LED bulb buying guide

They are available for nearly every lighting task in your home, but there are a few things to consider.

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A few years ago, LEDs were confined to the display panel of your clock radio. Now they’re a viable option for almost every lighting task.

This guide illuminates how to choose the right LEDs for each room of your home, and how much you could save by switching.

Spotlight on light bulbs

LEDs

LED bulbs are the most efficient and durable of the lot, but also the most expensive. However, prices have fallen considerably since we first tested them in 2013. They use up to 80 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, while producing the same amount of light. Most LEDs should last at least 15,000 hours – that’s more than 13 years if used every day for three hours.

CFLs

A compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) is a scaled-down version of the fluorescent tube lights common in offices and commercial buildings. They use a small tube filled with glowing gas. CFLs are generally cheaper than LEDs and have a lifetime of at least 6000 hours, about six times longer than incandescents but significantly shorter than LEDs. They take a few seconds to reach full brightness and tend to fade over time. Frequent switching can shorten its lifespan.

Halogen lamps

Halogen lamps are a type of incandescent bulb, but are about 30 percent more efficient. They’re most commonly found in the home as low voltage downlights and spotlights.

Incandescent bulbs

Incandescents are the direct descendants of the first light bulb patented by Thomas Edison in 1879. They work by passing an electric current through a wire filament. They are far less efficient than other types of lighting and have a shorter lifespan.



Brightness: watts vs lumens

Watts measure power consumption, whereas lumens measure light output. Wattage isn’t the best indicator of an LED’s brightness. We found there is considerable variation in the efficiency of LED bulbs.

Generally, LEDs produce the same amount of light as an incandescent bulb that has five to six times the wattage.

Incandescent bulb (watts) Equivalent LED (watts) Light output (lumens)
40 <7 420
60 8-10 720
75 11-12 930
100 ≥14A 1300

AGLS bulbs are now available in the 40W to 100W equivalent range.

If you want to replace an existing incandescent bulb with an LED, use the wattage of the old incandescent as a guide. The packaging of LEDs usually indicates the equivalent wattage of incandescent bulbs that produce a similar brightness.

If you want to buy an LED to replace a standard incandescent bulb, chances are the LED will appear brighter than the equivalent incandescent. This is because the beam angle of LEDs is narrower, so the light comes out more focussed.

Types of LED bulbs

LED bulbs are available at most supermarkets, hardware stores, and specialised lighting and electrical shops. Before heading off to the shops, check what kind of bulb you want to replace. The majority of light bulbs are described by a system of series designations. The most common are:

GLS (General Lighting Service) standard bulbs

Available with screw and bayonet bases, which have the designations Exx and Bxx respectively. The xx refers to the base’s diameter in millimetres.

R-Series reflector bulbs

These are often used as floodlights and downlights. They are numbered by the size of the bulb’s diameter in millimetres, R80 for example.

PAR-Series security lights and self-contained exterior floodlights

PAR38 is a common type; the 38 is the diameter of the bulb in multiples of eighths of an inch. PAR38 bulbs are 121mm wide.

MR16 and GU10 spotlights

MR16s have two thin pin bases (called GU5.3 bases), while GU10s usually have thick turn and lock “top-hat” bases. The main difference between them is GU10s run at 240V, while MR16s run on 12V and require an external transformer. There are MR16 lamps available with GU10 turn and lock bases.

What to look for

There are LED bulbs available for nearly every lighting task in your home, but there are a few things to consider.

The long lifespan of LEDs makes them ideal for hard-to-reach fittings you’d like to change as infrequently as possible, such as above stairways or in high ceilings.

Our switching test showed that LEDs could stand being switched on and off repeatedly over more than 12,000 cycles. That means LEDs are especially suitable for walk-in wardrobes, toilets, bathrooms and kitchens – places where the lights are often switched on and off.

If you want to use a dimmer you need to buy dimmable LED bulbs, and ensure your dimmer switch is compatible with the dimmable LED bulb (it will say on the packaging).

Replacement bulb or dedicated LED fitting

A dedicated fitting houses the LED and its associated electronics – the bulb is fixed to the fitting and can’t be changed like a regular light bulb.

