Opinions on Cree LR6 (reliability, etc)

geobrickAugust 16, 2009

I have 79 six inch cans in my house. Only about half currently have an active 45 or 50 watt halogen PAR38 bulb installed (we just donÂt need that much light). I've tried Fluorescents in the past but I never liked them for several reasons and their reliability is questionable (The electronics fail and in several cases the glass surround came loose with one crashing to a counter top).

I've been waiting for LEDs for home use for years when I finally discovered the Cree LR6 retrofit bulbs which seem perfect for what I want. (IÂm paying about 27 cents a KWh averaging taxes tiers etc).

I recently bought one to sample (an Edison base 2700k color temp). It was extremely easy to install and I was very impressed with its light output and distribution (a nice and even flood). At first I thought the color tone was too red compared to the Halogens but the next time I turned it on, it was either whiter or I just got used to it. I will probably try a 3500k for comparison. In general, I think I normally prefer the way warmer (2700k) incandescent look but I want to be sure before I buy such a large quantity of LR6s.

But to get to my real question, what are your opinions on their expected reliability? They are solid state devices with circuitry to control power to the LEDs. ArenÂt these electronic components just as susceptible to failure as those found in CFLs? Does CreeÂs 50,000 hour life include all the components in the circuitry or just the LEDÂs themselves?

Another thing to consider is what would happen if there were a power surge from an electrical storm or whatever else causes them? How about frequent on/off cycles from kids playing with a switch?

Please share your thoughts, facts and opinions.

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Good questions. Obviously, no one can truly test the 50k hour claim from Cree. And yes, any component in there could fail- causing the lamp to fail.
My view is that Cree has been in the LED business for a long time. They know what it takes for the heat management to be right.
We've also sold over 2000 combined units of Cree items. And we've only had to ship back about 5 pieces due to defects. So I'm very happy with their failure rate.

The 50,000 hour life is for the whole unit. But there is a warranty period. Obviously, any manufacturer doesn't know what you do with your bulbs after you install them.

So overall, I think the LR6 is a winner. If you're happy with the one you tested, go for it.

Keep in mind that the 50k hour life given by Cree means that in 50k hours it will still be working, but that it will be emitting at least 70% of the light it started out with. It will then get progressively dimmer.

So in reality, you can be using these units for 60k hours before you feel the need to change them.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 8:42PM
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That seems to be a reasonable answer.

Here's one more question. I noticed the lens seems to be plastic. Do you think it will turn yellow over time like some plastic lenses do?

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 10:33PM
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Probably not. The yellowing is caused by the heat of the bulb. And as there is no heat at the lens, it shouldn't happened.
That lens is pretty interesting. It's actually multiple layers. Some allow the light to pass right through and others bounce it back. This is how Cree gets away with getting the excellent color. There is a gap between the diodes and the lens. That gap has all the light colors mixing so that when it exits the light, you get a very controlled color temperature and CRI.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 3:37PM
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First I want to put in a good word for the guys at BeverlyHillsElectric.com for making it very easy to compare these in my home. They also have very good prices for these lights on there website www.beverlyhillselectric.com/creeled.html

Here's a picture comparing the LR6 (2700k) with the LR6C (3500k). Your monitor could effect the look but I like the LR6 (2700k) much better. The LR6Cs look like a very pure white light, but it's kind of harsh looking in a home. I'm going to go with the LR6 (2700K) warmer look.

Guess which side has which lights.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2009 at 3:27AM
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Left is the 2700k... (?)

    Bookmark   August 19, 2009 at 1:48PM
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You are correct.

I changed them all to 2700k and have ordered more for the rest of the kitchen and some other rooms. I have no plan to buy one for all 79 cans in my house. I'm up to 14. Maybe I'll stop at 24 for now.

The light is very nice. I'm really impressed with how the light is widely and evenly distributed.

Also, I really like the way it dims and stays the same color. I know it doesn't dim enough for some but it's enough for me.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2009 at 2:19AM
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geobrick... or anyone else... I have a few questions about the LR6 that I am hoping someone has experience with.

