The Best LED Lightbulb

The Cree Soft White LED light bulb was the first affordable, high-performing 60-watt-equivalent LED bulb made by a reputable company, so it was a shoo-in for best bulb when it came out. Over the past year, some tough competition has cropped up in the form of the Philips SlimStyle and Switch Infinia. They all generally cost about the same and perform well in most situations, but the Cree is still the best because of its superior dimming capabilities and slightly lower price (for now).

Last Updated: August 6, 2014
Added GE's Energy Smart LED 60W equivalent to the competition section.
Expand Previous Updates
July 17, 2014: Added Ikea's Ledare bulb to the competition section.
June 12, 2014: Because readers asked about Cree's new 3-way LED bulb we updated the guide with an explanation.
May 8, 2014: Updated to note that Cree now makes a 100W-equivalent bulb. This article specifically focuses on 60W-equivalent bulbs, and there are very few 100W-equivalents out there. But the Cree 100W-equivalent bulb is a good choice if you need a lot of light. It provides 1600 lm, twice the light of a 60W-equivalent bulb.
May 7, 2014: Updated the guide to note why we don't test cheap, white-label bulbs from brands like Monoprice and Walmart: they're not Energy Star certified.
May 1, 2014: Added new information about how Cree will only honor warranties if accompanied with a Home Depot receipt. See our warranty section for details.
April 30, 2014: The Philips SlimStyle bulb just received Energy Star certification, so we noted it in the guide. We also added a link to Consumer Reports' tests of the Cree TW Series' color accuracy.
April 9, 2014: We added information about how to make a warranty claim with Cree if you have a problem with one of their bulbs.
March 21, 2014: We tested some new LED lightbulbs. Our pick is still at the top, but we do have a new alternate option.
March 7, 2014: Set to wait status while we work on updating our picks. We also modified the guide to reflect that Cree now calls the 60W replacement, "Soft White," not "Warm White" -- it's still the same bulb, just a different model name.
February 21, 2014: If you live in California, run, don’t walk, to the nearest Home Depot and get a subsidized Cree TrueWhite 60W-equivalent replacement bulb for $10 while the subsidy is still in place. It’s a great price for a great bulb. See our explanation below for why it's not our top pick for buyers in other states.
February 19, 2014: Noted that Philips' 75W- and 100W-replacement bulbs are now Energy Star-certified. We're currently testing new models against the 60W Cree.
January 27, 2014: We updated the guide with pricing for Philips' SlimStyle LED bulb ($9.97 each) and added some details on Switch's Infinia 60W replacement bulb, which is slightly cheaper than our pick at $12 each and comes with a lifetime warranty. We're currently testing these new models against the 60W Cree.
December 17, 2013: Added Philips' new 60W replacement SlimStyle LED to the What to Look Forward to section. The clever new design is supposed to be cost-saving, but we don't know how much it'll go for just yet (it will arrive in stores in January). There are also some other drawbacks that make it unlikely to replace our current pick.
December 3, 2013: Cree has a new bulb out, a 75-watt replacement, which we've added to the What to Look Forward To Section. We're going to test it out ourselves and will update the guide with our findings soon.
October 16, 2013: Added our findings from testing the Walmart Great Value 60W equivalent LED bulb. It's slightly cheaper than our Cree pick, but the Walmart bulb's dimming performance is poor and in general we don't recommend sno-cone style bulbs.
October 4, 2013: Updated to note that our pick is now Energy Star rated. Also updated the competition section with Cree's latest TW series bulb, which still comes in second place to our current recommendation. We'll also be taking a look at Walmart's new line of LED bulbs.
September 6, 2013: Added long term test notes and information on how to get your bulbs repaired under the 10-year warranty if need be.
September 5, 2013: Some of our best readers found an issue with quality of the adhesive securing one of his bulb's outer shell. We're investigating.
July 26, 2013: Added supporting evidence from newer reviews. Note that most of these sources are running tests as in-depth as the work we did, so this data is just supplementary.
June 4, 2013: Added an Energy Star section to explain why the Cree bulb isn't Energy Star listed, as well as some additional information on the Philips L-Prize bulb. The bulb with a CRI of 90+ has been discontinued and replaced with a bulb packing a CRI of 80 because most people are not willing to pay premium prices for higher CRI.

The major exception is if you live in California. In that case, drive to Home Depot and get the local-utility-subsidized Cree Soft White TW-series 13.5 W for $10 each (in-store only). If you don’t live in California, they cost $90 for a 6 pack, which may still be worth it if you care about having the most accurate colors possible with an LED bulb and need a lot of bulbs.

That said, we consider the Philips SlimStyle to be our main runner up if the Cree Soft White is sold out, or if you don’t live near a Home Depot. Cree says  the company will only honor warranties if you have a Home Depot receipt, whereas Philips will honor its warranty if you buy from Amazon.  When you’re paying ~$10 each for LED bulbs, the 6-year warranty from Philips may be worth it if you can’t get your hands on a Home-Depot-sold Cree.

What do I know about LED bulbs?

I started DesigningwithLEDs.com to cover innovations in LED technology with an eye towards new applications. And by “cover,” I mean tear brand new products apart, determine their innovations in components and design, and interview the technology experts with leading-edge semiconductor and lighting companies to get their views on the directions this fast-moving industry may take.

I’ve written about and analyzed the world of electronic design for the past fifteen years, working at publications like EDN and program managing live events like DesignCon. I have a BSEE and worked as a design engineer and engineering manager.

How we picked

The light output should be equivalent to a 60 W incandescent bulb–both in amount of light produced…
Some de facto standards have emerged for LED bulbs: the light output should be equivalent to a 60 W incandescent bulb–both in amount of light produced (at least 800 lumens) and in area covered (it should emit light in all directions, not just cast a spotlight on one area); the light quality should be a warm white (2700 K-3000 K); it should be able to work in an enclosure such as a track light or fan light fixture without a shorter life; it should be dimmable (meaning no flickering, even at the lowest settings); it should preferably be silent (less common than you might think); it should have at least a 3-year guarantee (and the longer the better); and it should cost less than $10, which may include utility rebates. There are currently three bulbs that meet all of these criteria: the Cree Soft White, Philips SlimStyle, and the Infinia Switch.

When we made our last LED bulb choice in April 2013 there were far fewer Energy Star-compliant LED bulbs to choose from, so we considered bulbs that did not meet the standard. Things have changed since then, however, and there’s not a good reason to ignore Energy Star compliance unless a bulb is simply too new to have had time to pass the certification process. That was true of the Philips SlimStye, but as of April 2014 it’s Energy Star-certified, making it eligible for rebates in most states (with the exception of California).

This is important because in order to be eligible for utility rebates, most states require that bulbs meet Energy Star requirements2. This meant bulbs from popular budget white label sellers like Monoprice and Walmart were taken out of consideration early on. These rebates can be significant, often allowing a $10 bulb to sell for $5 or less.

As a reader has pointed out, Cree now makes a 100W-equivalent bulb. This article specifically focuses on 60W-equivalent bulbs, and there are very few 100W-equivalents out there. It’s not a big market as yet. But the Cree 100W-equivalent bulb is a good choice if you need a lot of light. It provides 1600 lm, twice the light of a 60W-equivalent bulb.

Our pick

The Cree Soft White is our favorite because it's affordable, has great performance (even when using dimmer switches), and is Energy Star certified.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $13.
The Cree Soft White is still our pick because it has great performance (even when using dimmer switches), a low price, and Energy Star certification. It’s available in four versions: the 60 W-equivalent version at a warm 2700 K light that uses 9.5 W and costs $9.97; a 40 W-equivalent version also at 2700 K that uses 6 W and costs $9.97; a 60 W-equivalent version that has a “daylight” white light at 5000 K that uses 9 W and costs $10.97; and the TW-series bulbs, which have better color rendering and are our top pick for Californians due to a state subsidy (and a step up for everyone else). Unless you know you prefer the brighter, more blue-ish “daylight” bulbs, we’d recommend you get the warmer, more incandescent-like soft white version.1

The Cree Soft White was the first reputable budget LED bulb, and it’s still the best. Other bulbs are now competitive in price, light quality, and coverage, but the Cree is still the best when it comes to handling dimmer switches. In my review of the Cree on DesigningWithLEDs.com, I noted that it dimmed without flickering or buzzing using both the older TRIAC switches (the ones with the round knob), as well as the newer Maestro programmable switches from Lutron. It was also completely noiseless, even with my ear only 12 inches away.  I didn’t find a switch that the Cree couldn’t handle.