A replacement bulb is an LED that can be retrofitted into an existing fitting to replace an incandescent, halogen or CFL.

A dedicated fitting is designed to manage the heat that concentrates at its base; overheating can shorten an LED’s lifespan. If you’re installing lights as part of a renovation, or if you’re building a new house, then we recommend dedicated LED fittings. Note that if the fitting fails you’ll have to replace the whole unit.

If your house has recessed downlights with incandescent or halogen bulbs, it is better to replace the entire fitting with a dedicated LED downlight fitting, instead of just changing the bulb. Just replacing the bulb with an LED is likely to overheat the LED and shorten its life. In addition, most older downlight fittings require generous clearances to ceiling insulation and can allow draughts through the hole in the ceiling lining. Modern dedicated LED downlight fittings combine energy efficient lighting with better airtightness and insulation can be abutted to or even laid over them. You will need an electrician to install them for you.

For non-recessed fittings, retrofitting LED bulbs is cheaper and easier than installing dedicated LED fittings, but remember to check you get the same base type and a similar shape, brightness, colour temperature and beam angle.

Warm white or cool white

An early complaint with LEDs was they were unsuitable for general ambient lighting because of the harsh white light they produced. Models capable of producing a warmer white light are now widespread. If you’re after a bulb for your living room or hallway, a warm version is a good choice to avoid a cold feel, but cool lighting is fine for the bathroom or laundry.

Colour temperature
Colour temperature refers to the light’s colour characteristics. It varies between warm, like the yellow light of an incandescent bulb, or cool, like the bluish light of some fluorescent lamps. It is measured in Kelvins (K). The higher the K, the cooler the light.

Warm white (2700K – 3000K) brings out the warm colours in your home and is great for living areas.

Cool white (4000K) is a bluish-white light that improves the contrast between colours. Suitable for work areas where contrast is important.

Beam angle

The beam angle measures how the light spreads out from the bulb. Beam angles of LEDs vary greatly and depend on their application. The shape of an LED bulb determines the direction light is emitted. However, when buying downlights ensure you get a bulb that emits light only from its end.

Narrow angle bulbs – less than 30 degrees – are usually used when placing multiple downlights close to each other, such as in a hallway or when lighting cabinetry. Larger beam angles are used with high-power LEDs for floodlighting. If you’re replacing incandescent or halogen lamps with LEDs, make sure the beam angle is similar to the old bulb.

Very large beam angles are sometimes found in pantries or walk-in wardrobes. As beam angle increases, you require more lumens (light output) to maintain the light’s intensity.

Which light where?

Good interior lighting can create various moods, highlight your interior décor, and provide pleasant light - without burning up the power bill.

The days of a light bulb starkly hanging on a cord in the centre of a room are long gone. Nowadays you have a vast choice of lighting products, increasingly using various energy-efficient lighting technologies. But which products work best - in what parts of the house?

The lighting requirements of the rooms in our houses vary - depending on what the room is used for. Different light levels are required in various parts of the house – and even within some rooms. The colour of the light is also important – it can change the mood of a room and can make a difference to dining, reading and other activities.

Choosing the right lighting products can also save money on your power bills.

Lounge

You need intense light to read or to do close-up tasks, but if you lit your whole lounge to that level the glare would be uncomfortable.

An easier approach would be relatively soft background lighting using ‘warm white’ LEDs or to create a relaxing mood. You can also use dimmable LEDs to provide the flexibility to set the mood for any occasion – but make sure you have an LED-compatible dimmer.

Hallway and stairs

You need moderate light levels, but lights in these locations are likely to be left on for many hours, especially in winter, so it’s important to use energy-efficient bulbs. The long lifespan of LEDs makes them a great option for hard-to-reach places such as high-ceilinged hallways or above staircases.

If you’re retrofitting LEDs into spotlights or downlights, it’s better to replace the entire fitting with a dedicated LED downlight fitting, instead of just changing the bulb. Just replacing the bulb with an LED will often overheat the LED and shorten its life.

Kitchen

For a kitchen you need background lighting (brighter than in the lounge) because a higher level of shadow-free light is required – so you can see in the cupboards. Extra task lighting will make sure bench tops, stoves and walk-in pantries are well lit.

