Lighting Upgrade: Incandescent to CFL to LED

incandescent --> CFL --> LED

In a recent post about the Philips dimmable LED a reader mentioned that Home Depot also has a residential LED available under the EcoSmart brand name, and this one is under $20.  So I bought one to test it out.  I first went to my local Home Depot store, but they didnt have any yet, so I bought it offline.

One thing I didn't realize until after I replaced the CFL  my living room lamp with the LED is that it is only a 40 watt equivalent, not a 60 watt equivalent like the CFL.  The CFL I had in the lamp was also an EcoSmart brand, but it was a 60W equivalent (it consumed 14 Watts).   EcoSmart has three different light colors for their CFLs: soft white, daylight, and bright white.  I've tried them all and the soft white puts out the light that looks similar to incandescent; it is warmer than the bright white or daylight.

I am finally coming to realize how important color temperature is!  The CFL has a color temperature of 2700 K, just like the Philips LED and a standard incandescent.  However, the Home Depot EcoSmart LED has a color temperature of 3032 K.  So what does this mean?

The image at right shows a color temperature chart. As you can see, the lower the color temperature, the more yellow the light is going to be. The higher it is the whiter the light is going to be. If a light is too "white" it really isn't going to be warm and inviting. When I was first trying to find the right CFLs for our home I purchased some of the EcoSmart Daylight CFLs, and they have a color temperature of 5000 K. This was way too bright for our living areas, so those lights were delegated to our workout room.

Unfortunately, the color of the EcoSmart LED I just purchased is also too white for the living room, and our CFL has been put back in place.  I am losing some energy savings (while advertised at 8 watts, the LED was only consuming 6 watts when I checked it with my Kill-A-Watt) but gaining (or not losing) the contentment of my wife, which in actuality is worth more than saving energy!

However, the LED has taken up a new home in our hallway light that we leave on sometimes when we leave the house at night.  In the hallway the color of the light doesn't matter as much.  I'll continue testing the LED there.  And while the LED is dimmable, I don't have a dimmable lighting fixture that I want to put it in.

Aside from color temperature and watts, the other thing to consider is lumens.  From Wikipedia, "The lumen (symbol: lm) is the SI unit of luminous flux, a measure of the power of light perceived by the human eye."  So for what you are considered with in a residential lighting setting, lumens are a  measure of light output.

The CFL I have in the lamp put out 900 lumens, while the Home Depot LED only put out 429 Lumens.  Of course, part of this decrease is to be expected because the CFL is a 60W equivalent while the LED is a 40W equivalent, but there is usually going to be a lumen drop when you go from a CFL to an LED.  On another note, while the Philips LED has a warmer color than the EcoSmart LED, the lumen output of the Philips is only 325 Lumens.

So what should you take out of all of this?  Well, it seems there is more to changing out your lights than just comparing wattage!  You also have to consider what the color of the light will be and if there will be enough light to prevent you from straining your eyes (not to mention the direction the bulb sends the light out)!  My advice is to get a bulb, try it out in a few spots and see if it works for you.  If you like it, get more.  If you don't like it, don't give up!  Saving energy isn't always easy, but it is worthwhile (as long as you don't disrupt your significant other :) )

enjoyed our post? let others know: 


We're working on replacing all lights (incandescent and CFL) with LED. CFL, or any flourescent is not the way to go indoors due to the mercury risk. I agree with Jeff about actual colors. We don't have the brown and tan thing going here tat so many people do. We like to see the actual colors on our walls and furnishings. Higher color temperatures are preferred. LED is currently expensive up front, so we're taking it one step at a time as Chris suggests. At least one bulb has been relocated already. If the lifetime claims on LEDs are true, they might save us both electricity, and cost of the lamps as well over time. I just wish there were more options. Home Depot and Lowe's don't have a great selection. As an electrician I'm also looking at replacing sockets to be rid of CFL lamp bulbs we currently have (damned GU24 sockets!).
ckmapawatt's picture
Dave, great comment. You do know that the mercury in CFL is a very, small amount (about 125th the amount of the old mouth thermometers). But I can understand concern if there are small children in the home. My point is that I think the mercury concerns with CFLs are overblown, but at least people have another option with LEDs, which are actually a better technology.
Another thing to consider is the design of the bulb itself. After finding some LED lamps that were under $10 and installing them in a new ceiling fixture, I discovered that the heat sink on the bottom of the bulb left a dark band on the lamp shade and ceiling. These lamps may have a place in a different lamp but I would not recommend them for a horizontal installation behind a shade. While I have not tried them in a floor or table lamp in the vertical configuration, I imagine they will cast a shadow on the floor or table under the lamp which will defeat their purpose. They may work for a torchiere where the light direction is upward.
Hello. Do you think themodeling light flashes in studio the must yellow OR white? thank you.
ckmapawatt's picture
Can you elaborate on your question? I believe you are referring to color temperature.
I find it interesting that people try to match the light "quality" of incandescents when purchasing CFLs or LEDs rather than trying to match sunlight which is ultimately the goal of artificial lighting. Generally speaking, incandescents cannot closely match sunlight so we have become used to their inferior light output. Similarly, we have grown accustomed to the shape of incandescents to the point many people don't like CFLs because they don't look like "normal" light bulbs. I personally prefer lights with higher CRI's and color temperature. These lights bring out the natural colors of our surroundings rather than simulate the poor quality of incandescent light.
People try to match incandescent because they are softer and warmer than sunlight. This means that skin tones look more even, and everyone looks more attractive. So in the end, incandescent means more sex.
You should also take note of a bulb's CRI (Color Rendering Index). The closer to 100, more accurate the colors will be. That's a very important number to interior designers and retail stores, to show off their products and give them that 'pop.' When it comes to color temperature, it's important to note that unless you're really at the edge of the spectrum, it's more of a perception thing. Just like when wearing tinted ski-goggles for a while, your brain 'recalibrates' and you don't notice that the colors are all shifted. The same is for color temperature. The trouble comes when people have bulbs with mixed color temperatures close to each other - then it's very noticeable and the your brain is unable to compensate. If you were to outfit the whole house with daylight bulbs, you'd never notice.
In my experience, you need a CFL with a color temperature of 2250K to get a good match to an incandescent. George
Where do you get CFLs with lower than 2700K. I really agree that they are not as warm as incandescents. Thanks


Post new comment

Subscribe to Comments for "Lighting Upgrade: Incandescent to CFL to LED"