That’s enough to tip the scales in its favor, even if you’re not planning on using dimmers immediately. These things can last a decade or more, so you’ll want the bulb you buy today to be compatible for possible use with a dimmer switch in the future. Besides, you won’t pay any more for this dimming ability with the Cree SW since it recently lowered its price at Home Depot to $10, the same as the SlimStyle and $4 cheaper than the Infinia.

It’s also a solid performer in other respects, though so are the Philips Slimstyle and Infinia Switch.

The Cree on the left has almost as good coverage as the incandescent on the right. Pics from DesigningWithLEDs.com

The Cree on the left has almost as good coverage as the incandescent on the right. Pics from DesigningWithLEDs.com.

One complaint that many people had about the last generation of LED bulbs was that they didn’t offer full light coverage in all directions. The Cree and its current crop of competitors don’t share this problem. As you can see in these pictures from DesigningWithLEDs.com, it provides full coverage comparable to that of an incandescent.

…you don’t necessarily need to know why or how it works to know that this is one seriously impressive bulb.
If you want to know more about the specifics of what makes the Cree work from an engineering perspective, I’ll point you to my review, where I go in depth into the guts and construction of the bulb. But you don’t necessarily need to know why or how it works to know that this is one seriously impressive bulb.

I also put up this subsequent Q&A with Cree that goes into even more detail about specific aspects like circuit design and how the bulb fares in enclosures: as long as there is some opportunity for the air to circulate, the bulb will be fine. If it’s a totally enclosed fixture in an environment with a high ambient temperature, the bulb could have problems. In addition, while it’s suitable for use in a damp environment (such as a steamy bathroom), it’s not a good fit where it’s exposed directly to water or weather.

Our pick for Californians

Also Great
If you're willing to spend more for better color accuracy (or you live in California), this is the bulb for you.
If you live in California or are willing to pay extra for higher-quality light, you should get the Cree 60 W Equivalent Soft White (2700 K) A19 TW Series bulbs. They have a CRI of 93 (13 higher than the normal Cree’s 80), which means they render colors more accurately. (Consumer Reports did some useful tests to prove this high accuracy.) But they also uses a bit more energy— 13.5 W compared to the normal Cree’s 9.5 W. Other than the better colors and higher energy use, it’s basically the exact same bulb as the normal Cree, so everything we said about the main pick applies just as readily to the TW series.

Other than the better colors and higher energy use, it’s basically the exact same bulb as the normal Cree…
Thanks to utility subsidies, Californians can buy them at their local Home Depot for $10 each in many (but not all) parts of California. The rest of us need to pony up $90 for 6, or pay an Amazon scalper $25 apiece. To obtain a Californian subsidy, a bulb must meet voluntary standards set by the California Energy Commission (CEC), which require the bulb to meet a CRI of at least 90. To date, the TW series is the only LED replacement bulb that fulfills all CEC requirements.

In order to meet this standard, Cree uses a combination of optical engineering and extra energy. The problem with most LED lighting is that red is underrepresented. To get around this, Cree adds neodymium to the TW bulbs’ glass covers, which gives the bulbs their blue tinge and filters out some of the yellow wavelengths while letting all the red ones through.

The result is that the bulb renders reds better than a conventional LED light, important because reds are very flattering colors for both people and food—the things that make socializing fun. The problem with this approach is that the power used to generate those yellow wavelengths is effectively wasted. This means that the TW bulb requires more watts to create the same amount of light as the SW version and its less-attractive CRI of 80. This sounds like wasted power, but if you compare the 13.5 W of the TW to the 60 W used by the incandescent bulb that was previously your only option to get a high-CRI bulb (and which is no longer legal to sell in the US), 13.5 W isn’t so bad.

Who else likes it?

The Cree bulb meets with near-universal acclaim from reviewers:  Sal Cangeloso, managing editor at ExtremeTech, Geek.com, and the author of LED Lighting: A Primer to Lighting the Future, says, “I think it’s the best choice overall, and it’s a sure-thing at the three price points. Testing for the past few weeks has just reinforced my opinion that it’s a nice bulb and something that is going to win a lot of people over.”

“…unlike some compact fluorescents, the light is very comparable to what you’re used to.”
Bloomberg’s Rich Jaraslovski says, “…unlike some compact fluorescents, the light is very comparable to what you’re used to. I replaced the bulb in the lamp on my nightstand with one of Cree’s warm-white 60-watt equivalents and couldn’t tell the difference. And unlike a conventional bulb, it stays cool enough to touch even when it’s been on.”

Sean Hollister of The Verge also tested the bulb. He says, “Not only does Cree’s bulb look like a traditional incandescent, with a nice warm glow, but it throws light in almost every direction as well. Many existing LED light bulbs have a fairly narrow configuration of diodes that can cast a rather uneven pattern, but Cree’s is better than most, with an “LED filament tower” of LEDs that hits almost every spot evenly except the very top of the bulb. They turn on immediately with no perceivable delay.”

Andrew Tarantola at Gizmodo agrees: “The Cree LED goes out of its way to ape the look and feel of a traditional A19 incandescent. The ‘Cree LED Filament Tower’ (read: the light source) emulates the concentrated light source that filament bulbs produce and covers it in a real glass dome to distribute light evenly. Unlike, say, the turtle-necked Philps dimmable LED or the Samsung LED, with its go-fast fins, the Cree bulb actually looks like a lightbulb.”

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Instapaper creator Marco Arment installed several Cree LED 60 W-replacement bulbs in his home. After 3 months of running them for about an hour a day, one of the bulb covers became loose to the point he thought it would fall completely off. Marco is happy with his Cree bulbs overall, but he suggests you keep an eye on them.

So what should someone do if there’s an issue with their Cree bulbs? (And is there a quality control problem with them?) To find out more, I got in touch with Mike Watson, Cree VP of corporate marketing. His response: Home Depot has sold more Cree LED bulbs than all other LED bulbs combined, so anecdotally, Cree failures may seem to be more noticeable. He claims that their failure rates for the Cree bulb are less than half the rate of any other light within its category sold by Home Depot. However, if any buyer experiences a problem of any kind with their Cree bulb, they should take it back to Home Depot for a no-questions-asked replacement. If the buyer prefers, he or she can send it back to Cree. Click here for more information about Cree’s warranty.

On a side note, Marco mentioned that that he had swapped the Cree bulb with the missing bulb cover with an intact Cree bulb that was previously being used in a fixture with a light enclosure. This is a bad idea. The electronics in the Cree bulb are non-isolated; the cover serves to keep consumers away from the 120 V AC line voltage. If you touch the electronics portion of the bulb with the cover off and the power on you risk electrocution. (I’ve gone into more details about non-isolated LED bulb design here.) Basically, don’t risk it if your bulb cover has an issue. Just get a replacement.

If you happen to have a problem getting Cree or Home Depot to notice your claim, email us.

Runner up

Also Great
*At the time of publishing, the price was $10.
The only flaw with the Philips SlimStyle is its comparably subpar dimming performance. Otherwise, it's a good alternative if our main pick is unavailable.
Most of the good things I said about the Cree Soft White apply just as readily to the Energy Star-certified Philips SlimStyle ($10), which combines a clever “flat” bulb shape with light-but-rugged plastic construction. If you don’t live near a Home Depot where you can purchase our main pick, you may prefer to go with the SlimStyle because of the warranty—Cree told us in May 2014 that the company will only honor warranties if you have a Home Depot receipt, whereas SlimStyle will honor its warranty if you buy from Amazon.

