My assessment of LED lights

poobalooFebruary 14, 2013

I'm going thru a remodel involving lights, and I'm thrilled to see everything is LED so there is a better solution to save electricity than CFL. I couldn't decide which to buy so I bought them all and made our own little showroom in our basement.

The stores local to me are HD and Menards, so that's what I went with. We have new construction 5" br30 / par30 cans.

The first bulb I tried was the CE 5" retrofit with recessed gimball. It had the most wow factor. It was also the most expensive, $45 at HD. This bulb definitely looked cool installed, but it had a very focused light. It looked almost like a flashlight when you'd move it around the room you could see a definite circle pattern. Even tho it's called a flood, it had a PAR-looking pattern. Great for task lighting, not great for a bedroom.

We compared this to a CFL, Incandescent, and a flood incandescent all at once. People liked the CFL least. Worst and least amount of light. Ppl liked the look of the CE, but not the focused light and shadows it cast. Overall ppl liked the incandescent flood best. So my initial delve into lighting was producing nothing better than the old power-eating standby.

So I went back and researched lots of different ones, and got one of each. This time, we tried the other CE retrofit from Home Depot with 5" white trim and BR-style lens. And from Menards, their version of the retrofit, and their cheap LED Dimmable Bulb (Feit Professional series) for $16.

Now we haev 4 LEDs to compare.

A $45: CE retrofit with PAR lens from HD 3000K
B $38: CE retrofit with BR lens from HD 3000K
C $35: Feit retrofit with flat lens from Menards 3000K
D $25: Feit bulb and baffle from Menards ($16+$9) 2700K

Light quality.
They were all really good. Aside from A being focused, B, C, D all had nice non-shadow casting light that filled the room, was really bright, and a nice color. I like the 3000K and didnt feel it was too cool.

Delay - on.
This was really annoying. A, C, and D all popped right on when you flipped the switch but B took over a second. I know that's probly trivial, but I would notice it every time I turned them on. So right there I consider B out, even tho it had a lot of nice features like the BR lens, narrow trim, and interchangeable trim kits. I don't feel bad about this also cuz it had the lowest light output around 630 lumens.

I found it really strange that 2 kits both by CE performed so differently. Don't they use the same basic drive technology among models? A popped on fast but B was delayed. Go figure.

None of them hummed. I read about hum problems out here, but I just didn't see it (er, um... hear it). All equal, all were nice and quiet.

The look.
Everyone pretty much liked the Menards retrofit best. It had a flat translucent panel instead of a BR- or PAR-looking lens. This diffused the light really well and made it so if you caught a glimpse of the fixture directly, it was the least painful on your eyes. Also I liked that this lens was flat and sealed to the trim, so once the light is installed, there would be no cracks for spiders, dust, or anything to slip thru.

The Menards bulb looked like a traditional baffle and flood bulb. You had to make a point to center them in the baffles or they skew and don't look as good. Otherwise it was fine. I was actually surprised - why would ppl pay $30-$40 for a bulb, when this one looks really great? If you're replacing bulb only, the light quality was excellent and the price is right at $16. Even if one out of 10 burns out in 10 yrs instead of 20, you've spent 40% of the cost of more expensive ones so you can replace it once and still be ahead.

For $10 more tho, I can get the kit, which has no issue w centering the bulb, the sealed lens / trim, the best diffused lens, and a clean and refined look w no gaps or cracks. Over 10 fixtures, that's $250 vs $350, so we'll go the extra $100.

It's also $3 cheaper than the CE model at HD, comes on quicker, and outputs 840 lumens vs 630.

The next step will be to wait till my dimmers (CL-series for the LED lights) come in, and if they dim as well as the others, then it's a done deal. I'll post back when I find out how they all dim.

This experiment seems to indicate that the Feit is the best, but everywhere I read ppl seem to like to bash them. Are they worse? Or are ppl just brand loyal to their Nora or Cree which probly just have more markup? When comparing the 4 kits avail at common stores, this one seemed to stand out as the best performer and at a good price. Not the cheapest , but not the most expensive either.

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I can't say anything about FEIT LEDs, but I have had poor results with their other offerings, so I have no respect for them as a brand. The LEDs may be okay, I just have no data. This may be the "bashing" you see from others, unless they are specifically mentioning the LEDs.

The CREE units dim well, down to almost unusable lighting levels. They are 2700k or 5000k (last I checked), although I think the 2700k does look slightly whiter than incandescent.

