Jan. 1 will mark the end of residential lighting as we know it.
As of that day, the manufacture of the 60-watt incandescent bulb, the most widely used light bulb in America, will cease. In response, the U.S. lighting industry is working mightily to persuade U.S. consumers to purchase a near-equivalent: light emitting diode bulbs, known as LEDs.
Like most electronics, the first LED 60-watt equivalents, introduced several years ago, were expensive. But, as competing manufacturers continually introduce “new and improved” versions, prices are rapidly falling.
Though some firms have priced their LED 60-watt equivalents at $22, others are charging only $11 and in areas of the country where local utilities are offering rebates, the cost per bulb can be as low as $5. (In the Washington area, utilities in Maryland and the District are currently offering rebates on some brands of LEDs).
Five dollars is still more than five times the current cost of most incandescent bulbs, but the LED 60-watt equivalents last more than 22 times as long (yes, that’s 22 times) and they are far less costly to operate (about $1.14 a year versus $7.23 a year for the old-style 60-watt bulb when used for three hours a day at 11 cents per kilowatt hour).
Though the LEDs are not exact equivalents of the 60-watt bulbs they replace, they are close enough that most consumers will not, in my estimation, experience much of a change (when I tried several in my own house, my husband didn’t notice a thing).
Based on my home testing, and rating five LED 60-watt equivalents for both price and performance, the two that seemed the best bet for most homeowners are CREE’s “Soft White LED 60 watt Replacement” and Philips “11w – 60w,” (available at Home Depot for $12.97 and $14.97 respectively). They are both Energy Star rated, which means that they are both eligible for rebates when local utilities offer them.
In addition to a pleasing color of light (they each are 2700 degrees Kelvin, close to the 2800 degrees for an incandescent 60-watt bulb), both bulbs have excellent “light distribution.”
That is, when switched on, the light shines both up and down, making these suitable for reading as well as for general use.
Katherine Salant has an architecture degree from Harvard. A native Washingtonian, she grew up in Fairfax County and now lives in Ann Arbor, Mich. If you have questions or column ideas, she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.katherinesalant.com.