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LED light bulbs more energy-efficient

January 10, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
When it comes to buying energy-efficient light bulbs, you've got new choices. LED bulbs are just hitting store shelves now and they claim to last five times longer than CFLs and 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. As of the first of the year California requires new restrictions on incandescent light bulbs, and IKEA stores have decided not to sell incandescent light bulbs at all.

Consumer Reports tester John Banta has an illuminating visitor in his home: the Cree CR6 LED floodlight, the latest in light bulb technology.

"It's very similar to an incandescent bulb, but it doesn't get hot. It doesn't use as much energy," said Banta.

Back in the labs, Consumer Reports testers have this bulb burning continuously. The new Cree says it will last a whopping 50,000 hours.

"To reach 50,000 hours, let's say you have the light on for six hours a day, that means this bulb would last for 22 years," said Consumer Reports tester Dan DiClerico.

In a first look at the Cree LED light bulb, Consumer Reports found it has some advantages over CFLs.

When you turn it on, the LED bulb brightens right away, but some CFLs take a couple of minutes to fully illuminate.

"And with this LED, colors under the light look similar to how they appear under a regular incandescent. But the downside with LEDs is their price. A single floodlight can cost $60," said DiClerico.

But Consumer Reports tests show there are plenty of good-performing CFLs that cost far less.

Top ratings went to some EcoSmart bulbs from Home Depot: EcoSmart floodlights, numbered 780-758, cost $13 for two. And EcoSmart lamp bulbs, numbered 423-599, cost $6 for four. Consumer Reports' tests find they'll burn thousands of hours longer than incandescent bulbs.

The first LED lights on the market gave off a bluish color, but some of the newer bulbs have a warmer light that is very similar to incandescent bulbs.

You also might want to consider some of the newest halogen lights, which are now more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs too.