You’ve probably started to notice more and more light bulbs on store shelves that use light emitting diodes (LEDs), and may have also heard that LEDs save a lot of energy, have very long lifetimes, and provide bright, pleasing light. You’ve probably also noticed that LED light bulbs cost a lot more to purchase than incandescent and even compact fluorescent light bulbs. So, are they really worth it? Which ones are the best?
To help consumers and electric utilities answer these questions, the Edison Foundation’s Institute for Electric Efficiency (IEE) funded Ecova’s Research and Policy team to evaluate LED reflector light bulbs and highlight the best available today. The results of this research are now publically available on TopTen USA’s website. Ecova has long been a leading researcher and provider of lighting efficiency programs.
LED light bulbs come in many shapes and sizes, including a shape called a reflector lamp. Reflector lamps, also known as down lights, flood lights and spot lights, are intended to shine light in one direction. Many people use reflector lamps in recessed ceiling fixtures to shine light down into a room, in track lighting to highlight art work or wall surfaces, and for outdoor applications to illuminate landscaping or specific areas around a building. The IEE chose to evaluate these types of LED light bulbs in this round of research for several reasons:
- Many people still prefer incandescent or halogen incandescent reflector lamps because they may appear brighter and are able to focus light in one direction.
- LED reflector lamps work very well and save energy because they are very effective at shining bright light in one direction. In addition, many are fully dimmable and cost much less to operate than common incandescent and halogen incandescent reflector lamps.
- ENERGY STAR® developed specifications for LED lamps in 2010—there are now more than 350 ENERGY STAR-qualified LED reflector lamps to choose from.
- In a recent report, the U.S. EPA recommends LED reflector lamps as an excellent new opportunity for efficiency programs.
To identify the best of the best, researchers selected a group of ENERGY STAR LED reflector lamps for further testing in our lab. These bulbs underwent extensive evaluations, including tests for efficiency, color quality, dimmability, and total cost of ownership. In addition, a group of people simply rated how well they liked the light produced by these different lamps. A detailed description of the testing can be found on IEE’s website. By ranking all lamps based on these tests, we identified 10 LED reflector lamps that provide an excellent quality of light, and save money.
The U.S. DOE also evaluates LED light bulbs. Their advice—“See the LED lamps in application before you buy them”—is sound, but can be difficult to do. When shopping for LED light bulbs, remember that only ENERGY STAR light bulbs pass tests for efficiency, lifetime, and other performance criteria. And, if you want to purchase a best-in-class LED reflector lamp that has been seen, tested and recommended by our researchers, choose a TopTen bulb.