Light bulbs used to be throw-away purchases meant to last a year, tops. Now, with incandescents on the way out and LEDs on the way in, things are changing fast. Buying a bulb means choosing a light that you'll be living with for years, maybe decades.
The good news is that 2014 has seen a veritable bumper crop of value-priced LEDs from reputable manufacturers. You've never had more legitimate LED options than you have today -- and you've never seen prices this low.
Still, if you've got a burnt out 60W incandescent that needs replacing, you want to be sure that the bulb you're buying is the right light for your living space. Here are five LEDs you'll want to be sure and consider.
North Carolina-based manufacturer Cree rocketed into the consumer-lighting space in 2013 after years spent making its name developing diodes and chipsets. Its first residential LED, the 60W replacement seen above, boasts excellent efficiency, a best-in-the-industry 10-year warranty, and a price point just under $10. Cree's LED gets almost everything right, making it a clear lighting-aisle best buy.
GE Energy Smart 60W Replacement LED
GE's Energy Smart LED is another 60W replacement that sells for right around $10. It isn't quite as efficient as the competition, but we were impressed with the quality of the light it puts out, especially when it comes to colors.
For a clear sign of how far LED pricing has come in the past year or so, look no further than Ikea, the Swedish retail giant. Wander into the lighting section of one of the company's megastores, and you'll find bargain-priced LEDs bearing the "Ledare" name, with 60W replacements that retail for less than $5 each.
That "60W replacement" distinction is a bit of a stretch, given that the bulbs put out just 600 lumens each (you want at least 800 to match a 60W incandescent). They also aren't nearly as efficient as the competition, and they don't come with any warranty whatsoever. Still, it's hard to complain when you're spending only $5. Plus, as a bonus, these bulbs have surprisingly outstanding color-rendering capabilities.
Dutch retailer extraordinaire Philips is no stranger to home lighting, and no stranger to LEDs, either. The current generation of its flat-topped 60W equivalent is a sturdy bulb that boasts a slight uptick in brightness compared to the Cree, as well as exceptional compatibility with dimmer switches. That's enough for it to earn our stamp of approval -- though we wish it were priced a little lower than its $15 MSRP.
For a less three-dimensional spin on home lighting, check out the flattened-out Philips SlimStyle, which looks like a light bulb in silhouette only. Why flatten things out? Heat dispersion -- with the SlimStyle's unique design, Philips was able to distribute the diodes along the upper perimeter of the bulb, away from the heat at the base. That eliminated the need for bulky heat sinks and made it possible for Philips to sell the SlimStyle for less than $9. One caveat though: unlike the standard Philips LED, the SlimStyle gets a bit buzzy when used with a dimmer.