installing a lightbulb
Research report
1 May 2015

LED bulbs 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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Paul L.
03 Apr 2021
LED bulbs v. standard bulbs and heating

There is no free lunch. A standard light bulb gives out both heat and light. An LED bulb gives out mostly light and very little heat. Therefore if you have LED lighting in a room that also requires heating then most of the energy you save from using a much more expensive LED bulb will be consumed in extra heating to compensate. Where heating is not required such as in a garage, outside lights or during summer maybe the cost differential can be justified.

Saskia S.
26 Jun 2020
LED specifications

It is useful to know the type of LED technology, as COB is better, less energy consumption for greater light output. It would be good if consumer researched this and put the infirmation on their website.

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.

Previous member
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.

Previous member
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.

Previous member
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

Previous member
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.

Previous member
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.

Previous member
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 .

Eric Dy
29 Apr 2020
Please do a brand comparison

I think many people would value a comparison of LED replacement lamps from different brands- even if only for a standard A19 shape. There is huge variability in cost and quality- after experimenting casually with different brands for the last 7 years I'm still not sure which is best value overall. Thanks

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.

Previous member
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

Previous member
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

Previous member
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.

Previous member
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.