7 Tips for LED Bulb Buyers
Avoid heartbreak in the lighting aisle with these tips
Published June 26, 2015
LED bulbs are getting better and cheaper, but you can still get stung by floods that won't dim properly, candle bulbs that cast shadows, and table-lamp bulbs that claim to be "warm" but aren't. Before relinquishing your beloved incandescents:
1. Shop right
Find a store that displays live bulbs so you can see and compare—and ask about the policy on returns. You may not realize it until you get home, but some candle bulbs cast shadows, and some reading-lamp bulbs fail to direct the light down, where you need it.
2. Avoid floods that bulge
Measure replacement bulbs to make sure they will be flush with your fixture. Bring in your old bulb to compare if possible.
3. Read the label
Sounds like a no-brainer, but it's easy to overlook the fine print under the heading Lighting Facts. Bulbs with too many lumens can blind you, and color temperatures above 2700 veer toward blue-white. As for color accuracy, higher is better—over 90 is best.
4. Be dimmer aware
Ever heard of "dead travel"? That's what happens when the bulb stalls out instead of turning low. Flickering can be a problem too. Many bulbs just can't go below 30 percent; in a living space, you may want your bulb to dim to 5 percent.
5. So spring for an Energy Star bulb
The EPA tests and retests, and not just for energy efficiency. What's more, the Energy Star program allows you to sift through the options at a handy interactive website:
Just check off the features you want and up come bulbs that qualify. For example: If you check off "Reflector bulb…LED…Medium Screw Base…451-800 Lumens…Warm-Soft Light Appearance…Color Quality 91-95…Dims down to 5 percent," you'll find 14 choices, winnowed down from thousands.
6. Sweeten the deal
Check online to see if your utility offers rebates.
7. Still not sure?
Take home a few CFLs: These energy misers, also covered by the above-mentioned Energy Star link, have gotten better and cheaper too.