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Are LED lightbulbs worth the extra money?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Nearly 75 percent of Americans are now using compact fluorescent lightbulbs, or CFLs, but far fewer people have tried LED lightbulbs. LEDs are expensive, but a Consumer Reports test shows they're well worth considering. Consumer Reports tested both types and says LEDs have some real advantages.

In a test, lightbulbs are turned on and off every two minutes. Some CFLs burnt out, but all the LEDs are still going strong after 200,000 cycles. And unlike CFLs, some LEDs can be dimmed as low as an incandescent bulb. Another plus - they come to full brightness instantly. Consumer Reports also tests lightbulbs' brightness and color temperature in a sphere, a computer analyzes the results.

"We found that some LEDs have the same warm glow as incandescent," said Dan DiCerico of Consumer Reports.

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But not all LED bulbs are stellar, a Miracle LED claims to be equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent, But it's not as bright as a 40-watt bulb. And while it's long lasting, it gives off a strange bluish-white light.

With all LEDs, the big disadvantage is the price; many cost $20 or more per bulb.

"LEDs are more expensive, but they're designed to last so long - 23 years or more - that you'll likely save about $130 over their lifetime," said DiCerico.

So which LEDs are best? Among 60-watt equivalents, Consumer Reports top-rated two are the EcoSmart from Home Depot that produces a white light and a 12.5-watt Philips that has a warmer, yellower light; both cost around $25.

Consumer Reports says prices of LEDs are coming down and are expected to continue to drop. And here's another plus, unlike CFLs, LEDs don't contain any mercury.

Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.

(All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2011. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

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