I imagine that a lot of shoppers will be asking themselves what the heck "HD Light" is the next time they stroll through the lighting aisle -- and for that, we have GE to thank. That's because "HD Light" is the new branding you'll find on the venerable manufacturer's latest LED lineup, which includes bulbs of all kinds of shapes, sizes, wattages and color temperatures.
To be clear, there is no such thing as "HD Light," but the idea that GE wants to convey here is superior light quality. And to be fair, some of these bulbs -- most notably the "Reveal" LEDs, with their high color rendering scores -- offer light quality that's noticeably better than average. But none of them are perfect, and most fall closer to mediocre in terms of brightness and dimming performance.
Still, with all-around acceptable specs and with prices on regular, A-shaped bulbs starting at $8 for a two-pack, GE's lineup of HD Light LEDs are a decent enough value to warrant consideration, especially given what they can do for the color quality in your home.
GE offers three standard 60-watt replacement options in the HD Light lineup. The first is the "Relax" LED, which casts a warm, candle-like glow designed to help you wind down in the evening. The second is the "Refresh" LED, a daylight-tinted bulb intended to help you feel more focused and energetic during the day. Last up is the "Reveal" LED, which sticks to years of GE Reveal branding to promise better color quality in rooms where it might matter -- the kitchen, perhaps, or maybe a living room with a lot of colorful decor.
There's nothing inherently unique about any of them -- no smarts, no gimmicky lighting tricks and no unusual designs. These are pretty plain old light bulbs, save for the fact that they're high-efficiency LEDs.
|GE Relax LED||GE Refresh LED||GE Reveal LED|
|Brightness (stated/tested)||800 / 770||800 / 790||570 / 554|
|Wattage||10.5 watts||10.5 watts||10.5 watts|
|Efficiency (lumens per watt)||73.3||75.2||52.8|
|Tone||Soft White||Daylight||Soft White|
|Color Temperature (stated/tested)||2,700 K / 2,611 K||5,000 K / 4352 K||2,850 K / 2,598 K|
|Yearly energy cost (average use of 3 hours per day @ $0.11 per kWh)||$1.26||$1.26||$1.26|
|Expected lifespan||13.7 years||13.7 years||13.7 years|
|Dimmable range||12.6 - 100%||11.6 - 100%||13.4 - 100%|
|Warranty||5 years||5 years||5 years|
|Price||$7.97 (two-pack)||$8.97 (two pack)||$9.97 (two-pack)|
So how efficient are we talking? Each bulb draws 10.5 watts, or 17.5 percent of what a standard 60-watt incandescent would use. That incandescent will add about $7.20 per year to your energy bill if you use it for an average of three hours per day. By the same metrics, any of these three GE HD Light LEDs will add roughly $1.26 to that annual figure.
That's a savings of $5.94 per year, per bulb, meaning that each one will easily pay for itself within 12 months, then continue saving you money for years on out. Unlike incandescents, which will burn out after about a year of use, these HD Light LEDs promise an expected lifespan of 13.7 years, and come backed by a five-year warranty. Replace that incandescent and use GE's LED for its entire lifespan, and you're looking at a total energy savings of $81.38 -- and that's just for one bulb.
Still, those savings aren't unique to GE, or to any other LED manufacturer. LEDs are just inherently more efficient than any other readily available lighting option. All of them will save you money if you're upgrading from incandescent bulbs (or even fluorescent ones, for that matter). To judge an LED's real value against its competitors, you have to factor performance in, as well.
GE's on somewhat shakier ground, here. Let's start with brightness. Though they all came in well within the margin of error, none of the bulbs tested quite as bright as their stated lumen counts. This isn't much of a problem for the "Relax" and "Refresh" LEDs, both of which finished close enough to 800 lumens to qualify as perfectly decent 60-watt replacement bulbs. But look at the lumen count for that "Reveal" LED -- just 554. The box brands the LED as a 60-watt replacement, but the light it puts out is closer to the 450 lumens you'd expect from a 40-watt bulb. That's a recipe for disappointment.
The reason the thing is so dim is because the plastic bulb includes a special filter that blocks some of the light from the yellow part of the visible light spectrum. You can see that blocked light in the form of that W-shaped dip in the graph on the right above. Blocking those bits of the middle of the spectrum keeps the dominant yellow tones from overpowering things, and does, in fact, help the bulb make the colors in your home look richer and more authentic -- but it also means that the bulb is putting out less light.
The simple fix would have been to bump the wattage up a little bit to help make up for the lost light, but GE didn't do that here. That's fine -- but continuing to call the Reveal LED a 60-watt replacement is not. GE's engineers tell me that they plan on addressing this shortcoming with the next generation of Reveal bulbs, which they claim will offer a higher lumen count than this version while drawing less energy. To me, that sounds like a bulb worth waiting for.
Still, the current-gen Reveal LED was, as expected, very good at rendering vivid, accurate colors in my tests, along with very clean shades of white free from the dingy yellow tints that you'll get with most soft white bulbs. These are subtle things, to be sure, but to some, they matter quite a bit. If that includes you, then the Reveal LED deserves a look.
And, though they weren't quite the color rendering standouts that the Reveal LED was, the Relax and Refresh LEDs still did surprisingly well in my tests, too. Despite the extra hit of yellow light, they both rendered colors that, to my eye, looked at least a little bit better than what you'll get from the average LED. Point GE.
The last thing I look for in my tests is dimmer compatibility. All three of these bulbs are dimmable, but none of them dimmed down any lower than 10 percent on any of the switches I tested them on. I also caught all three of them flickering a bit more than the average LED when I filmed them in slow motion. That sort of flicker is too fast to be noticed by the naked eye, but some people are more sensitive to strobing than others, so it's something worth being aware of.
I give these bulbs a passing grade, but not a full-throated recommendation. All three offer energy savings and noticeably good color quality, but they also come with dimming performance that's mediocre at best. The Reveal LED might be the most appealing of the three thanks to the way it filters out excess yellow light for cleaner-looking whites and richer colors, but at just 554 lumens, it isn't bright enough to justify calling itself a 60-watt replacement.
Still, with prices starting at $8 for a two-pack of Relax LEDs, there's some good value to be had here. If you aren't using dimmer switches, and if you don't mind the brightness hit that comes with the Reveal LED, they're a perfectly fine choice for basic household use.