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Which LED bulb is the best fit for your chandelier? (pictures)

Go behind the candelabra for a closer look at the LEDs promising an efficiency upgrade.


Ry Crist

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1 of 20 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Need a light?

If you're tired of getting the ladder out to replace the burnt-out bulbs in your living room chandelier, then you might be tempted to make the switch to LEDs which promise to last years, if not decades before burning out.

You'll find plenty of candelabra LEDs in the lighting aisle that will do the trick -- click through for a quick rundown of your options.

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Form factor

Most candelabra LEDs are pointy little bulbs with narrow, screw-in bases. For this roundup, we stuck with 40W equivalents like this torpedo-shaped Walmart store brand LED.

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Other candelabra LEDs go with a traditional flame shape, like this 40W equivalent from GE.

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A price problem

Something else these bulbs have in common: they all cost more than they should. Unlike common 60W bulbs, the candelabra LED category hasn't seen such a steep decrease in prices relative to other kinds of light bulbs. This Utilitech model costs $11 a piece -- keep in mind that you'd probably want to buy multiples for a matching set in your chandelier.

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A little better

There aren't many exceptions, but this non-dimmable Philips LED is one of them. It sells in a three-pack for $10 at Home Depot. That isn't bad, but if you want something dimmable, you'll need to spend at least $7 per bulb.

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Is it hot in here?

All in all, we tested 11 bulbs. Here are the results of the thermal management test, where we measure how much heat buildup affects performance. Like all electronics, LEDs don't perform as well when they get hot. That's why each of these bulbs has a somewhat bulky heat sink hidden in its base.

After you first flip the lights on, they'll immediately see their brightness start to fall as things heat up. Then, once the heat sink kicks in, they hit an equilibrium called the "steady state." Bulbs that hit a higher, steadier steady state are bulbs that handle the heat better. They'd be the best pick for enclosed fixtures, where heat gets trapped.

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Peak heat sink

This Sylvania LED performed really well in that heat test, no doubt thanks to the king-size heat sink wrapped around the bottom of the bulb.

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Bad directionality

The problem with these heat sinks is that they block off the bottom of the bulb, keeping many of these LEDs from casting as much downward light as they should.

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An incandescent comparison

Compare those LEDs with this GE Reveal incandescent candelabra bulb. With no heat sink in the way, it puts out light evenly in all directions.

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See the difference?

Now compare that with this EcoSmart LED -- it was one of the worst at casting light down below the bulb. That's not ideal if you're using it in a chandelier overhead (unless a well-lit ceiling is all you really care about.)

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Much better

Not all of the LEDs we tested were guilty. Here's a different, "vintage-style" bulb from the same manufacturer as that last one. It does a great job at casting its light out evenly.

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A closer look

A closer look at the bulb reveals why. The heat sink is much skinnier than average, and the downward-angled glass bulges outward a little bit -- enough to get the job done.

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EcoSmart isn't the only brand with a vintage-style, fake-filament bulb. There it is in the right with a competing model from Feit on the left. That's an actual incandescent in the center, for comparison.

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Feit's turn

Feit's vintage-style bulb takes the extra step of tinting the glass orange to help give it more of a fiery glow.

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Low color temperature

Thanks to that glass, the color temperature drops deep into the orange end of the spectrum.

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Poor color rendering

That sepia glass also wreaks havoc with the bulb's color rendering capabilities. Everything gets that orange tint.

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Orange again

Speaking of orange, this "Warm Glow" LED from Philips drops its color temperature down into the orange part of the spectrum as you dim it down. It's meant to mimic the glow of an incandescent filament.

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Patterned light

That Philips bulb also uses a crown-shaped diffuser in the center of the bulb to cast its light out evenly. It also has the effect of "patterning" the light with a crystal-like texture.

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Our pick

With the exception of that non-dimmable Philips bulb that sells in a $10 three-pack, none of these bulbs offer enough value for us to recommend outright. But if you want a dimmable candelabra LED right now, this Cree bulb is my pick. It sells in a $20 three-pack, making the cost per bulb a little under $7. That's as low as you'll currently find.

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Color quality

Cree's candelabra LED also features an above average color rendering score of 91. Though it won't make colors pop quite as much as an incandescent will, it'll come close, and it'll do noticeably better than the average LED.

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