Wednesday, January 30, 2013

LED Light Bulbs Part 2: Overview of Ikea LEDARE 4.5W and 8.5W, and Philips 12.5W

Impulsiveness is one of my strengths and a pretty big failing.

On a whim, I decided to run out and buy some LED bulbs. I mean, I thought about doing it for a while, but paying $15 for a light bulb that you can get for $1 to $5 usually is pretty big. Well, here we are.

Quite recently, I went out and purchased three LED bulbs: Ikea LEDARE 4.5W for CAD$ 11.99 and Ikea LEDARE 8.5W for CAD$ 14.99, and Philips Dimmable 12.5W for CAD$ 28 -- damn, they dropped the price on the Philips. If you're wondering, the bulbs put out 200, 400, and 800 lumens, respectively. This translates roughly to 25W, 40W, and 60W incandescent bulbs, in order.

Edit: I got the 10W LEDARE (60W-ish equivalent) at some point and here's the review!

For use in anything short of a desk lamp, you'd probably be looking at getting a 60W equivalent at the least. Currently, Ikea does not appear to offer anything above a 40W equivalent. But Ikea isn't the center of the universe, and obviously, higher wattage bulbs are available from other manufacturers like Philips and other brands I've never heard of. Home Depot offers a range of LED bulbs from Philips at prices comparable to Ikea. For example, you can find a "60W" LED for US$ 27.97 (or about $14 each). There are also 75W and 100W (equivalent) models advertised as dimmable available -- you will pay out the nose for them though (US$40 and US$55, respectively at Home Depot at time of writing).

So, let's see what the bulbs look like!

Ikea LEDARE 4.5W, 2700k, 200 Lumen, 25W Equivalent

Ikea LEDARE 8.5W, 2700k, 400 Lumen, 40W Equivalent

Philips 12.5W, 2700k, 800 Lumen, 60W Equivalent

In terms of size, the one that's most similar to a regular rounded incandescent bulb is the 400 lumen, 40W equivalent from Ikea. The 200 lumen bulb is actually about half the size, or less, of a "regular" bulb and only protrudes about 1 inch out of a socket when fully screwed in. You can't really see it from the pictures, but all bulbs only project light from the upper third of their entire height (i.e. the transparent plastic covers only 1/3 of their height). While I wouldn't say that this is a problem, you definitely have to consider this design when choosing and placing a fixture.

What's going on with the Philips bulb? I mean, the Ikea ones are essentially the same as regular incandescent bulbs in shape and appearance. The Philips bulb, though, is only slightly rounded, has a different base color, and the "glass" (I think it's all plastic) is yellow! Rest assured, when the light is on, the light produced is "white" at a 2700k color temperature, which gives the warm glow of an incandescent light bulb. Apparently, people find the look of the bulb itself to be on the hideous side -- I love it. This was definitely the splurge bulb because Home Depot did have regular looking 60W equivalent LEDs on sale. Also, I must admit that I was bought in partly by the similarity to the L Prize winner's design (for the most efficient "60W" bulb at only 10W with an output of 940 lumens).

The biggest difference for me wasn't the outer shell of bulb, it was the weight. I have a tri-light CFL (read: large) and have handled many 100W CFL bulbs in the past. However, the 40W and 60W equivalent LED bulbs definitely felt heavier. Considering that the LED bulbs are a solid mass for 2/3 of their length, this seems to make sense. Incandescent and CFL bulbs were mostly glass.

Lights On

To get a feel of how the light produced from the bulbs appeared, I set up a desk lamp ($10 TERTIAL from Ikea) in a dark room. The desk lamp was fitted with a hood and reflector, which directed the light a certain way -- it was not the bulb creating the spotlight effect on its own. This wasn't scientific, so the color in the pictures below probably aren't very accurate, but it'll allow you to do a relative comparison. All bulbs are rated to produce light at a 2700k color temperature, and the only difference should be the amount of lumens they put out. The same camera was used in roughly the same position for all shots. I gave all bulbs, except the CFL, about a minute to warm up before taking a photo; the CFL was given a few minutes. However, I probably tilted the lamp slightly when swapping bulbs, so you'll see a shadow in some of the pictures. For further comparison, do take a look at the final two photos. They are of the 8W, 400-ish lumen bulb with a 4100k color temperature shown below.

Older "40W" CFL

The final photo is from a 3D LED Maglite. Light from this bulb is less uniform and much bluer (higher color temperature) due to the naked bulb and adjustable reflector.
Ikea LEDARE 200 lumen, 2700k LED
Ikea LEDARE 400 lumen, 2700k LED
Philips 800 lumen, 2700k LED
Ikea ~400 lumen, 4100k CFL
Maglite 3D LED Flashlight
All LED bulbs, except for the Maglite, should have produced light at a color temperature 2700k. However, you can see from the picture for the Philips bulb that the light has a slightly yellower tinge to it than the Ikea bulbs. This would suggest that the color temperature is lower than 2700k. It's really not a big deal when installed and used as a lamp, and I usually hear more complaints about deathly white fluorescents than warm, homely incandescents.

Using the picture frame as a point of comparison, it's obvious that the Philips bulb is the brightest. The problem, though, is that because of the different bulb heights and the hood on the desk lamp, it's difficult to compare the two Ikea LED bulbs. You can probably see that the 4100k CFL bulb appears to be less bright and whiter than the LEDs. The brightness could likely be explained by the age and design of the bulb -- been used for hours daily for at least 3 years now and it was rated at something like 380 lumens when I bought it.

Update: Not having a dimmable fixture in the house, the dimming function was never a concern with me. According to recent research though, dimming is much more complicated than a bulb being advertised as "dimmable" and "non-dimmable". LEDs are relatively new technology and dimmers may only be designed for older incandescent bulbs. It's a somewhat interesting read if you bother to google it. The key point that I got out of it was that dimmable LEDs were not guaranteed to work with all dimmers. Some bulb manufacturers actually produce compatibility lists (i.e. specific bulb models tested to work with specific dimmer models).

So now then...

There you have it: three affordable LED bulbs from "name brand" manufacturers. A regular 60W equivalent CFL bulb costs about $5 a piece, and it looks like LEDs are now being sold for around $15-$20. These prices are assuming you don't need special features like dimming or designed for outdoor usage. Even at these prices, I would say that they are worth it. Remember, you should be getting twice the life, at least, of a CFL bulb (10,000 to 20,000 hours). Electricity consumption remains very similar to CFLs, and you don't have to worry about what to do when they break because there is no mercury. Whether they break as easily is another question because these LEDs appear to be constructed completely out of plastic. At the end of it all, LED bulbs are newer tech, and prices should only be coming down over time.

Related Stuff

Philips Cool White (~4000k) and Daylight (6500k) LED Bulbs - Found 6500k LED bulbs!
IKEA TERTIAL Work Lamp Review
LED Light Bulbs Part 1: What's wrong with CFLs?