Dimming performance is the only thing that sets the bulb apart. Although it dimmed nicely with all switches in terms of brightness adjustment, during our tests it emitted a loud humming that was clearly audible from several feet away — even when the switch was on full brightness.

While this effect may not occur for everyone (Wirecutter editor Jacqui Cheng does not observe a buzzing noise with the SlimStyle bulbs when they’re on her kitchen’s dimmer switch), it’s something to keep in mind if you’re debating between several LED options.

Almost great

Also Good
If you need to put your LED bulb in a fully enclosed fixture and temperature is an issue, this bulb is best (if you don't need dimming). Otherwise, skip it.
The Switch Infinia was even more challenged by dimming with a noticeable flicker on every dimmer switch I tried. This bulb meets the specifications we expect from a 60 W incandescent replacement LED bulb: 800 lumens, 2700 K, dimmable.

The packaging says that the bulb can be used in any orientation and in a completely enclosed fixture—even damp locations—and specifies a temperature range from -20 °C to 45 °C. Not only does it claim an operating lifetime of 25,000 hours, it warranties the bulb for the lifetime of the owner “that shall be free from defects in material and workmanship for as long as the original purchaser owns the Product.”

The bulb owes its solid performance over a heat range to its liquid-cooled design.
The bulb owes its solid performance over a heat range to its liquid-cooled design. However, its sophisticated technology means that it also is heavier than competing bulbs, coming in at 6 oz. compared to the 3.5 oz. for the Cree SW or the 2.3 oz. for the SlimStyle. Weight can be a factor for light bulbs, especially those that go into hard-to-reach or delicate fixtures, or at odd angles. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it is something to consider.

However, what is a dealbreaker is that, as mentioned above, the bulb has a problem with dimmer switch compatibility. With a standard old-fashioned TRIAC dimmer switch as well as the more modern Maestro dimmer, the bulb flickers during dimming. When a bulb such as the Cree is available without the drawback of weight and poor dimming, why settle for less?

However, if your bulb needs to go into a totally enclosed fixture and if temperature is a concern but dimming isn’t, you may want to consider the Switch.

The competition

We briefly considered many cheap, white label options from places like Monoprice and Walmart, but passed on them because they’re not Energy Star Certified. If you found a bulb and are wondering why we didn’t test or address it specifically, it’s probably because it’s not certified. There’s no reason to consider them when other options that are just as cheap perform better and are both certified and available.

The 13 W Best Buy Insignia bulb did receive Energy Star certification, and its price dropped down to $12.99. The bulb performs well. However, its price and 13 W power requirement are both too high.

Philips still sells its 11 W Energy Star certified 60 W-equivalent bulb which dims nicely, but you won’t get any performance improvement for the $2-$4 you’ll pay extra for it.

Keep in mind as well that the Cree bulb has a markedly better warranty: 10 years vs. Philips’ 6 years for this particular bulb.

Some readers have asked about LED equivalents of incandescent 3-way bulbs. 3-way bulbs have multiple separate filaments, which, when controlled by the lamp, change the brightness level of the bulb without resorting to a dimming switch. These work by switching in different numbers of internal LED components. They’re also still fairly rare for LED bulbs, and one reason may be that they are not included in the incandescent bulb phase-out.
Cree has introduced its version, which is the equivalent of a 30W/60W/100W incandescent that consumes just 3W/8W/18W. Its light output in lumens is 320/820/1620, its color temperature is 2700K with a CRI=80, and it has Cree’s 10-yr warranty. It’s priced at $24.95 and like other Cree bulbs is sold only at Home Depot, in-store or online. If you want an LED 3-way it’s about the only game in town, and really, you’d only consider this if you need a 3-way but didn’t want to waste the power required by an incandescent version–and could stomach the $25 price.
IKEA also has a line of LED bulbs now, called Ledare. You might be tempted to give these a try because they’re cheap ($4.50 each) and easy to grab while you’re doing some furniture shopping, but that convenience comes with some major tradeoffs. CNET noticed that the bulb buzzed when tested with a dimmer switch. And while the Ledare is marketed as a 60W-equivalent bulb, it only reaches 600 lumens of light output, which, as CNET noted, is closer to a 40W-equivalent bulb. With light output that low it can’t be Energy Star-certified, and it doesn’t come with any kind of warranty–both dealbreakers for us.

GE’s entry in this category is mostly unremarkable. The Energy Smart LED 60W equivalent bulb, which sells for about the same as the Cree ($10-$15 apiece), has a shorter lifespan than our pick, a shorter warranty, is not as efficient, weighs a bit more, and uses more power for the same number of lumens. (CNET has a helpful chart visualizing this.) There’s nothing here that makes this a better pick than the Cree.

Why now is a great time to buy LED bulbs

David Pogue, former technology columnist for The New York Times, puts it bluntly: “Start buying LED light bulbs.” A couple years ago, this wouldn’t be the case, but nowadays, it just makes sense. They’re cost-effective, provide quality lighting, and are less environmentally harmful than all other options.

LED light bulbs have come a long way in just a few years: The first bulb I opened up in 2010 was a 40 W-equivalent that produced 560 lumens from 7 W which it cast over a 120-degree angle, compared to the almost 360-degree throw of an incandescent or CFL bulb. It was non-dimmable, retailed for about $25, and came with a 1-year warranty. (A similar bulb died in my home after two years due to a lousy solder joint.)

Now in 2014, you can buy Cree’s Soft White 60 W-equivalent that produces 800 lumens from 9.5 W with a light pattern similar to an  incandescent bulb. It dims flawlessly and costs just $13, and Cree backs the bulb with a 10-year warranty. The company is a technology innovator in solid-state lighting, having developed one of the first practical white LEDs which opened the door to energy-efficient solid-state lighting. You may not be familiar with Cree’s name, but its LED components light up modern lighting projects such as San Francisco’s airport and the exterior skin of the Beijing Water Cube swim stadium. Other lighting manufacturers have tried to borrow some of Cree’s quality cachet by advertising their LED bulbs as using Cree LEDs: think “Cree inside” instead of “Intel inside.”

Energy efficiency and the resulting cost savings are the reasons you should be considering switching to LED bulbs.
The only downside of most LED bulbs is their coloring rendering index (CRI) of 80, which is acceptable but not great. For reference, Popular Mechanics conducted extensive independent tests and found that incandescent bulbs score about 100, which means you see all the colors of the rainbow accurately: most CFLs and LEDs fall somewhere in the 80-90 range. It’s similar to listening to music in lossless versus MP3 formats–the incandescent provides you with the uncompressed light spectrum, but it uses a lot of energy, whereas the LED will give you enough to to think you’re seeing the full spectrum, but uses 1/6th of the power. Most people will be perfectly fine with the LED and the energy savings, but for some people the difference is noticeable and it’s worth paying extra to get better colors.

Energy efficiency and the resulting cost savings are the reasons you should be considering switching to LED bulbs. Although the Cree bulb’s $10 initial cost seems pricey compared to an incandescent, its savings in energy costs over its 23-year lifetime results in an energy savings of $139, assuming the bulb is on for 3 hrs/day and energy costs $.11/kWh.

LEDs > CFLs

However, justifying the purchase of a bulb on how it stacks up next to an incandescent bulb’s energy efficiency is a bit of a straw-man: the real competition is CFLs, thanks to the January 2014 elimination of 60 W incandescent lights since they cannot meet the lighting efficiency standards of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. And CFLs do have some impressive numbers: A 60 W-equivalent CFL can produce 800 lumens from 13 W (vs. the Cree’s miserly 9.5 W), can operate for as long as 10,000 hours, and you’ve probably seen them at big box stores for around $1.50. However, for a buck and a half you are not getting a light that compares favorably with either an old-style incandescent, or a Cree LED 60 W-equivalent.