Take care when installing energy efficient lights directly above a sinks or stovetops. LEDs and CFLs have small circuit boards in their base which can short if exposed to large amounts of steam. Ensure that the fitting adequately encloses the base of the bulb, or use new generation halogen bulbs.

Bathroom

A relaxing bath with soft lighting is one of life’s pleasures. But not being able to see to shave or put on make-up is not. You need moderate background lighting, and brighter, directional lighting for mirrors. The light should shine on your face - not on the mirror.

To achieve this blend of a functional yet relaxing space consider using separate switching for different lights or adding a dimmer to the main lighting. There are now efficient bulb replacement options for most bathroom lights and an ever increasing range of stylish fittings designed for both efficiency and good looks.

Light fittings above a shower and tub should be steam-proof. If you’re installing LED fittings make sure they are rated for damp locations.

Outdoors

Outdoor lighting can range from a simple porch light to spot lights for lighting up deck or entertainment areas, or to create dramatic effects for illuminating driveways, paths and garden areas. For lights likely to burn for a long time, use energy-efficient options in suitable outdoor fittings.

There are now LED floodlights available which match the brightness of their halogen equivalents. Keep an eye out for PAR38 LEDs when replacing your outdoor security lights.

Life expectancy

LED bulbs have a claimed life expectancy of between 15,000 and 50,000 hours, so can be expected to last for more than five years of normal domestic use. However, their lifespan can be considerably reduced if they get too hot, as can happen when they are retrofitted into recessed downlights and spotlights. Make sure they have a way to dissipate excess heat or replace the entire fitting with a dedicated LED downlight fitting.

Care should be taken if you’re installing LEDs in environments where they are likely to be exposed to steam. The bulb housing contains a small electronic circuit which can short if it gets damp. LEDs retrofitted into bathroom heater units will probably have a reduced lifespan due to increased temperatures generated by heat lamps.

One thing that won’t affect the lifespan of your LED bulbs is frequent on-off switching. They also reach their full brightness instantly – in contrast to some CFLs which can take up to a minute (although warm-up times have improved in recent years, and “instant-on” CFLs are available).

Both LEDs and CFLs fade over time, but this is more pronounced in CFLs.

Energy savings and payback time

Despite the higher upfront cost of LEDs compared to other technologies, you can expect to save money in the long run through reductions in your power bill.

Let’s compare a mid-range LED to a standard incandescent bulb. The LED has the same brightness as a 60 watt incandescent while only drawing 9.5 watts. The LED costs $18 and has an expected lifespan of 15,000 hours, while the equivalent 60 watt incandescent bulb costs 50 cents but lasts for 1000 hours. If the light is on for three hours each day the incandescent will use $17.08 worth of electricity in a year, compared to $2.70 for the LED. That’s a saving of $14.38 per year.

The LED will have paid for itself in a little over a year. It will then keep going for another 12 years if used for three hours every day, while the incandescent bulb will need to be replaced every year. These figures show you shouldn’t wait for your incandescent bulbs to blow – it’s more cost effective to replace them with LEDs now.

Savings calculator

Find out how much you could save by switching to energy-saving bulbs.

Notes

  • Figures for savings are indicative only. Assumptions below.
  • The most savings can be made by switching to energy saving bulbs in areas where the lights are on for the longest, such as living rooms, hallways and stairs.

Assumptions

  • We assume you replace 100 Watt ordinary bulbs with 20 Watt energy efficient bulbs.
  • We haven't factored in the costs of the bulbs because although energy saver bulbs are more expensive than ordinary bulbs they last much longer, so overall bulb cost is approximately the same.
  • We assume electricity costs 25 cents per kWh.

Why is this information free?

This database is available free to all New Zealand consumers with support from EECA (Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority), the government agency that works to improve the energy efficiency of New Zealand's homes and businesses, and encourages the uptake of renewable energy.

If you'd like to support our work as a non-profit organisation, consider making a donation. We’ll use your contribution to work for positive change.