1) How high up in the can does the bulb or lens surface sit?
2) I assume the lens is PAR40 size and fills the whole can, not PAR30 and sitting up higher?
3) Before I was the LR6 I was planning on using PAR30 LED bulbs and changing my trims to specular haze trims because the light from a PAR40 that sits low in the can with white trims is VERY distracting to the eye in a room with many cans. So, I am curious what how well the LR6 can be hidden so you don't look across the room and see 10 white lights blinding you. Do any of the add on trims help? Or do the bulbs sit right at the bottom and no matter what can be seen from across the room?

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 9:26AM
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The LED emitters sit just below the lens which is The nice thing about the lights is that they are not blinding or terribly distracting like PAR40 lights.

As for longevity, they will die like all other electronics if subject to repeated spikes/ surges.

A number of modern dimmng switches have built in surge protection, which may help.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 10:36AM
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If their spec sheets are to be believed - and IMO Cree are a reputable firm - these are some of the more efficient production LED systems. At 54 lumens per watt, they approach, but don't exceed, the typical 60-85 lumen per watt efficacy of compact fluorescent lamps.

This is pretty good for a production LED. Many of the fixtures and retrofits being offered are far below this efficacy. Some expensive ones have struggled to achieve California's minimum requirements. Many of the cheap LED retrofits are major snow jobs, barely exceeding a 100 watt incandescent's efficacy.

Another LED shady area (sorry) entails claims of their incandescent equivalence. I saw retailers claiming the LR6 has an output comparable to a 65 watt incandescent. I'm pretty skeptical about this. The LR6 is rated for an initial 650 lumens, declining to 455 lumens at 50,000 hours. This is roughly equivalent to a 45 watt incandescent when new, and slightly less than a 40 watt incandescent when aged.

However, the fact that all the light is directed downward, rather than being partly absorbed by the fixture as with CFs, may improve the effective (usable) efficacy and lumen output of these emitters when fitted to recessed lights.

Situations in which the LR6 would seem to be a strong candidate:

1. Where the fixture is tough to access, or where you have to pay someone union hourly rates to relamp, the long operating life is a real plus.

2. If you're planning to dim the lights, you may find the LR6 units respond more agreeably than CFs would. CFs sort of turn grey, at least in my experience. (The LR6s still dim down to only 20% or 30% output, however, and reportedly don't work with all brands/types of incandescent dimmers.)

3. If you're annoyed by CFs' slight delay in reaching full brightness, the lack of such a delay here may be right up your alley.

At $25-$30 I'd call them a winner; with adjustment for inflation, that's what I spent for the first CF retrofits I bought in the early 1990s. But at the prices I've seen for them ($80-$110 each), it's hard for me to see much advantage to the LR6. Maybe the price will fall with time.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 6:54PM
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CFL claims are also overstated in the areas of brightness, longevity and color rendition.

At $80 per lamp, the CREE LR6 lights are cost competitive with title 24 CFL lighting ($100 for the CF can, trim + bulb).

From my own experience, the LR6 is brighter than the 23 watt screw in CFL bulbs I use in other standard cans.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 9:02PM
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When I started my kitchen project, I was only considering screw in CFL lights or recessed T8 fluorescent tube lighting.

Quite frankly, the cheapest lighting option available today is to put up a bunch of T8 tubes.

As the decision was made to raise the ceiling (from ~ 7 ft to 8 ft), having a recessed lighting fixture no longer made sense.

Next options - pendants, recessed lighting cans, track lighting, which quickly narrowed down to recessed lighting cans. Halogens and incandescents were never considered.

All my other rooms utilize screw-in CFL bulbs which cost The deal breaker was the Title 24 law which requires air tight cans with non edison base (screw in) connections for the light bulb.

The non dimmable CFL can with the built in ballast costs ~ $65, the bulb ~$10 and trim $20. Total cost $90 - $100 (w/o tax).

CREE LR6 @ $80 + $15 title 24 can was equivalent in price. So why not try something different?

So far, the lights have performed better than my expectations.

The nice things are
1. The light output is much higher than my other CFL equipped edison base (screw in) cans
2. Instant on.
3. No blinding bright spots on the ceiling.
4. No visible bulb protruding. Imagine an inverted teletubby.
5. Nicer color.