These low-end CFLs can’t dim, nor emit a warm white light, nor come on instantly at full brightness…
These low-end CFLs can’t dim, emit a warm white light, or come on instantly at full brightness. And they can’t operate in an enclosed fixture, where the lack of air circulation causes their electronics to overheat and fail. They don’t like being turned on and off quickly (as happens in a closet or hallway) or being operated upside down so that their heat cooks their power base. If you want a true apples-to-apples comparison—an 800 lumen, 2700 K dimmable CFL—you’ll need to pay $10, not $1.50. You’re much better off with the Cree.

Besides, it’s not just costs that make LEDs a better choice; LEDs are much better for the environment as well. All CFL bulbs contain mercury, which means disposal and any breakage is a concern. You probably don’t need to be told that mercury is a toxic heavy metal that persists in the environment.

Warranty

Cree offers an impressive 10-year warranty on its bulbs, with the technicality that they should be purchased from Home Depot (Home Depot is the only authorized reseller of Cree bulbs at the moment). However, Cree VP of corporate marketing Mike Watson confirmed to us in March 2014 that the company would still honor this warranty even if the bulbs were purchased from Amazon.

Update for May 2014: Cree PR has now informed us that the company will only honor warranties for bulbs bought from Amazon resellers if you have a Home Depot receipt to go with it—that is to say, the Amazon seller must have included a Home Depot receipt in the box when they sent it to you.

“Cree will honor warranties for bulbs purchased from The Home Depot as well as Amazon. You can find more information on the warranties here, but basically consumers must return the bulb with a UPC code proof of purchase, and register their receipt and their name directly through Cree to get a replacement bulb,” a Cree spokesperson told Wirecutter.

In order to make a warranty claim, Cree provides this information on their support page and warranty page:

For support of all Cree products, send email to productsupport@cree.com or call: U.S. Toll Free: 866-924-3645 Outside the U.S.: +1-919-287-7888

Send proof of purchase, register receipt and your name and address to Cree, Inc. (Consumer Warranty), 4600 Silicon Drive, Durham, N.C. 27703 USA.

Your best bet if you don’t have your receipt is to walk into a Home Depot, though.

Cree’s intent in offering the 10-year warranty—the industry’s best—is to ease buyers’ concerns about going with a new technology, especially after the problems that CFL purchasers experienced initially.

Wrapping it up

If you’re looking to replace your CFLs and incandescents with LEDs, go with Cree. Whether it’s the regular soft white style or the TW series with more accurate colors, you’re getting a great light bulb for not much money. And their dimming performance is unparalleled.

Footnotes:

1. It’s worth noting here that the “best” color temperature is often highly subjective. While most people seem to prefer the warm (redder) 2700 K lights, which are a closer match to incandescent light, some prefer the (bluer) 5000 K. Our preference for warm colors may date back to prehistoric times when firelight was the only available artificial illumination. During the day when the sun is high, blue light is more prevalent. Redder, warmer light can be a signal that the day is winding down and it’s time to relax. Consider 5000 K bulbs for an application such as a study area. Jump back.

2. Energy Star requirements are not particularly onerous: For 60 W-equivalent incandescent replacement bulbs, the bulbs must be omnidirectional; if they dim they must state that they do and maintain a list of dimmer switches that they work with; have a light-to-power ratio of at least 50 lm/W; and produce 800 lm of light at a color temperature of one of the following: 2700 K, 3000 K, 3500 K, or 4000 K. (All bulbs mentioned here are 2700 K, the most common color temperature for residential LED bulbs.) Here’s a detailed list of the requirements if you’d like to take a lookJump back.

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Sources

  1. Margery Conner, Cree 60W LED replacement bulb review and tear down, Designing With LEDs, March 12, 2013
    "The color temperature of 2700K – a standard color temperature for LED replacement bulbs –is warm and pleasant. Cree does offer the bulb in a much cooler 5000K temperature and prices it a bit higher, most likely because at the cooler temperatures the bulb is more efficient at producing light. The 5000K bulb requires only 9W to produce 800 lumens compared to the 9.5W of the 2700K tested. In addition, people tend to think of the cooler temperature light as being inherently brighter because of the stark contrast with shadows. However, to live with on a daily basis, stick with the 2700K version."
  2. David Pogue, New Reasons to Change Light Bulbs, The New York Times, March 20, 2013
    "You know how hot incandescent bulbs become. That’s because they convert only 5 to 10 percent of your electricity into light; they waste the rest as heat. LED bulbs are far more efficient. They convert 60 percent of their electricity into light, so they consume far less electricity. You pay less, you pollute less."
  3. "The bulb is lightweight, starts up quickly, is responsible about power (my meter put it at 8W), and it runs at a cozy, incandescent-like 2700K. The light pattern seems right on target for an omnidirectional design. The bulb, which is able to run in an enclosure and in any orientation — just like an incandescent — remains cool to the touch (very much unlike an incandescent)."
  4. "Today, LED manufacturer Cree has announced a series of light bulbs that start at just $10, cutting the going rate in half with one fell swoop. What's more, these LEDs don't seem to have a catch. They're as bright, efficient, and long-lasting as practically anything on the market, and they look like incandescent light bulbs to boot."
  • Todd Barnard

    I just bought one of these last week and was impressed as well. I had a few dimmable LEDs in my last house and regretted leaving them behind. Home Depot has 6pks of these and the 40W equivalent at a discount. I have 2 Packs of the 40s on the way right now!

  • Michael Morowitz

    I would love to see you do the same for LED flood lights. I’ve switch to LEDs in all my lamps, but my kitchen uses a number of recessed flood lights. I think I’ve found the answer, but I’ve had to do a lot of testing to get there.

    • Caleb Hicks

      What’d you find works for your recessed can lights?

      • Michael Morowitz

        Right now, i’m testing the Philips 13W BR30, soft white http://www.usa.philips.com/c/led-light-bulbs/led-soft-white-13w-65w-dimmable-br30-046677421946/prd/en/.

        Currently, it seems brighter than the equivalent incandescents. But I think it’s the best I’ve seen.

        I have one of them in right now, but i’ll need 8 overall. It was about $35 at home depot. I haven’t seen a better price.

        • Michael Morowitz

          Also, my standard lamp LED is a philips 12.5 soft white, $15 at Home Depot. I don’t have the model # off the top of my head.

        • Mr. Luigi

          Hi Michael,

          I believe this is the same Phillips recessed can bulb as the one from your link. It’s $25 dollars at Amazon. If you’re a Prime member you get free shipping. Until Congress acts on the online tax law there is also no tax for most states.

          http://www.amazon.com/Philips-423798-13-Watt-Indoor-Dimmable/dp/B00B4CPKT4/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1370122672&sr=8-2&keywords=Phillips+LED+13W+BR30+Flood

          • Michael Morowitz

            Thanks very much. I saw that and I wasn’t sure if it was soft white or not. It looks like from the comments that it is.

          • Michael Morowitz

            I ordered one from amazon and received it. It is exactly the same. At $25, this is a much more sensible replacement bulb, since even and incandescent can run about $6.

            So 4x the upfront cost uses less than 20% of the energy over a significantly longer lifespan makes a ton of sense on these.

          • Mr. Luigi

            Hi Michael,

            Thanks for confirming the bulb you were testing and the one being sold at Amazon is the same. As you say, the savings over Home Depot are rather significant.

            One additional thought on all this, perhaps semi-unique to folks in my situation. Of the many recessed can lights I have in my house (too many to replace even at $25 a pop right now) I have 8 that are located way, WAY up in vaulted ceilings. Those lights have always been death defying to replace and have required borrowing a “theater ladder” to swap out. Nothing else but “hand on bulb” would remove them. I changed those to CFL’s as they are more long lived than incandescents. But, now those are dying. A BIG advantage of LED’s for me is their longevity in situations like this. You only get to live once and I would prefer to have that last as long as possible LED’s in these hard to access locations can, literally, save a life by making bulb changing much less frequent. I have installed two outdoor LED’s in a motion detector unit also, for the same reason. It is located so high that the tallest ladder barely reaches the unit. And the ground is tilted in that area. VERY DANGEROUS. In my opinion, it was well worth spending the extra money for the LED bulbs in that location so I will probably never have to go up on that ladder again.