Member comments

Get access to comment

Paul J.
02 Jan 2017
Power Savings

I replaced all the bulbs in my house when CFLs became affordable, and noticed a slight reduction in my power bills. I later replaced all of those with LEDs and the decrease in my power bills was amazing, even though I am thrifty with light usage.

One could spend a lot of time working out which LEDs are the most efficient and cost effective, or just go out and buy what one needs (based only on colour and lumens) and enjoy instant savings. The difference is too minute to worry about.

Hamish Reid
14 Nov 2016
LED tubes - is retrofitting LED tubes into existing T8 fluorescent fixtures a good option?

I am keen know if retrofitting LED tubes in existing fixture is safe and suitable for LEDs. is there any research or information available on the above?

Previous member
15 Nov 2016
re: LED tubes - is retrofitting LED tubes into existing T8 fluorescent fixtures a good option?

Hi Katya,

Yes, there are now a large number of LED T8 tubes available which work with existing light fittings that have been proven to be safe and reliable, and have a superior colour quality while being much more energy-efficient than fluorescent bulbs (though at up to five times the upfront cost).

However, it’s important to make the distinction between retrofit and replacement LED T8 tubes. Replacement tubes can be plugged straight into the existing fitting using the same ballast (the small screw-in starter cylinder at the end of the fitting) as the old fluorescent light, however these aren’t as efficient as power is lost in the ballast.

Retrofit tubes work with the existing fitting but require it to be rewired slightly to bypass the ballast, as they have their drivers integrated into the tube’s housing. The other option is to get entirely new fittings with built-in LEDs, which are likely to have a longer lifespan and be more attractive, but will be very expensive upfront.

See here to get an idea of the cost per linear T8 LED tube: http://lightbulbman.co.nz/shop/linear.10841

The following links provide some good information, but we recommend talking to a lighting supplier for more detail.
http://www.ledsmagazine.com/articles/print/volume-12/issue-6/features/indoor-lighting/hands-on-testing-of-popular-led-t8-lamps-and-linear-fixtures.html
http://www.designingwithleds.com/review-hands-cree-linear-led-t8-fluorescent-replacement-lamp/

Cheers,
George – Consumer NZ staff.

Alan D.
04 Aug 2016
LED downlights and dimmers

I bought replacement LED downlights with dimmers from a nationwide lighting store. Depending on how low or high the lights are set on the dimmer when I turn them on determines how fast the lights will come on. In some rooms with only 2 LED downlights attached to a dimmer the difference between one light coming on and the other is around 20 seconds. When I come home at night and turn the light on and it's set low (the dimmer could only be installed at the other end of the row of lights according to the electrician) I have to wait in the darkness for around 8 seconds before the light comes on and I can move. The store says that it takes time for electricity to flow down the wires (hmm) and that the dimmers are responsible for the delay. In delaying the lights coming on they are protecting themselves from burnout or blowing up or something. It's frustrating that I have modern technology and there was never a mention of this - what I consider to be a problem - when I bought the lights. I've spoken with the lighting shop numerous times, two electricians and friends and nobody is able to offer a decent explanation.

Robin D.
19 Aug 2017
LED downlights and dimmers

Its down to the control electronics. The output stages of the electronics have a capacitor (its a bit like a battery) - they are there to smooth the power output so that you don't see fluctuations in light. However, because, relatively speaking, a dimmed LED draws a minute amount of power- probably less than 0.5 watt it then takes a little while to charge the capacitor though normally I would have thought 10 seconds might be the max.. Possibly there is a capacitor on the output of the dimmer too - this would certainly exacerbate the delay. I presume if you set the dimmer to full power the lights come on almost immediately? I suggest you leave them on full power and then dim them straight away.

