Depending on where you’ve been buying LED light bulbs from, you might be of the opinion that either the whole thing is a load of hype or alternatively that they’re one of the best developments ever (especially seeing as how they save so much money).
So why the yawning gulf between those who think LEDs are a waste of time and money and those who are convinced they more than deliver on their promise with regard to both light quality and low energy consumption?
Well it basically boils down to the fact that, as the title suggests, there are huge differences between the various LED bulbs available. The give away clues are there for all to see though – you just need to know where to look.
In the absence of all other information, price tends to be a reliable guide. If you’re looking to pay around a fiver or less for an LED light bulb then you are not going to end up with a very good product. It will not be very bright, likely emit a poor color and generally disappoint.
This is not unlike refusing to pay the going rate for a new pair of shoes and opting instead for a “bargain” – the fact is that however little you pay (or however much you think you’re “saving”) you are still just wasting your money since the end product will be near unusable.
The next place to check is the packaging (or other product information). To get an approximate idea of how bright an LED lamp will appear, multiple its stated power consumption in watts by ten. Most people have developed an understanding for how bright a 40W bulb is, for example, so to get an equivalent LED you should be looking at 4W versions. Don’t expect a 1 or 2 watt LED to replace it – it’s just not possible. Actually, why does anyone buy 1W and 2W LED bulbs anyway? To replace their kitchen down lights with night lights perhaps?
Still on the printed information, check also for color temperature (and for spot lights, the beam angle which you want to be about the same as for a regular halogen lamps). The color temperature is not something anyone ever mentioned with incandescent light bulbs, but with LED it is important since there is quite a wide range.
We’re talking about white light “color” as in how warm or cool the effect is. As a rule, for most domestic applications you should aim for what is termed “warm white” which is between about 2700 – 3200 Kelvin. If you stray outside those bounds then the light will either seem rather dull or have that distinctly cold, blueish tinge commonly associated with first generation LED lights.
If there is any mention of the LED chip(s) printed on the bulb then lookout for names such as Cree, Edison, Philips, Epistar and so on. Though many suppliers do in fact use these high quality internal components and yet never mention them, so it’s not a particularly reliable gauge.
If you can actually get an LED bulb physically in your hands then it should feel quite heavy and solidly made (I have occasionally dropped them onto hard floors from quite a height and, whereas any conventional light bulb would be instantly destroyed, the LEDs suffered no ill effects). If it doesn’t have that weighty, well engineered feel to it then it’s almost certainly another cheap, low quality, me-too brand that’s not worth your time or money.
So where can you find high quality LED lights that will both save you a fortune on lighting costs and illuminate your home or business beautifully? Well it has to be said that both bricks and mortar shops (typically DIY stores and supermarkets) and online sellers can be a rich source of either decent products or total duds.
The situation has certainly improved greatly of late in physical shops, possibly because more and better LEDs are available and they are not so highly priced any more (and thus less of a shoplifting liability), though you do still have to sift them out from the low-spec dross.
It has always been easy to find LEDs online since they are a perfect online selling commodity – small size, high value, not that much you need to say about them. It’s certainly true that there is no shortage of dubious looking offerings (cough, eBay, cough, cough) but then many online shopping arenas have always been a case of caveat emptor.
One that tends to buck the trend is the Amazon LED lights section. Dodgy suppliers and products simply cannot hide from the plethora of buyer reviews (which rarely pull any punches) and Amazon of course offer a returns service that is second to none. Don’t like what you bought for any reason at all? Simply print a return label, put it back in the post and get refunded – brilliant!