            No light bulb is worth a life! :-)

      • Chris B

        I just replaced 26 (65w) Ceiling can light bulbs with TCP 12w LED bulbs that I got at OSH. The regular price is $24.99 each, but they were on sale last week for $14.99. The color temperature is 2700k, and they look wonderful. More light output than the lights they replaced, and they work great on dimmers. Color rendering is more pleasant than the incandescents they replaced too.

    • Vera Comment

      well.. http://www.marco.org/2014/01/11/useful-par20-leds

      That’s the Instapaper creator (he’s since sold it).. from what I’ve read of all his “reviews” they’re spot on. He turned me on to the Crees, and I’m just waiting for the CFLs i have to die before replacing them with LEDs.

      I live in the owners unit of an apartment building so I’m responsible for the lights in the public areas, the long life of LEDs (even compared to CFLs) is especially attractive, because replacing bulbs in the garage/stair wells involves a ladder and screwdriver (pain in my buttocks… )

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    I bought a bunch of these at Home Depot and I must say, they’re great. They sell 40 and 60 watt (equivalent) models and both put out a lot of light and they sell both warm and cool color. Warm is great inside, cool puts out more light outside. This is a great product.

  • Mr. Luigi

    I was just at the Durham, NC Home Depot branch. No Cree LED’s. Odd that the Home Depot in the home city of Cree wouldn’t be all over this product. Maybe they had them tucked away in a special location…which would make no sense IMO.

    I hope Cree is working hard on bringing this low price LED technology to recessed can lights. My home has over 50 recessed can lights. No way I can afford to convert those to LED’s at the current prices…no matter what the long term return on investment. I’ll have to stay with CFL’s for now.

    • arbus

      A few months ago went to HD to find the Cree bulb. Could not find it. Asked a HD worker who pointed out they were right by the entrance. NONE at the bulb section. Not smart…

      • Mr. Luigi

        Agreed!!!

        • mikeswimm

          I’ve purchased all my Cree bulbs at the Durham, NC Home Depot. Then are on end caps at the front of the store, not with the other LEDs.

          Hope that helps.

          • Mr. Luigi

            Thanks mikeswimm!

            I like to “cruise the isles” at the Durham, NC Home Depot when life is getting me down :-) and did discover the Cree bulbs (including Cree’s new recessed can lights) on those end isles. I think it’s great to Promo them on the end of the isles. Long term, I am sure (and hope) they will make their way into the main bulb section.

      • Adam Leach

        they also only have a single 40W bulb on display! what about all the other watts?! HD, you’re dumb.
        Despite HD’s marketing stupidity, i purchased a 60w soft white, and a
        60w daylight to test them out. 90 day return policy, though. So at least
        i have time to decide. You also can only buy them individually at HD.
        After i test them out i’ll probably buy the package deal online.

  • Doug Curley

    I like Cree’s new marketing of this bulb, and I’ll definitely be picking some up to replace my bulbs that die. Living in Raleigh, I’m familiar with Cree and a big fan of their work on our awesome “shimmer wall” on the convention center. I was going to buy some of their new bulbs to support the local guys, even happier to see them as your #1!

  • Alma Dewberry

    Cree is good but it is not the best. I have been purchasing my bulbs from http://1lightbulbs.com and none of their bulbs are priced as high as cree is.

  • http://www.jwardell.com/ jwardell

    Be aware that local stores may offer significant pricing differences thanks to discounts or rebates offered by your local utility. Because of that, here in Boston, the (IMO much better) new 11W Philips bulbs are the same $13 as the Crees.
    I made a video comparing the two:

    • http://www.jwardell.com/ jwardell

      I have a new video updated with 2014 models. Check it out:

  • Nick Bodmer

    Would love a recommendation for a LED replacement of a GU10 Halogen bulb.

    • Marcy Holmes

      I recently bought a GU10 LED bulb for a fixture in my hallway. The LED bulb is brighter than the 2 remaining halogens, but also cooler. The color temp is annoying right now until the other 2 burn out, then I don’t think I’ll mind, but I wouldn’t want it that cool in a living area.

      The only other downside is my fixture has these round ‘plates’ that snap onto the front of the bulb to complete the look – they won’t fit on the LED GU10 because it’s smaller in diameter. I am going to try to find a way to get them attached, but for now I have a bare bulb which isn’t a great look.

      • Nick Bodmer

        Can you share which one you bought?

        • Marcy Holmes

          I think I still have the package on my table – I’ll definitely check when I get home.

          I got it at Home Depot (in Clackamas, OR) with all the other light bulbs.

          • Marcy Holmes

            It’s a Feit electric mr16 gu10 base, 3w, 200 lumens, ‘warm white 3000k’

  • nsw

    I have one of the Cree bulbs, and like except for two things:
    1) It is *still* somewhat larger than a standard incandescent bulb, meaning it can’t comfortably fit in some of my fixtures. This is the most confounding problem.
    2) I find it doesn’t dim all the way down (using a CFL/LED-compatible dimmer for testing).

    But overall it is a pretty nice package at a nice price. I like the rubberized globe.

  • breedm

    Great article! Seems like I need to finally be ready to purchase LEDs over CFLs now.

    Do you have any recommendations for an outdoor recessed/can fixture? 120 degree dispersion would be all you’d really need, I think. How might I include a daylight or dawn/dusk sensor in that? I know they build them into the bases on a lot of bulbs, but in a can light it would need to be at the top…

    Something I’ve searched for before is an LED that has a dawn/dusk sensor and a motion sensor built in at the top. But I’ve only ever seen them on Chinese manufacturers/distributor’s websites (Lylight, I think). I haven’t found anyone selling it in the US. I could think of some great applications for those if the price is right!

  • Kent Wang

    Which is the best for the 240V world?

  • CiiDub

    Nearly every lamp in my house is a 3-way fixture. Two came with one-way CFL bulbs. If you put a one-way bulb in, two of the positions do nothing. “Click, Click, ON”, are there any good CFL or LED 3way bulbs? If not, why not?

    • usernameguy

      I’ve found the GE Energy Smart three-way bulb to be pretty much indistinguishable from incandescent. My mom once got a Bright Effects LBP50, which was awful. The middle was actually dimmer than the low! It also had a very long warm-up and noticeable turn-on lag (the GE is maybe half a second).

  • http://illustralighting.com/ Cassandra Allen

    Interesting points, thanks for this. While the prices of LED may not be near CFL prices, the many benefits of LED, especially its efficiency and environmental friendliness, make it a better option than CFL. Here’s one article that compares both – http://goo.gl/JrwuE

  • Mr. Luigi

    Here is some news I just read in my local paper (July 17, 2013). As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am from Durham, NC (home of Cree) so my guess it that this is not something that was written up in many publications.

    “Cree releases LED Flood Light for Consumers

    DURHAM–Durham based light maker Cree Inc. announced Tuesday that it is expanding its portfolio of consumer lights with the release of a new LED flood light that looks like its incandescent equivalent.

    The new LED flood lights announced Tuesday were designed to have the shape, glass done and color of the typical incandescent flood light that they’re meant to replace. The lights have a 10-year limited warranty and will be sold at The Home Depot.

    The soft white 65-watt incandescent flood light LED replacement sells for $19.97.”

    So, it looks like our desire to have a Cree LED Flood light for our recessed cans has come to pass! :-)

    Cheers, Mr. Luigi

  • Ron Lichty

    Any hope for 75W or 100W replacements any time soon?

    • rappjo

      Had the exact same thought after reading through this article. After a bit of digging, the best I could come up with is the Philips A21 100 W Equivalent LED http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00B2KUA3Y/ref=wms_ohs_product?ie=UTF8&psc=1

      I’ve had it installed for a little over a month now, in my main lamp in my living room. So far, I really love this bulb – it puts out a nice light, very similar to a traditional incandescent bulb to my eye (though some reviewers on Amazon have indicated that it’s only a CRI of 80). A lot of people seem to care if bulbs are dimmable (which this one claims to be), but I always run it at full blast. The biggest downside to it is that it’s egregiously expensive – so I think I’ll wait a while to replace any more bulbs with this model, in the hope that the price comes down a bit. I’ve also noticed that there’s a 75W equivalent bulb in this series http://www.amazon.com/Philips-422220-17-Watt-75-Watt-Dimmable/dp/B008NNZT20/ref=pd_cp_hi_0 and it’s more reasonably priced, so worth considering, depending on what your need is.