Cleone
25 Feb 2016
More information needed on LED bulbs

We have just had a local Homeshow and Ecobulbs (Energymad) and FSL (Ledfocus ltd.) were displaying their LED bulbs. I do not find anything about these in your article. I got a free assessment from Ecobulbs and was shown a neat controller that both dims up and down and changes banks of lights between warm and cool. However I was given confusingly a retro fit price for 28 LED 12w bulbs for $4225 which showed 23 bulbs in the cart in the email. The website shows the 12w light and fitting for $175 including a controller coming with every 10 bulbs.
FSL bulbs were much cheaper for a 12w dimmable bulbs and fittings at $36 but not including the fit out.
I have been replacing all my bulbs including CFL bulbs with LED ones as the old bulbs fail. However on reading your article I see the fittings and transformers may need changing. Can I keep the cost down by progressively changing those that are most frequently in use? Why do some LED 12w bulbs need a low voltage transformer and others not?
How can I compare the above bulbs and companies?
Consumer needs to do more on this subject.
Regards, Cleone

Robin D.
19 Aug 2017
More information needed on LED bulbs

We have around 40 LED lights in recessed units. 1 has failed in 2 years. My experience is that oncer you get past the first 6-12 months the chance of failure is drastically reduced and I would say that 1 failure out of 10 is not a bad ratio. Interestingly, the light given off by the very diffused glass panel is so even, that when a failure occurs its often hard to detect.

William T.
09 Dec 2015
LED lifespan

I've replaced some of the lights in the house with LED bulbs, but over the last year have had two of them "fizzle out" and stop working (they start sputtering out). These were probably the cheapest bulbs, but very disappointing given they'd only been in for about a year, and certainly didn't get anywhere near the claimed 20,000 hours.

It would be useful if you could do some kind of testing on different brands of LED bulbs. I suspect that some of them aren't so well made. It would be good to know which brands are better.

E M H.
06 Aug 2016
TrevorH

Interesting..we had the same problem with three LED bulbs since installing into tracklighting late last year, GU10 MR16. All three have had to be replaced so I'm not convinced yet of their life.

Maurice B.
08 May 2018
Obit Eco Lux - bad

After the first half dozen failed I sent them back, they kindly seen me replacements that are no better. Lucky to get 6 months out of them. The Philips bulb I have got just keep going, one was purchased when they first came out for the toilet. I though that would be a good test being turn on a off all the time and it is still going strong.

Stay away from the Orbit .

Gilles A.
10 Oct 2015
Good Information

Further to my last comment I wish to provide a link to a website on which other Consumer readers can find quite a lot of the information I was to date missing on LED bulbs (what kind available, advantages, disadvantages) and this very much in detail: http://www.ledbulbadvice.com/

Gilles A.
10 Oct 2015
Too simple, too short

I have read your article with interest, but I must say that I have been left wanting more details. Just the details, which were also missing when CFL light bulbs came out: Everybody focused on their life expectancy and low power consumption and nobody mentioned the low on/off cycling capacity and rapid dimming. Now we are told LED have 15,000 hours life expectancy. Ok, do they still have their initial output after 15,000 hours? Do these 15,000 hours been tested in normal everyday usage, i.e. including on/off cycling or do have to rely on estimates?
I believe that a comprehensive testing of brightness versus longevity as well as confirmation if the comparative brightness provided on the packaging really stacks up to what is being claimed would be worthwhile doing.
Here I'd like to also refer to what you have stated in one responds to another reader's comment: The direction of the light as it leaves the bulb is very different for an incandescent versus a LED light. For modern in-ceiling lights this might be an advantage because the LED will not require a reflector, but what about old lighting or ambiance lighting, e.g. lights with a shade around it to produce low light horizontally? For such applications I have yet to find an appropriate LED bulb design. At the moment try to retrofit any light fitting designed to produce horizontal light distribution with a LED and the result will be strange indeed. I would therefore have liked to read a word of caution in respect to what bulbs can and which cannot be replaced to maintain the same lighting environment as one has using either incandescent or CFL bulbs .
Last but not least, I would be interested if Consumer has yet found and/or tested LED replacements for 90 or 120 / 150 mm long stick-type Halogen bulbs. These are in the range of 150 to 500 W bulbs and are more and more used in wall or ceiling lights. They cost quite a bit to buy and to run and their life expectancy is also not too long, mostly due to poor ventilation. Here a ROI would be significantly more advantageous for LED.

Previous member
14 Oct 2015
re: Too simple, too short

Hi Gilles,

I'm sorry you found that our report lacked information. We haven't yet looked at LED replacements for stick-type halogen bulbs, but would like to in the future. We will take your comments into consideration when we publish our next lighting test or buying guide.

