Of the 90% of Americans who have used LED or CFL light bulbs to save energy and cut costs, most use CFLs, according to a Consumer Reports study released Thursday. Almost 75% of consumers who have switched from incandescent bulbs currently use CFLs. About 25% use LEDs, or light-emitting diode bulbs, even though LEDs use 75% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs, last as long as 25 years, brighten immediately and often offer better light quality than compact fluorescents.
Price is the biggest consumer complaint about LEDs and CFLs, according to the study, which tested 744 light bulbs to determine which ones performed best. Full results will be published in the product-testing magazine's October issue.
Consumer Reports looked at LEDs that cost $25 to $60 and CFLs priced between $1.25 and $18. The best $25 LED was projected to save consumers $130 during the bulb's 23-year life span, whereas an average 60-watt equivalent CFL would save consumers $60.
Still, the study said, most consumers aren't likely to save money by switching from CFLs to LEDs until LED prices drop. Already, LED prices have decreased almost 20% in the last year; the study estimated that LED prices will drop an additional $10 for 60-watt replacements in the next two to three years.
Consumer Reports' top LED picks included the $26 EcoSmart A19 and $25 Philips Ambient LED for general purpose 60-watt bulb replacements, because of their brightness, dimming function and color that most closely mimicked that of an incandescent or halogen bulb.
All LEDs are not created equal, however. Consumer Reports found some bulbs were dim and offered "ghastly" light quality, such as the $20 MiracleLED. The study recommends consumers buy only Energy Star qualified LEDs that meet tough federal standards.
Dim bulbs, unusual light color, unflattering light and early burnout were among consumers' "light bulb letdowns," the study reported. For brighter lights, Consumer Reports recommends lumens of at least 800 for a 60-watt replacement, and 1,100 lumens for a 75-watt replacement. For colors that mimic incandescent light, it recommends 2,700 Kelvin; 3,000 Kelvin will be whiter, like a halogen bulb; 5,000 to 6,500 Kelvin will be more blue. Such information can be found on a bulb's Lighting Facts label.