      Ultimately I’m not sure I could call this a cost effective replacement to a CFL or incandescent bulb today, but I hope that day comes soon.

    • RonK13
      • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

        Yep we’re on it – see above in the guide under our ‘What To Look Forward To’ section.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      They’re available and we’re currently researching them!

  • http://vinnietesla.com/ Vinnie Tesla

    I still don’t understand why the intensity ceiling on LEDs seems to be so low. Where are the 100 watt and 200 watt equivalents?

    • Keith Schauweker

      Menards carries a 150w equivalent (2200L) Feit LED lamp now.

    • dr2chase

      LEDs don’t like to be too warm; it reduces their lifetime. Packing that much light output into a small package would make overheating more likely and not make a good product (i.e., if here were limits in the usage instructions, many customers would ignore them, lights would fail, then customers would complain). As the LEDs get more efficient and put more and more power into light and less into waste heat, more powerful LED bulbs will become common.

      Your other alternative is to go somewhat custom — LEDs are well-suited to strip lighting because the strip acts as a heat sink out in the open air. Air movement is a huge win; I can imagine someone making a compact, bright LED light bulb incorporating some sort of a small fan. But then there would be problems with noise, and the fan might not last as long as the LEDs, so that becomes another potential cause of early failure.

      • http://vinnietesla.com/ Vinnie Tesla

        It’s starting to seem like making LEDs pretend to be incandescent is basically perverse. As you say, strips and sheets seem to be more suited to the technology’s strengths.

  • indolent83

    Walmart just released their $9 great value brand LED bulb. I’m looking forward to an update to this article.

  • ctchrisf

    Any word on cheaper bulbs? like 5 bucks with Edison base? I have i think 12 bulbs along walkway, currently have 40w incandescent bulbs. I’d love to find some 3-5 watt led bulbs that would work. but 10 bucks a bulbs is kinda pricey.

    Ohh I also own the Phillips Hue bulbs. wow are they cool. You can play with light schemes and timers and used in conjunction with IFTTT app https://ifttt.com/ makes a pretty useful device. We have the energy setting wake us up at crack of dawn. then go to sunset color scheme for after work relaxation.

    Truly a great product. wish it was half the price though so could do some more rooms.

  • http://www.twitter.com/parallelp NigelHall

    A news on when Cree will sell their LM16 bulb — MR16 replacement — to the public. They’re only available from installers at the moment. I have a lot of MR16 track lighting and I’m pretty sure the LM16 would save me a lot of money, very quickly.

  • Matthew Mahon

    These are on sale at Home Depot for about $7.

  • Pavan Samtani

    These are on sale this right now at Home Depot for $7.97 – not sure if it is a local thing or nationwide, but I am in Northern NJ.

  • Jacob Marttinen

    These are $5.97/each at The Home Depot in Redmond, WA for me.

  • Lee Mesnekoff

    Great write-up, really appreciate the details and comparison to CFL. Would you happen to know of anything that is a good low profile flat ceiling mounted LED for a garage? I found the Pixi Beveled LED Flat Light Luminaire which is only a 1/2 UNH thick but got terrible installation reviews?

  • Skip Edmonds

    Bought one last night at HD. Tried warm white in the living room lamps, bedroom lamps, and outdoor porch lamp. It is not a warm white and a bit bright compared to the incandescent. I’ve seen much warmer LED bulbs. The light appears to be closer to 3000k than 2700. Will take back to HD tomorrow. Paid $12.97.

  • Actionable_Mango

    Do these turn on instantly in cold weather? I have a CFL porch light and it takes minutes to get up to full brightness. In other words, it is useless as a porch light.

    I have tried so-called instant-on and cold weather CFLs, and it’s marketing BS. They do not work noticeably better than the normal CFLs, but managed to sucker me out of extra money.

  • fud

    It would be useful to test for RFI [radio frequency interference] with a nearby AM radio tuned between stations. The Homedepot house brand EcoSmart LED bulbs have been awful RFI generators. I tried several, returned them all.

  • ctchrisf

    6 watt bulb is now $4.97 – at Home Depot. Running down now to pick up mess load.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Which location are you in? The upper northeast part of the US by chance?

      • ctchrisf

        In Ct. is it just a regional deal ?

        • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

          Yes, we’re under the impression that Home Depot has dropped the prices of these in-store only, and specifically in the Northeast region of the US.

  • Andy

    I was at Home Depot last night. It appears that they have lowered the prices on the cree bulbs. the 40W(6W) is $6.97 the 60W (9.5W) is $7.97.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      What area do you live in? A little while back they were doing the same thing in the northeast part of the US, but that was it. Not available online as far as I can see.

      • Andy

        I’m outside of Boston, I looked online this morning (setting homedepot.com to a local store) and verified the prices… It certainly could be regional.

        • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

          Yep I’m fairly certain it’s a northwestern US thing. I’ll keep on looking though. Thanks for the tip!

  • Todd Kuipers

    Thanks much for the recommendation. I’ve replaced over half our bulbs with Crees in the past 6 months.

  • J Lewis

    In addition to spotting a lower price at one (but not all) HD’s in my area (Portland, OR), I noticed there has been a silent redesign of the bulb, possibly for cost reduction. (BTW, I found the 40w eq. for $6.97 and the 60w eq. for $9.97).

    You can actually see the difference just by glancing at the bulb – the heatsink has different fins that extend slightly over the plastic electronics casing towards the socket. Compare the bulb pic on this review page to the updated HD product page: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Cree-9-5-Watt-60W-Soft-White-2700k-Dimmable-LED-Light-Bulb-E-BA19-08027OMF-12DE26-2U110/204592770

    Other than the minor external difference, I wonder if there has been internal redesign, as I measured a power factor somewhere between 0.78 and 0.87 (as opposed to the 0.98 measured in Margery’s review). I also noticed a louder hum than I hand anticipated when the bulb was on a dimmer. Unfortunately, I don’t have one of the original CREE’s to compare to in either of these regards. I also have not gotten the nerve to disassemble one yet to look for visible internal differences.

  • rufosanch

    Has anyone experienced any buzzing with the Cree bulbs, especially when dimmed? I hear them a bit even at full brightness, but when dimmed they’re loud enough to be a bit distracting. I swapped them out for old-fashioned incandescents in the same lamps and there’s no buzz, so I know it’s not the dimmer.

    I’m thinking about taking them in to the Home Depot to be swapped out in case it’s a bad batch, since all reviews talk about how silent they are… but I’m mostly wondering whether or not this is endemic to them.

    They’re otherwise fantastic bulbs, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them in non-dimmed situations – but until I get this sorted out I’m not sure I’d recommend them for dimmable lights in quiet rooms.

    • AloXander

      Just popped a Cree 60W into a dimmable lamp and there was a distracting, loud buzzing audible from 10+ feet away. There’s no buzz/hum from the same bulb in a normal light fixturing.

      This seems to be a pervasive problem. See all the comments in the Margery Connor link above. Also:

      http://www.theverge.com/2013/7/1/4482634/led-led-me-astray-the-home-lighting-misadventure-that-brought-me-full-circle

      Wirecutter, have you noticed any buzzing in a dimmable fixture? I also don’t think the bulb light quality is as comparable to an incandescent as suggested by this article. I’m leaning towards returning these still pricey and imperfect bulbs until they get it perfected.

    • David Rogers

      Absolutely. I’ve tried 40 and 60 watt equivalent models, and from what I’ve read elsewhere, replacing the dimmer switch is ineffective as well.

  • mayhap

    main product links are dead now

  • rarnedsoum

    Hmm.