I did have one CREE unit (out of about 43) that blinked when installed, and failed totally within minutes. Replaced quickly by PolarRay.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 3:21PM
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doing my own assessment of LED's for 6 recessed cans in my kitchen. Shaded backyard, lights are always on. Walls are painted a "gray-brown" (BM Stardust), cabs are BM oc-11 Clay beige.

Yesterday while at Costco, they had the Feit 2700K LED floods on sale for $10.99, bought 1 to try. It cast a "pinkish" type light, brighter and whiter than my incad. lights, which looked really yellow in comparision. However, it made my cabs and paint look pink. so, that's going back.

any chance we will like the 3000K better.??

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 8:36AM
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I would guess that's the same bulb avail at Menards for $16.99. It was 2700K. We definitely liked the three models we tried that were 3000K better, but only by a hair so the price seems great at $10.99!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 10:38AM
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Dimmer results at last!

A $45: CE retrofit with PAR lens from HD 3000K
B $38: CE retrofit with BR lens from HD 3000K
C $35: Feit retrofit with flat lens from Menards 3000K
D $25: Feit bulb and baffle from Menards ($16+$9) 2700K

I tested with a Lutron Diva LED Dimmer. Here's what I found...

They all advertised dimmable to 5%. Yeah, right! They got nowhere close to 5%. I'd say the worst went 100%-50% and the best went 100%-30%. This is just by eye. I certainly didn't need them to go to 5%, just interesting that they advertised that they do that. 5% of 800 lumens would be 40 lumens, aka a tiny night light -- they didn't go that far.

The bulb I liked least before (the Home Depot model, B in the list) is still the worst. It puts out the least light and dims the least.

The other ones did better... The Home Depot PAR light and the Menards Retrofit were both "good"... they dimmed down to I'd say about 40%

The one that dimmed the best was the cheap Feit bulb. It had the largest range -- I'd say it went down to about 30%.

Overall, I was surprised that the Menards brand outperformed the Home Depot Brand in every test. So my model choices are easy. The Feit retrofit kit where I have new cans going in and the Feit Performance bulb where I have existing rework.

Hope that helps anyone interested!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 11:26AM
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Thank you Squishyball for your review and sharing all of this with all of us! I will try the Feit retrofit with flat lens from Menards 3000K out in my kitchen and see if I like it since that has the installed cans right now. If I like this, I will compare with the CREE and make my decision for my home office.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 11:31AM
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OK, I looked up the Feit and it looks like the CRI is only > 80 instead of > 90 with less lumen's in the 3,000K color but more lumen's I the 2,700K temperature. I will report back with my testings in my kitchen that will help me decide what to use in my home office without breaking the bank. I still have to have cans installed but I first want to know what bulb I am using. Again, thank you Squishyball for sharing.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 11:54AM
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TCP PRO LED PAR38 - 17 Watt - 3,000K - 40 Degree I am not thinking of with CRI of 85 and the color I want with 1,050 lumens. Anyone use this bulb that dims completely that is only $31 on sale?

This post was edited by lynn2006 on Wed, Aug 7, 13 at 23:26

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 11:55AM
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I just snagged some Feit br30 dimmable bulbs 2700k
For those of you who tried them, how are they working after a few months?
Would you recommend or go with Cree?
Has anyone used Cooper?
We have Cooper with trim in the kitchen - they work fine but cause buzzing with the wolf induction.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2014 at 11:23AM
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I just changed out all my Halogen lights in my kitchen to the new Cree 1500 lumens 47 degree radius with 3,000K color (more warm than the 3,000 TCP bulb) PAR 38 that is supposed to replace a 90 watt bulb. The bulb is only $24.95 each! It is supposed to last 20,000 hours.

I love the bulb. Now the 6 lights in my kitchen work! My tiles are now beautiful that I just installed and the bulb dims but maybe only down to 30% while the TCP went down to 5%. The TCP bulbs were on backorder and I needed to replace the 4 halogens that died and since I already had one TCP bulb I bought a few months ago to try out and I loved it, I am just keeping that over the sink. They also have a 25 degree radius bulb of the same and it is more like a spot light. I tried the 625 watts Cree all-in-one with an 80% radius and my floor stayed dark and I did not like the too dim light at all.

I am about to install recessed lights in my home office finally and use these bulbs. I am getting quotes right now.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2014 at 11:05PM
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