Is the new Cree LED bulb a good enough 60 watt replacement?

Posted by Paul Braren on Apr 10 2013 in
  • Efficiency
  • Reviews
  • I'm a long-time fan of the Cree6 downlights in my family room, serving our family very natural, dimmable light since December of 2011. Recently, when a bedrooom's old and dim 54 watt total dual-circline fluorescent ceiling fixture gave out, I replaced it with an affordable, semi-flush 3 bulb ceiling fixture. So the hunt for the best affordable LED bulb was on!

    ceilingfixture

    Having used multiple LEDs in several rooms in my house already, 2700K was the color temperature of choice for us. 3000K is also common, but just a little too cold. It does look odd when adjacent rooms don't have matching color temperatures.

    I really hoped the Home Depot's Cree 60 watt replacement bulbs based on the latest LEDs technology would work out. There's considerable appeal to a bulb that runs cool to the touch, is very efficient, and quite affordable. Unfortunately, the light the Cree 60 watt replacement bulb gives off just isn't quite appealing enough to replace the CFLs in my home. It boils down to the CRI, the Color Rendering Index. This new Cree bulb is rated as CRI 80, and the comparison to the 85 CRI of the Lighting Science Definity A19 I already have in another room's ceiling fixture was subtle but noticeable. Even more obvious were comparisons to the CRI of 90 on the Cree6 downlights in the family room. CRI is not something that's easy to capture and share on the web accurately, but it is easy to spot with the human eye. Objects and people in the 80 CRI illuminated room taking on a strangely unnatural color cast. This is evident the second we turned on the new lights. Yes, this is an admittedly subjective observation, based on just my family's opinions. All these bulbs I'm discussing here are 2700k.

    Here's what I said on Google+ about this experience last month:
    plus.google.com/u/0/108099269416006256371/posts/BqpUMgAg52i

    Looks promising, $12.97 each at Home Depot for this potential 60 watt incandescent bulb replacement, with 800 lumens: Cree 9.5-Watt (60W) Warm White (2700K) LED Light Bulb http://fave.co/ZtFmIG See also http://www.geek.com/articles/gadgets/crees-led-bulb-looks-like-an-incandescent-and-lights-like-one-for-under-10-2013035/ http://www.theverge.com/2013/3/5/4068174/cree-10-dollar-led-light-bulb-incandescent What I’m not seeing mentioned is the only fair CRI (Color Rendering Index), with a score of 80, bested by the CRI 85 of this bulb: $19.41 each at 1000Bulbs, also with 800 lumens: Lighting Science 13.5 Watt (60W) Warm White (2700K) LED Light Bulb http://fave.co/WUwgks Is the better CRI worth the extra cost/lower efficiency? I may wind up trying out both myself, to find out

    As far as the next best choice, for non-enclosed indoor fixtures? Well, the Tech Dude sums it all up nicely, when adding his rating to the Amazon Lighting Science Definity A19 product page, back in Sep. 16 2012:

    Tried the rest — this is the best
    <www.amazon.com/review/RBVSMYXR9B6S1/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm>
    There is a steadily growing industry around building LED light bulbs like this one. The holy grail for them is to make an inexpensive and energy efficient replacement for the ubiquitous standard 60W light bulb that can be sold to millions, or billions, of customers. To that end, a number of companies have flooded the market and your local home improvement store with LED bulbs touting themselves as the 60W replacement, including Philips, Sylvania (Osram), Toshiba, Samsung and a number of smaller brands. I’ve tested almost every one of these bulbs, and the Lighting Science Definity A19 is the one that comes closest to achieving near perfection in an LED bulb and, except for the cost, closest to the goal of a universal 60W replacement bulb.

    I really do feel we're very close to the price point and quality needed for LEDs to really take off for the typical home consumer, but for my family, we're just note quite there yet. I sure hope the company with the best tech wins out, even if they don't have a cozy relationship with giants like Home Depot and Lowe's.

    So back to the Home Depot returns desk I went. Then put some old CFL bulbs into that bedroom ceiling fixture for now, to help buy some time while I wait to try out the next most-promising 60 watt replacement LED bulb, 2700K and CRI of 85 or higher. I'm looking for even more efficiency than the Lighting Science Definity A19, a bulb that puts out even less heat, since I'd eventually like to safely tackle some enclosed fixtures as well.*

    Home-Depots-very-big-and-bold-Cree-bulb-display-e1365643802497
    Home Depot’s very big and bold Cree bulb display, your local pricing may vary.
    Aggressive-CREE-versus-Samsung-LED-display-e1365643927123
    Aggressive Cree versus Samsung LED display

    *None of the LED bulbs I've tested or blogged about were affected by a potential issue I recently learned about. Approximately 554,000 bulbs out there under the EcoSmart, Sylvania, Definity, and Westinghouse brands were identified as a possible fire hazard risk, and were voluntarily recalled on March 19, 2013. Recall number 13-142, read details at the Consumer Product Safety Division here. Following all manufacturer's recommendations on the applications of any technology mentioned on this blog is your responsibility. It may wind up being years before LEDs can be safely used in enclosed fixtures.