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Lower-priced LED bulbs may leave CFLs in the dark

Consumer Reports News: July 20, 2010 03:52 PM

Short for light-emitting diodes, LED lights may soon eclipse compact fluorescents (CFLs) as better technology and lower prices get more of these ultra-efficient bulbs into Home Depot and other major retailers. A recent article in Semiconductor Today pegs the LED market at $20 billion by 2012 compared with just over $200 million in 2005. And as the Wall Sreet Journal reported Cree, which makes the CR6 recessed downlight Consumer Reports is now testing, is among the companies about to spend a mint building factories and buying other firms as the Great Recession begins to thaw. (In fact, Cree just signed a cross-licensing agreement with Philips.
Better efficiency puts LEDs light years ahead of even the stingiest CFLs on the energy front: Cree warrants its CR6 downlight for five years and claims it will last 50,000 hours—about 20 years based on six hours of daily use. That’s roughly five times as long as the 8,000 to 10,000 hours manufacturers claim for compact fluorescents, and up to 50 times the 1,000 hours for incandescents.
But you could pay more than you bargained for. Cree’s relatively low estimated retail price of $50 to $60 per bulb for the Cree CR6 and the Ecosmart version it makes for Home Depot was far lower than the $90 Consumer Reports paid when we ordered these LEDs online from DirectBuy Lighting.

You’ll find our latest results for CFL lights and the Cree CR6 LED bulb in our annual October Consumer Reports roundup of top energy-saving products (online and on newsstands in early September). You’ll also find Cree, Ecosmart, and—we predict—a host of other new LED bulbs at retailers this fall. Meanwhile, check out our video on the Cree CR6 and then read about how to choose CFL bulbs.

And here's a bright idea: Do some price checking before you pay a mint for LEDs.

—Bob Markovich


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