When Cree and Philips recently introduced LEDs at Home Depot that cost $13 to $15, half the price of earlier light emitting diode bulbs, one of Consumer Reports' secret shoppers raced to buy them so our lighting experts could begin to test their performance. The LEDs are replacements for 60-watt incandescent bulbs yet use a fraction of the energy. Here's what we found in our initial tests.
Cree 60W Warm White Dimmable LED, $13. This LED looks very similar to an incandescent and instantly gave off a warm, bright light, meeting its claims. Its Color Rendering Index, or CRI, is 81 (out of 100). Most LEDs we tested are in that range and in lightbulb lingo that means the Cree LED does a pretty good job revealing the true colors of furnishings and skin tones. Cree claims this LED is omni-directional, distributing light in all directions. We're still testing that claim.
What you'll save. While this LED replaces a 60-watt bulb, it used only 9.5 watts of power. Cree says it last 25,000 hours. That's nearly 23 years when used three hours a day. So at $13 the payback period would be 1.8 years. After that you would save $149 in energy and bulbs over its life when compared with an incandescent. The 10-year warranty is unusually long.
Philips A19 LED 10.5W 60-watt 420240, $15. This LED also met its claims and instantly cast a white light similar to a halogen bulb, and the light was even brighter than promised. The CRI is 81. The LED's size and shape mimic an incandescent bulb but this LED isn't dimmable and Philips doesn't claim that it's omni-directional.
What you'll save. It used 10.5 watts of power and is supposed to last 20,000 hours or around 18 years. The LED would pay for itself in about two years and then save $112 over its lifetime.
We will be putting these low-cost LEDs through 3,000 hours of testing and will report our results. Keep in mind that while incandescent lightbulbs seem like a bargain, they use significantly more electricity to provide the same amount of light as an LED or CFL. Take a look at the results of Consumer Reports tests of LEDs, CFLs, and halogen bulbs. They'll help you find the right bulb for your socket or fixture.