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If you're in the market for candelabra LEDs, the chances are good that you need more than one. Cree is banking on this fact and selling its own 40W equivalent candelabra LEDs in three-packs. By forcing you to buy more than one at a time, the cost per bulb goes down a little bit. At about $20 for the three-pack, you'll be getting each bulb for less than $7.
That makes Cree's bulb more affordable than almost all of the other candelabra LEDs that we tested, but it's still a lot to pay. Consider that standard 60W replacement LEDs are now selling for less than $5, with payback periods (the amount of time it takes to recoup the upfront cost with energy savings) of less than a year. At $7, each of Cree's 5W candelabra LEDs would take almost two years to pay for themselves -- still good, but not as good as the payback period for a standard LED.
What's more, Cree's candelabra LED wasn't as strong a performer as some of the other bulbs we tested -- including the top-performing EcoSmart candelabra LED, which also costs about $7 per bulb. Though it offers plenty of brightness for a decorative chandelier light (356 lumens, per our spectrometer and integrating sphere setup), Cree's bulb performed poorly in our heat tests, and flickered a little bit when we tried to dim it.
Cree's candelabra LED does have a few things going for it, though. First, it's a "TW Series" bulb, the TW standing for "True White." That means that it features a color rendering score in the low nineties -- better than most LEDs, which typically score about ten points lower. With a high color rendering score, you can expect this bulb to make the colors in your home look a bit better -- whiter whites, deeper reds, that sort of thing.
The TW effect was a bit more subtle with this bulb than with other TW Series bulbs we've tested -- probably due to the fact that it's a smaller, dimmer LED -- but if you're using several of them in a single chandelier or fixture, you'll notice the uptick in color quality.
Cree's candelabra LED also features a semi-unique design, with a "spike" of light running up through the center of the bulb. It's a neat-looking build, though I wish the construction was sturdier. Each of the bulbs in my three-pack rattled a bit when I gave them a shake. It also didn't do as good a job as other bulbs we tested at directing light downward.
All in all, this is one of your better LED options in the candelabra category, but I wouldn't blame you one bit for sticking it out with fluorescents, halogens, or incandescents for another year or two. None of the LED candelabra bulbs we tested offered flicker-free dimming, and none of them are as affordable as I'd like -- at least not yet.
For more on candelabra LEDs, check out our full category overview.