I agree that a test of brightness against longevity would be useful, but unfortunately it's very difficult to test claimed lifespans when most are in excess of 15,000 hours.

Regards,

George
Consumer NZ staff

Clark M.
10 Oct 2015
LED lights are instant on as contrasted to the Compact Fluorescent lights

As you know the CF bulbs take up to a minute to get up to brightness whereas LEDs are instant-on.

I use the Phillips 14W bulbs from Pack N Save, they don't seem to be available everywhere. Never had a bulb blow (2+ years) and we have ~30 bulb. I have had one dud bulb that was problematic from purchase, intermittent cut-outs, it's a one-off and I could have returned it.

Very happy and the future looks bright! ;)

Graeme F.
28 Aug 2015
Recycling or More Landfill?

Can you please advise on the disposal of these different types of bulbs, and what chemicals they are going to put into the environment after their use?

Previous member
31 Aug 2015
re: Recycling or More Landfill?

Hi Graeme,

Thanks for your enquiry. It all depends on the type of bulb: CFLs contain mercury, while LEDs don’t. If you’re concerned about mercury pollution from CFLs, you may wish to use LEDs instead. There is now an LED available for virtually every lighting task in the home that’s a match for CFLs or halogens.

LEDs and old incandescent bulbs can be thrown out with your rubbish – just put them in the original packaging, or wrap them in some cardboard. Generally they aren’t recyclable and should be placed in your ordinary household rubbish. Check your local council’s website for the rules in your area.

CFLs and fluorescent tubes contain mercury, so you need to take special care with their disposal. Some councils accept a certain amount of hazardous waste at the landfill, including mercury-containing lights, free of charge. Many hardware stores also provide a free drop-off facility for your old CFLs. Once again you’ll need to check the rules in your area.

That said, the amount of mercury in CFLs is very small (less than 5mg), and it’s only released if the bulb is broken. A 2008 study by the Ministry of Health into the risks of mercury exposure from broken CFLs found that the concentration of mercury in the air resulting from a broken CFL was not likely to be a health risk, even if the bulb was not cleaned up immediately. But we recommend cleaning up CFLs immediately if they break, and ventilating the room for a few hours – it’s best to be on the safe side. See the CFL clean-up section on our light-bulbs page to learn more: https://www.consumer.org.nz/products/light-bulbs/overview#cfl-clean-up

Kind regards,
George – Consumer NZ staff.

Neville S.
04 Jun 2015
Price of LED lights in NZ

Can someone shed some light on why a typical E27 screw bulb is $23 in NZ and $2.01 in the USA.
Are we being ripped off?

Previous member
04 Jun 2015
re: Price of LED lights in NZ

Hi Neville,

Thanks for your enquiry. As late as 2013, LED bulbs still sold for around $25 in the US for a 60W incandescent equivalent. As more and more American consumers embraced LEDs, manufacturing ramped up and prices began to fall dramatically.

We can’t achieve their manufacturing and logistic economies of scale, but hopefully demand for LEDs will increase and production costs will continue to fall, and we’ll be able to enjoy far lower prices.

Kind Regards,
George Block, Consumer NZ staff.

Roger & Jodie W.
12 Oct 2015
@George - Huh, that's irrelevant I would think.

Pretty much every single LED bulb I've looked at in NZ was manufactured in China. and I'd be more than willing to bet that the US is the same. Which means the only "real" differences are shipping costs and packaging costs.

And let's be honest, it costs about $2.00 per KG to ship REFRIGERATED cargo by boat from here to St Petersburg, which is the most expensive I've been able to find.

Previous member
14 Oct 2015
re: @George - Huh, that's irrelevant I would think.

Hi Roger & Jodie,

To clarify: the main reason for the failing price of LEDs is rapid improvements in the production process as a result of continually increasing global demand. We're seeing the effects of this in NZ: in our 2013 test the average price of a general service LED bulb was $35, but this had fallen to $22 when we conducted our latest lighting survey in March this year, with a 75W-equivalent LED available for $10. Naturally NZ is a drop in the bucket of global LED demand, but hopefully as kiwi consumers realise the benefits of LEDs, demand will increase and more importers will emerge, driving competition and further reducing prices in NZ.