    Not sure what all the hullabaloo is about, as I have been using the Philips 8E26A60 lamps around my home for almost 2 years now.

    Its the warmest, dimmable, consistent bulb out of the dozen or so different LEDs I have in and outside my home.

    It uses 8W and is 2700K. Real 2700K. I’ve bought LEDs that say 2700K on the package, but side by side with other bulbs, were NOT 2700K.

    The only downside is that its made in China (none have failed, or have problems), and it looks like a yellow egg yolk is inside of it when its turned off, but I have it in a fixture so not an issue. 6 year warranty.

    http://kuzyatech.com/philips-8e26a60-led-bulb-teardown

    And I am very particular. I run a home automation, security and energy efficiency ESCO.

  • Adam Goldfarb

    Did you guys test or consider Ikea LED light bulbs? I got a flyer in the mail saying although they’re regularly $6.99, on Friday Dec 27th they will be $3.99. If you guys think they are pretty solid then I would pick up a bunch. Let me know…thanks! They are called Ledare LED Globe. 400 lumens = 40 watt incandescent, approx 25,000 hours. Not super bright I guess but still seems decent enough for most lamps, etc.

    • Geoff Cleary

      I was at IKEA yesterday and looked at the LED bulbs. They seemed to be of solid construction and gave off a pleasing, omnidirectional light. I wanted them to be brighter than 400 lumens though, so I didn’t purchase any.

  • Geoff Cleary

    My ceiling fans take A15 type bulbs (smaller screw base than the Cree bulbs mentioned in the review). Can anyone pass along recommendations for good LED bulbs of the A15 variety?

  • Bryan

    I’m thinking of replacing some T8-style fluorescent lights – does anyone have experience using LED versions of these that produce warm light from 2700-3000K? Something like this:

    http://www.1000bulbs.com/product/100171/PLT-101024.html

  • Brian Schack

    Can you recommend a lamp? I’m thinking a paper floor lamp. This is the first hit for ‘lamp’ on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0070PBVWO

  • relaxatorium

    I think someone asked lower in the thread, but I’ll second a request for word on the IKEA Ledare bulbs. Looks like they’ve got some compromises (can’t find *any* warranty info), but the prices seem very competitive with the Walmart one and I’m curious as to the actual quality.

  • JesseNiou

    Home Depot has some CREE TW Series Soft Whites available for $9.97. These have a CRI of 93, and they produce fantastic light. I don’t think you could really beat that. Perhaps you want to factor these into consideration?
    Thanks.

  • JoshEngleman

    Not sure if this is the case everywhere, but the Cree bulb is $6.97 at my local Home Depot (Wilmington, NC).

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Hi Josh. Yes that is indeed a regional pricing deal. Thanks for the info though!

  • KVFinn

    What’s the difference between warm white and soft white? Cree lists both types with the color temperature of 2700k.

    This very article actually says the best is warm white, but the bulb you link to is described as soft white?

  • Mike

    Anyone who lives in or around South Eastern Pennsylvania can get these bulbs at Home Depot at a subsidized price from PECO Energy. PECO subsidizes LED and CFL bulbs for super cheap. And this is money off at the register, not some type of main in rebate or something. I got these Cree bulbs for $7.97. Costco also sells LED and CFL bulbs for good subsidized prices. I got 65watt equivalent indoor LED flood bulbs for $5.99 and 90w eq. LED indoor/outdoor flood bulbs for $10.99. They have standard 60w eq. LED bulbs for $5.99 but they aren’t quite as good as the Cree bulbs. Additionally they have 4-packs of 60w eq. CFL bulbs for $1.99. I picked up and few boxes of these CFL bulbs for lights that rarely get used and don’t warrant the LEDs.

    The places don’t require you to prove you’re a PECO customer so anyone in the area can purchase them so if you’re near the area or will be in the area and want bulbs on the cheap bulbs throw Home Depot, Costco and Lowes into the GPS. I’m from northern Delaware and outfitted my entire house, indoor and out, with PECO subsidized LED bulbs from the Costco and Home Depot 20 minutes from where I live.

    PECO also subsidized some appliances and other high energy items that you can find out on their website so if you need any of them and are within a reasonable distance it’s worth calling the store and asking the subsidized price.

  • http://boinkor.net Andreas Fuchs

    I have a couple of these Crees around the house, and every other week or so, one bulb (not on a dimmer, but a regular flippable switch) emits a short, loud screeching noise when it’s turned on or off. I don’t get that from the other bulbs, but it’s pretty disturbing. Beware defects from shipping, I guess ):

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Margery (our expert on this guide) had this to say about any buzzing bulbs on her personal site – it’s in the reply to a comment from roughly a year ago:

      “Buzzing usually goes along with an isolated bulb design due to the transformer.”

      She also went on to note that any supplier will refund or replace the bulb if it’s defective so definitely try a return/swap out if you can and as always thanks for the feedback!

      • David Rogers

        So she’s saying that buzzing is inherent to the design? Might want to mention that a little more prominently.

  • Dave

    This does not give enough credit to bulbs with good CRI. Less than 90 is basically unusable – entirely crappy color. This article needs to be re-done to take that into accounts. Cree TW has good CRI, LEDnovation has some ~94 CRI bulbs. The bulb you recommend gives ugly ugly light.

  • Aaron Smith

    2 notes. For God’s sake stop buying low color temp bulbs. 5000-6500 kelvin is beautiful. 2nd, when will we see 200 and 300 watt equivalent bulbs? You can get these in CFL’s outputting 4700 lumens. We have lots of light posts on our property and quite frankly, if they outputted 10,000 lumens at 5500K we’d be happy. If you’d like an example of a 300 watt equivalent CFL bulb with 4700 lumens check here http://www.amazon.com/Feit-Electric-ESL85T-300-watt-Daylight/dp/B00H90U770 There is no reason a mass array of CREE bulbs couldn’t output 5000+ lumens. We have lots of property to illuminate and need LED bulbs with mega output. I realize this would be a HUGE bulb size, but so is the previously linked ESL85T. And it fits just fine in our lamp post. We also installed 20 of these in our remodeled garage and you can get a freaking tan in there. I hope someone makes a large sized super high power LED bulb.

    • Dr Malady

      Why should everyone stop buying warmer color bulbs just because you have a different preference? I personally prefer a warmer light, especially at night (which, astonishingly, is when I use my lights the most) when I don’t want a bunch of blue light messing with my circadian cycle.

      • Aaron Smith

        I can understand your preference indoors if you can’t deal with the melatonin interfering higher color spectrum. But for outside, if you want the best longest range visibility – I stick by going with very white. I absolutely hate yellow street lights. Make a city look so drab, We use Dahua (also known as q-see and EvoSavvy brands in the US 2 megapixel (1080p) and 3 megapixel cameras. We don’t have to have the cameras go into black and white IR mode with our array of 5500-6000 Kelvin LED bulbs. Looks like sunlight out there.

        • Dr Malady

          I’m with you–the application makes the difference.

  • Peter Bratt

    Any recommendation on an led replcaement for eight 75W Halogen bulbs in recessed lighting cans? I’m looking at the Philips BR 40 bulbs, but the price ($38) is giving me pause.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      We’re currently researching other options in this guide. Sit tight!

  • FirefighterGeek

    I totally agree with this recommendation. After trying several brands of LED, I was using the Philips one but when I tried the CREE I was instantly sold. After using a couple of them for a while, I have fully committed to this brand and every light bulb in the house that we read by, and most of the rest, are all switched over. I hate hate hate cfl bulbs.

  • http://dcfxbroker.com/ DCfxBroker

    I bought some, and it’s really thes best I have ever had.

