more energy-efficient and has a longer life than incandescent bulbs, but isn't as efficient as LED. I can definitely tell a difference in the quality of the light, though; the halogen lights in our bathroom are consistently the most flattering in the house.
posted by iminurmefi at 3:15 PM on October 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

LED bulbs don't have a great color rendering index. If you will be doing any makeup type of work in the mirror, you might want something in the energy efficient halogen range. Save the LED lights for areas where you keep the lights on the longest time each day.

That said, I just bought a Cree 60w equivalent that looks pretty good. It says it has a low index (higher is better), but it doesn't seem particularly "off" to me. It also has a very classic shape and a frosted glass that makes it not as harsh.
posted by gjc at 3:16 PM on October 10, 2013

Response by poster: > Do you (or does anyone else) put on make-up in that bathroom? If so, you want to be concerned with the Color Rendition Index (CRI) of the bulb you choose.

No, make-up application isn't a concern.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:21 PM on October 10, 2013

I tried a Feit dimmable "40 watt replacement" that I had lying around, one of the ones Costco sells in three-packs. and it was too bright.

These are easily as bright as a 60W incandescent. I have six of them in our two main bathrooms (and three more in our half bath).

The house came with 100 watt incandescents in all these fixtures! It was way too bright. I actually thought the 60 watt incandescents (which I installed shortly after moving in) were also a touch too bright so I thought the 40-watt equivalent LEDs would be just perfect. Foiled!

Of course, these won't be the last bulbs you'll ever buy. I've already have two of the fifteen fail in less than a year. Bathroom fixtures face downward and can trap heat, which rises. This cooks the electronics that drive the actual LED chips. I hope these two were just flaky and the others will last longer, but we'll see.
posted by kindall at 4:12 PM on October 10, 2013

What type of fixture is it? How does the bulb fit in, and are there any reflectors?

One of the challenges with an LED retrofit is that the chips lie on a flat circuitboard, and you're tying to reproduce an almost-spherical glow of an incandescent. If you've got can-type lights, that's easy, because the incandescent is surrounded with reflectors to direct all the light down anyway. If the fixture is this where you see the glow from the side of the glass shade, you'll need to choose the LED really carefully, otherwise it'll just turn into a spotlight on the ceiling.

A few lighting terms:
CCT, or color temperature, means whether the light looks bluish (5000 Kelvin, called cool white) or yellowish (2700 Kelvin, called warm white). Incandescents are 2700K, halogens are 3000K, sunlight ~5500K; fluorescents and LEDs can cover that whole range, but warm white is harder to make, so cheap LED chips that want to get the required amount of light out for the least effort will be blue and ugly.
Given a particular color temperature (yellow-to-blue), the color of the light might veer toward greenish or pinkish, and that's usually typical of the brand of chips. Sylvania lights, for example, usually look pinkish to me, but there's no way to tell from the packaging, no simple number for that.

CRI is a number that describes how much the spectrum looks like an incandescent spectrum, on a scale of 0-100. It's not a very useful number, in that if something has a high CRI it will look good, but if something has a moderate CI (80ish) it may or may not look bad.

Lumens are the units for how much light it makes. "40-watt replacement" is an annoying term that's only vaguely related to lumen value. A 40W incandescent has about 450 lumens output, but it goes in all directions, so maybe there's only 100 lux (lumens per square meter) on a nearby table. If someone makes a 10W LED light with 300 lumens output that's more directional and still puts 100 lux onto the table, they can (try to) call it a 40-watt replacement. So, look for lumens.

Basically, you just have to buy a couple of products, compare them in your bathroom, and then return the ones you don't like. Feel no guilt.
posted by aimedwander at 4:46 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The fixtures are glass shades, pointing downwards. This isn't it, but it's that sort of thing. There are two of them.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:28 PM on October 10, 2013

I can't believe that Philips hasn't yet been mentioned. They've consistently been the leader in LEDs that project very good to excellent light in a manner nearly identical to a standard incandescent bulbs. They also have very good build quality (compared with the fragile but cheap Cree bulbs, where the globes often have been poorly glued into their bases).

These Philips 60W incandescent replacement bulbs will not disappoint.
posted by eschatfische at 7:08 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've been happy with IKEA's basic LED, the Ledare. That's one's a 40w equivalent for $7; there's also a 60 for $10. In a bedside table lamp, it's hard to tell it's not an incandescent. Similar light output/quality to the Cree's, somewhat better build quality.

I also like that it looks like a lightbulb.
posted by toxic at 8:29 PM on October 10, 2013

Another vote for possibly having a look in Ikea in the (French) branch I was in yesterday I noticed that they have recently introduced LED bulbs for a range of fittings. The packaging tells you the number of lumens and the color temperature you are going to get, there are displays which allow you to see each light in action and the prices are reasonable. Worth a visit.
posted by rongorongo at 4:19 AM on October 11, 2013

I just installed a few Cree 60W equivalents, and they are indistinguishable from the incandescents they replaced.
posted by schoolgirl report at 1:33 PM on October 11, 2013

Response by poster: I'm also interested in LEDs that will go in a fixture with a dimmer (and also with glass shades that are open on the bottom), so if you have the bulbs and a dimmer I'd like to know how well they get along.

When I had the Feit ones connected to a dimmer first the dimmer buzzed, then when I switched dimmers to one Feit recommended, the bulbs buzzed.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:01 PM on October 11, 2013

Response by poster: I know you're curious what happened. The LEDs from Costco ended up in the bathroom, where they're a bit bright but not too bad. I have some 10 w Ledare bulbs from Ikea in the dining room chandelier, which are not exactly the color I want -- they're replacing some 60 W GE Reveal bulbs, which I love, and the Ikea ones are a touch yellow -- and they're a teeny bit larger than I want, but they'll do for now, and they work with the dimmer. They might move to other fixtures if I try the Crees or Philips recommended above. Thank you.

What do people do with their old, still working incandescents? Toss 'em? Donate them to a thrift store?
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:03 PM on November 13, 2013

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