Regards,

George
Consumer NZ staff

Dave K.
09 May 2015
Why not compare LEDs to CFLs?

I found this article disappointing for two reasons. Firstly the light outputs and "equivalent incandescent" listings are all just as claimed on the packet. I have been told by a lighting shop that the LEDs vary a lot and light outputs are often lower than claimed. Surely that's the kind of thing we rely on Consumer to measure? Even looking at the table, the lumens and equivalent wattages are inconsistent with each other.

Secondly I don't understand the enthusiasm for LEDs when they appear to have no current advantages over compact fluorescents (CFLs). This article continues that odd approach by comparing the efficiency of LEDs to incandescents, not to the more interesting and rational alternative of CFLs. As I understand it, LEDs are very little more energy-efficient than CFLs, which cost quite a lot less (about $3-5 for a CFL versus $10-$30 for a GLS LED). The LEDs are said to last longer, but only about twice as long, less than the ratio of purchase cost. So the cost effectiveness seems to me clearly in favour of CFLs, which also represent a lower up-front cost, and already last so long that with a houseful of them I find replacing one is a rare event. Even worse, your article tells us that you probably should get a whole new LED fitting because if the LED gets too hot it will fail early. The LED fittings I looked at were $80 or so. So I ask the obvious question, which your article completely fails to answer: why should I fit an LED light right now instead of a CFL?
Dave K

Previous member
11 May 2015
Why not compare LEDs to CFLs?

Hi Dave,

The aim of this buying guide is to provide a general overview of what to look for when buying an LED, and to give a broad snapshot of the market as it currently stands.

You’ve raised a good point: should people replace their CFLs with LEDs? One way to do this is to perform a series of return on investment (ROI) calculations. Let’s compare two standard GLS CFL and LED bulbs. The GLS has a lifespan of 6000 hours, costs $8 and draws 20W, while the LED has a lifespan of 15000 hours, costs $20 and draws 9.5W. The ROIs of the CFL and the LED replacing an equivalent incandescent bulb are 7.17 and 9.22 respectively, which shows that the LED will be the more efficient investment if you’re replacing an incandescent.

If we calculate the ROI of replacing the CFL with the LED, the result is 2.05. While this ROI is positive, which indicates the investment will give a net benefit if undertaken, it doesn’t take into account the hassle (i.e. transport costs and time spent searching for an equivalent LED) of replacing the CFL before it blows.

I think the bottom line of these calculations is that you should replace your incandescents with LEDs before the incandescents blow, but it’s probably best if you’ve already installed CFLs around your house to wait until they blow before replacing them with LEDs.

Hope that goes some way to answering your question.

Kind Regards,
George Block, Consumer NZ staff.

John M.
05 May 2015
Replacement bulb or dedicated LED fitting

Your article recommends replacing the complete fitting rather than just fitting an LED bulb because heat build up will shorten the life of the bulb. But if the LED is so efficient, where is all the heat coming from to cause the shortened life?

Previous member
05 May 2015
re: Replacement bulb or dedicated LED fitting

Hi John,

Thanks for your comment. Even though LED bulbs produce a relatively small amount of waste heat, this heat is concentrated at the base of the bulb where the LED driver circuit is housed. In old downlight fittings there is nowhere for this heat to go, so it gradually builds and will eventually reach the level where it shortens the life of the LED semiconductor chip.

Dedicated fittings allow for adequate air-flow and have internal cooling fins and heat sinks, which ensure all the heat quickly dissipates from the base of the bulb.

Kind Regards,
George Block
Consumer NZ staff

Peter I.
04 May 2015
No CRI Spec ? Why not ?

Hi I understand that the quality of the LED light (or rather to reveal the colors of various objects faithfully in comparison with an ideal or natural light source) is best measured by the CRI - Colour Rendering Index http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_rendering_index and that specifically there is considerable value in having LED CRI numbers.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_CRI_LED_Lighting - see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L_Prize

I know the US consumers I talk to a very keen in the highest CRI # they can buy - even if they are $20-40 / bulb.

