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LED, CFL light bulbs compared for energy use, price

September 3, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Nearly 75 percent of Americans use compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. Light emitting diode (LED) bulbs use far less energy but can cost several times the price of CFL bulbs. So how do these bulbs stack up against each other?

Many energy-efficient light bulbs come with a steep price, but does spending those extra dollars pay off in the long run? Deciding which light bulb to buy has gotten a lot tougher, and many consumers are confused. Consumer Reports has some bright answers.

Consumer Reports tested both CFL and LED bulbs and say LEDs have some real advantages.

In a test, light bulbs were turned on and off every two minutes. Some CFLs burned out, but all the LEDs went on strong after 200,000 cycles.

Also, unlike CFLs, some LEDs can be dimmed as low as an incandescent bulb. Another plus is that they come to full brightness instantly.

Consumer Reports also tested light bulbs' brightness and color temperature in a sphere and a computer analyzed the results.

"We found that some LEDs have the same warm glow as incandescents," said Dan DiClerico with Consumer Reports.

But not all LED bulbs are stellar. The Miracle LED claims to be equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent. However, it's not as bright as a 40-watt bulb. 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 DiClerico.

So which LEDs are best? Among 60-watt equivalents, Consumer Reports top-rated two bulbs: 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 even more. Also, unlike CFLs, LEDs don't contain any mercury. That means cleanup is easier if a bulb happens to break.


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