Electric light has been with us for about 130 years, and though you might not know it, we are now in one of the most exciting times in its evolution. Long dominated by the incandescent lamp, residential lighting has recently benefited from the rapid development of light emitting diode, or ‘LED’ bulbs that are performing equally, and in some cases better than incandescent lamps in nearly all aspects. You might have already heard that LEDs save a great deal of energy, last thousands and thousands of hours longer than other bulbs, remain cool to the touch and are available in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes.
One of the most successful uses for LEDs has been reflector lamps. Reflector lamps are used where you want the light to shine in a particular direction, and provide either a narrow cone of concentrated light (spot lighting) or a broader cone of more diffuse light (flood lighting). Because LEDs already tend to produce their light in one direction, they are a great fit for this application. Found in recessed ceiling downlights for lighting rooms, in track lighting to light walls and accent paintings, and in outdoor fixtures to illuminate walkways, driveways and property at night, the benefits and uses of LEDs have brought opportunity to manufacturers. And with this opportunity comes increased consumer choice.
So how do you choose? What features do you look at to make sure you’re getting the best quality LED product? The answer is…look at everything! In partnership with IEE, the Edison Foundation’s Innovation, Electricity and Efficiency institute and TopTen USA, Ecova’s Research and Policy team has done just that. We took a look at all 472 LED reflector lamps on the ENERGY STAR® Qualified LED Light Bulbs list. To identify the absolute best reflector lamps on the market today, we developed a screening and testing methodology to narrow that list down. Our researchers purchased 63 models for testing in our laboratory, and produced a final list of the 20 top performers. Earlier today, we announced the results of our findings with IEE in this press release.
The Ecova team rated each lamp on its energy efficiency, cost effectiveness and physical properties such as color, quality and dimmability. A diverse group of observers then judged each bulb by its appearance, identifying the most preferred lamps out of the collection. By ranking the lamps on their total scores in five overarching categories—energy, economics, laboratory measured performance, human factors and physical—we identified 20 Best-in-Class LED reflector lamps. Details on this procedure, and the LED bulb lists can be found on TopTenUSA’s website.
What we discovered was that the most efficient lamps were not always the best. Rather, it was not enough for a winning lamp to excel at only one thing, it had to do many things reasonably well. We found that certain LED reflector lamps consistently rose to the top because they:
- Saved a good deal of energy, relative to their retail price.
- Had controlled light beams, uniform and free of shadowing or color problems.
And in general, we discovered that:
- The winning lamps were not always the brightest lamps.
- People expected to see light bulbs that they simply liked, and they wanted to receive good value for their investment.
As we pointed out in our last entry, the US Department of Energy has also been working to evaluate LED light bulbs in its CALiPER Program, and their recommendation remains the same—try before you buy. Although in this round of Ecova’s testing we found that the quality and performance of LED reflector lamps had definitely improved, and that the category is getting better, we still agree with this advice. So if you’d like to purchase a best-in-class LED reflector lamp, consider the lamps that our researchers have tested for quality, performance and efficiency, and choose TopTen bulbs!
Related blog posts:
LED Reflector Lamp Evaluation Published
Lighting Programs: Still One of the Most Important Parts of Your Energy Efficiency Portfolio
Next Generation Lighting Programs: What’s All the (Lighting) Fuss About?