Peter

Previous member
05 May 2015
re: No CRI Spec? Why not?

Hi Peter,

Thanks for your comment. Many LED bulbs in New Zealand don’t state the CRI on the packaging, but nearly all of them include an approximate colour temperature, so we used this as our comparison metric.

When we next test LEDs we will endeavour to provide more information about the CRI (if available), especially when assessing flood lights and downlights/spotlights.

Kind Regards,
George Block
Consumer NZ staff

Bruce H.
02 May 2015
Panasonic LEDs

Friends had issues with the old type bulbs blowing all the time. They live in the country. They replaced all of the bulbs with Panasonic LEDs and have not had one blow yet, in all most two years. The LEDs use a fraction of the power as well. I was so impressed that I have replaced as many bulbs as I could with them as well. Way better than the " so called" long life florescent bulbs.

J W.
02 May 2015
Could you extend your review please?

Hi. You've done a great job of covering the small players but I think you do your readers a disservice by overlooking Panasonic. They are a major player in retrofit domestic LED lighting solutions, being very competitive on price and being a tier one manufacturer (rather than subcontracting manufacture to the lowest bidder).
I have no connection to Panasonic apart from buying their products sometimes.

Paul S.
04 May 2015
re: could you extend your review please?

Hi J W,

Thanks for your comment and question.

For this article we conducted a 'market snapshot' of LED bulbs. We visited supermarkets, DIY stores and the bigger nationwide lighting stores to record bulbs on sale at the time of writing. Our results reflect exactly what we found.

There will be other brands available (and bulbs with wattages outside of those we listed). If you find bulbs we haven't list, we'd recommend checking pricing and specs against our list (to save you having to trawl around the stores) and working out the luminous efficacy as a quick performance check (lumens / watts). If you find any bulbs we've missed, you could post them here in a comment and add to the snapshot. As the LED market keeps moving, we will update the market snapshot periodically to keep it up to date.

Kind regards,
Paul Smith, Consumer NZ staff.

Chris D.
02 May 2015
Our experience

We replaced all of the lights with LEDs(Quartz halogen and par 38 down lights) as part of a re-roof and ceiling insulation job about a year ago. The lights we chose were Halcyon retrofits which had just been released. We also fitted dimmers to many of the circuits because we were uncertain about brightness. We're absolutely delighted with the results. The down lights replacing Quartz halogens provide better focussed light and are hugely more efficient. In the lounge we routinely have the lights partially dimmed as the brightness of the new lights is so much better than the old, yet the power consumption is about 10% of what was there previously. The retrofits fit perfectly and seal the ceiling as opposed to the old lights which vented through to the ceiling cavity. Our new ceiling insulation is a polyester blanket that lies over top of the new lights. No problems with safety issues associated with heat now!

Adam P.
02 May 2015
Manufacturers' claims

Good article. The lumens vs equivalent incandescent wattage claims by some of the manufacturers are surely 'misleading '. How can 380 lumens be equivalent to a50 watt incandescent if a 100 watt incandescent is equal to 1300 lumens? (Which in fact probably is closer to 1400 lumens).

J W.
02 May 2015
Brightness claims

Brightness is very specific to the particular installation. An incandescent filament radiates light equally in almost all directions but an LED naturally emits most of its light over a 120° cone. We often try to make a filament light more focussed with mirrors and lenses but these components are relatively expensive to do properly. A tiny LED light can produce as much light immediately below it as a much larger incandescent light.
I replaced 6 off 100W R80 incandescents with Philips 14W GLS bulbs and I have far more light in that room. In other rooms where I have replaced 60W GLS filament lamps with 14W GLS LED lamps I have much less light relfecting off the ceiling so areas that are not directly illuminated are dimmer now.

Debbie S.
02 May 2015
Very helpful article

I've always felt at a bit of a loss to know what sort of lightbulbs I should be buying, and in the last 10 years the speed at which the lightbulb technology changed was amazing. This article not only told me What to buy, but also Why to buy it and How it will affect the electrical efficiency of my home. Well done Consumer for an easy to understand but valuable article.