Consumer Reports' top picks in CFL lightbulbs and a sneak peak at LEDs

From Green Right Now Reports

According to the recent survey by Consumer Reports, eight in 10 (81 percent) Americans have purchased energy-efficient lightbulbs. The latest tests for compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) showed there’s no shortage of inexpensive, money-saving, energy-efficient options. Most delivered on brightness and many provided color that was closer to incandescents’ than in earlier versions. All bulbs tested had significantly less than 5 milligrams of mercury, the cap set by Energy Star for those bulbs.

Consumer Reports said the bulbs in its lab were cycled on and off since early 2009, or 6,000 hours. Brightness and warm-up times remained virtually the same as after 3,000 hours of testing – a typical incandescent bulb lasts only around 1,000 hours. While dimming has gotten easier, it’s not better. Though they were more convenient to use, the Leviton Decora 6673 and Apollo Analog 80005, each $20, were not any better than a standard dimmer at reaching low light levels, and this was also confirmed with an outside lab.

The latest generation of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) claim to rival the look, dimming ability, and light quality of incandescents, contain no mercury, and last up to five times longer than CFLs and 50 times longer than incandescents. They are pricey, at $60 a piece or more, but could save about $300 in electrical cost over its life compared with an incandescent.

Consumer Reports was able to purchase pre-retail samples of one of the newest LEDs, the Cree CR6, $50 – $60, a replacement for a 65-watt recessed downlight, from the manufacturer. Test results showed that it brightened instantly, like an incandescent and dimmed just as well or better than the best dimmable CFLs tested. At 10.5 watts, the CR6 used 84 percent less energy than a comparable incandescent and 30 percent less than a comparable CFL. But at 575 claimed lumens, it wasn’t as bright as comparable CFLs, which provided about 625 lumens after 3,000 hours of testing.

How to Choose the Best CFL

Consumer Reports makes these recommendations:

Think about fixtures. CFLs last longer and perform better if they’re on for 15 minutes or more. That makes them better for hard to reach fixtures, but don’t use them in areas where instant brightness is needed. Because CFLs contain small amounts of mercury, don’t put them in lamps that children could tip over easily and cause the bulb to break.
Note the lumens. Buying a bulb with just the right brightness and the fewest watts saves energy and money. Energy Star suggests that a 60-watt incandescent and its CFL or LED replacements have at least 800 lumens.

Consider the kelvins. To match a soft white incandescent, get a CFL or LED with 2700 K. The light bulbs with 3000 K is comparable to the whiter light of halogen bulbs, while bulbs with 3500 K to 4100 K give off a cool, bright white light.

The full report is available online at

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