Would I change out my other lights from CFL to LED?
Perhaps when I run out of my existing stocks of CFL lights (~ 2 years).

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 9:50PM
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> From my own experience, the LR6 is brighter than the 23
> watt screw in CFL bulbs I use in other standard cans.

Have you checked the actual lumen output with a light meter? A lamp which appears brighter when you look at it isn't always actually producing more luminous flux. This is especially true with LEDs, which produce very bright light but don't always produce as much illumination as they seem to (because of their highly directional nature).

It may be that the LR6's unidirectional output (all down) *does* produce more usable luminous flux at, say, 4' from the emitter. But apparent brightness isn't a measure of this.

A useful test would be to measure the flux at shoulder level in the center of a room with, say, 6 cans fitted with new CFs. (A new *anything* will probably have more output than an old CF; like the LED lights, their output diminishes with time.) Replace the CFs with the LR6s, and measure again at the same place.

It's not relevant for me where I live, but the figures on real-world cost of Title 24 fixtures, CF vs LED, are intriguing. Thanks for posting those.

BTW, Cree recently showed a prototype 2' by 4' LED luminaire with a claimed mains-to-radiator efficacy of over 100 lumens per watt. That's T8 linear fluorescent territory! If they can manufacture it at anything close to a reasonable price, it could be the LED fixture that finally begins the transition.

I'm keen to see the LED luminaire so efficient that it doesn't need a heatsink. I think that's some way off, however.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2010 at 1:06AM
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The space I previously lit with a 55w ge 2d fluorescent fixture and a 55w torchiere (using the same 55w ge 2d bulb) is now much better lit with 5 LR6 lamps. Previously 110w to achieve a level of illumination slightly below the current 60w total for 5 LR6.

For me, the LR6 is the first viable led lamp. Cree has demonstrated 206 lumen per watt LEDs and has 100 lumen / watt lamps available today.

The bulk of my cfl bulbs seem to have an output of ~ 50 lumens per watt

    Bookmark   July 15, 2010 at 10:46AM
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The cost of a Edison base can + cfl + trim is $10+$10+$20 for an approximate price of $40.
Still cheaper than the title 24 mandated recessed solution.

The led pricing today makes the lighting somewhat of a luxury item. Nevertheless, it would still be wise to consider them as cfl alternatives that can be deployed on a large scale in the next 2 to 3 years.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2010 at 12:16PM
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No offense meant, but you didn't really answer my question. "Much better lit" is less specific and more subjective than what I was hoping for. I was looking for a hard number - actual usable lumens. But thanks for the effort anyway.

I guess I'm not a typical lighting user. I avoid recessed cans; don't much care for their limited light distribution.

I much prefer the old fashioned approach of indirect lighting - luminaires which radiate in most or all directions, and reflect some light off a bright white painted ceiling. This approach is now apparently considered unfashionable or even unattractive, but I think it produces far better, more even room lighting.

Thus I'm not too likely to use the LR6 or any other LED downlight, though I find it an intriguing product.

OTOH, I might be interested in an indirect type LED retrofit, if the price and efficacy were there. I'd be looking for efficacy in the 100+ lumens/watt range (since I can already easily achieve 70+ l/w with a good quality $10 CF retrofit).

As for price, you characterize LED lighting as a luxury item. If it really does deliver a 50,000 hour lifespan, a higher cost than CF (10,000 hours average for the good ones) isn't too tough to justify. I'd be willing to pay around around $30 each.

Regrettably, quite a few consumers don't think that far ahead and see only the price tag on the shelf, which is why we have such a glut of truly c**ppy CFs. So perhaps you're right that LEDs will remain a luxury item for some years to come.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 2:11AM
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Hopefully someone else would have the opportunity to perform the experiment you described.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 10:47AM
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The 55w cf 2d bulb has a rating of 4000 lumens. 1 was in a surface mount fixture and the other in a torchiere. The Space that was lit was never bright enough for comfortable reading when just one 2d light source was used.

So I was quite surprised when 5 Cree LR6 lamps worked as well as they did.

I did not measure the luminous flux before the 2d light was replaced and I'm not inclined to rig the space for a comparative measurement either.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 11:29AM
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