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 :) )

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ckmapawatt's picture
You're probably right. Even the CFL's that say they are 2700K (the same as an incandescent) still seem a little "whiter", so a lower color temperature is probably going to work better.


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