  • ArthurHero

    It is misleading to state, “which means you see all the colors of the rainbow accurately.” Incandescents primarily produce yellow-orange light and are poor for blue or green. Color rendering is a complex issue with all light sources. It is more accurate to say that we have adapted to the light produced by an incandescent or incandescent-halogen & assume that the color rendering is accurate.
    Incandescent light is in the range of 2500K to 3000K and is not suitable for all tasks or ages. Again, a complicated subject.
    The amount of mercury in a CFL is roughly the same as the mercury in a bite of tuna so stop using fear of mercury as a reason to not use CFL lamps. Also little free mercury is left in a CFL at the end of life, the mercury is absorbed into the phosphor. Both items are from research by the Lawrence Berkeley Labs, Lighting Research group. The reveal CFL from GE produces a soft, flattering pinkish-lavender light that I use in my home.
    Most mercury in the atmosphere and the oceans (hence high-level fish having high mercury levels) comes from coal fired generating plants. There is considerable research into this and into the negative effects on our environment & health.

  • ArthurHero

    Cree also makes LED retrofit units for recessed fixtures. Many other manufacturers also make these units. The best have CRIs in the 90 range. Most are easy to install. These produce better quality light than a reflector LED. Also, some reflector LEDs will fail prematurely in recessed fixtures due to heat.

  • Andrew Stone

    I bought 2 of the 60W Cree bulbs for $4.97 each yesterday at Home Depot (Selden, NY). The sign said “New Low Price” so it doesn’t seem to be an isolated sale. I think it may be subsidized by the electric provider on Long Island so it’s probably not a widespread deal.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Yep these deals always seem to be regional, and typically on the east coast too. Thanks for the note!

  • Daniel Chandler

    Really? Cree is the best? The Switch bulb is unbreakable (all plastic) and has clean surfaces while the Cree bulb has sticky silicone on it’s globe that captures dust like a wet lolipop … that is when the globe does not fall completely off which appears to be a common event. Finally, I’m not sure what dimmers you were using (please tell), but the Switch 60 dims very well in every Lutron and Leviton dimmer we tested. Finally, if you live within 20 miles of an ocean, try using a Cree in your porch light and watch corrosion kill the light engine. Not the Switch bulb. That baby is sealed for life. The Cree bulb is a good value, but it was engineered for a throw away society.

  • brucerb

    Costco carries Feit brand LEDs and has some good pricing. Feit doesn’t get mentioned here – are their bulbs not very good?
    Was also checking Consumer Reports ratings on light bulbs – Wirecutter articles often cite CR. Bizarrely, CR ratings list no Cree or Philips LEDs. They seem to like Feit and list a few other brands as well.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      We actually went with an LED expert. Here is what she had to say about some of the Feit’s on her website (designingwithleds.com)

      “Feit has a dimmable LED BR30 for $19.97. And Philips has one for $24.97. However, neither of these has a 10-year warranty, and both are a heavier design with quite a bit of metal. Consumers will probably prefer the Cree.”

      Thanks!

  • Max Velasco Knott

    I bought six of these to replace incandescents in my apartment’s chandelier. I returned them after about two minutes. The review claims little buzzing and solid dimming levels, so I’m inclined to blame horrid old wiring in my building. I experienced buzzing significantly louder than my old incandescents and the lowest dimmer setting was at least 70 percent full brightness.

    I use Philips Hue bulbs in every other socket in my home and love them, though wish I could find a solid “dumb” bulb.

    The Cree is too cool, loud, and bright for my needs.

  • John Balog

    Cree has now released a 100w equivalent that seems to be just a larger version of the model reviewed here. I would love to see it tested as well. http://www.homedepot.com/p/Cree-100W-Equivalent-Soft-White-2700K-A21-Dimmable-LED-Light-Bulb-5-Pack-BA21-16027OMF-12DE26-1U100/205083140

  • David White

    I noticed that since the beginning of March, Ikea has bulbs out at about 40% off the CREE’s price point. They are slightly a little yellower and closer to traditional incandescent bulbs. 7.25 for the 60 watt equivalent with out subsidies and 4.50 for the 40 watt equivalent.

    • Andrew

      They have been on special at my local IKEA $4.00 for the 60 watt equivalent for at least the past month. At that price, plus recently having a CFL break, and never really having good luck with them anyway, it was a deal I couldn’t pass up.
      I love them. They are such a step up from CFLs that have to ‘warm up’. I don’t notice any buzzing. I don’t have anything dimmable so I can’t report on that.

  • David F Watson

    Just got the Cree bulbs off amazon, significant buzzing on my dimmer switch, even when it’s at full.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Our expert touched on this via her own site:

      “Buzzing usually goes along with an isolated bulb design due to the transformer.”

      She also went on to note that any supplier will refund or replace the bulb if it’s defective so definitely try a return/swap out if you can. Plus, they have a 10 year warranty, and that ain’t not bad!

  • bdragule

    Just wanted to make a correction to your review about the Cree bulbs. I just took a trip to my local Home Depot (in California), and I took a pic of the 60W bulbs they sell. There are actually 3 lines – Soft White (9.5W), Daylight (9W), and Soft White TW Series (13.5).

    As you can see from the pic, the TW series you mention in the article is actually $15.97 while the regular Soft White is $9.97. For what it’s worth, both products were demo’ed side by side and they are practically the same. If anything, the TW is a little warmer.

    I wound up buying a bunch of these instead:

    http://www.homedepot.com/p/EcoSmart-60W-Equivalent-Bright-White-3000K-A19-Non-Dimmable-LED-Light-Bulb-2-Pack-ECS-GP19-60WE-WW-NDM-120-G1-DG-2PK/204849507

    Slightly cheaper, and I traded the dimmable feature of the Cree for the ability to go in between the Soft White (2700K) and the Daylight (5000K) for Bright White (3000K), which I found to be a good balance of both.

    Hope this helps!

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Thanks for the note!

  • breedm

    Do you have a recommendation for a PAR38 LED lamp?

  • Edward Smith

    Puget Sound Energy has been financing automatic rebates at purchase for these in the Seattle Metro area (https://pse com/savingsandenergycenter/ForHomes/Pages/LED-Bulb-Rebates.aspx)

    At Home Depots I’ve seen a 60w daylight go for $11.97 and adjusted up to $13.97 to balance demand (the warm whites sell much slower on the west coast) from San Diego up to just south of Seattle. 3-4 weeks ago I saw the warm/cool/daylight for $3.97/$4.97/$5.97 respectively in Federal Way, Wa and other local HDs.

    It would be nice to get some studio quality high CRI LED highs with Chroma 75 rendering or better but I suspect that the current “phosphor” chemistry for down converting blue will have to be teamed up with traditional UV phosphors as the UV LEDs allow for spectrum gap coverage. Who knows: maybe even a white temperature adjustable light to slowly fade the blue tones as we near our sleep schedule.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      It seems lots of local/regional places in the US have different takes on rebates and discounts for these. We’ve heard reports of this from all over. Thanks for the feedback!

  • Phil Winton

    Is this a CREE funded effort?

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Nope. Not in any way, shape or form.

  • themonkeybutler

    Just a heads up on Home Depot pricing. If you visit their webpage from a desktop computer, their site will give you a price of $5.97. If you visit their page from a smart phone, their site will give you a price of $9.97 – a whole $4 more! In store pricing is also $9.97. Very sneaky.

    So for the best price, buy it online from a desktop computer and then do in-store pick up.

    • Charley

      The reduced price tends to be in store only, and is in locations where the power companies are subsidizing the bulb purchases.

  • bryantb

    Ikea recently switched entirely to LED lightbulbs. Any chance their lights will make it into the next review update? They’re accessible and cheap and it would be nice to see how they stack up.

  • brassmonkey

    Does anyone have any thoughts on the Philips Hue line of products? I like the idea, but at $60 a bulb it’s rather pricey.

  • Joel

    These are currently on sale at Home Depot for $5.97 a piece (http://www.homedepot.com/p/Cree-60W-Equivalent-Soft-White-2700K-A19-Dimmable-LED-Light-Bulb-BA19-08027OMF-12DE26-2U100/204592770?N=5yc1vZbm79). Compared to the regular $10 price, this was a steal so I picked up quite a few!

  • Colin

    If you’re in the Philadelphia area, the Home Depots in PA have the 60W Crees for $3.97 now. The Philips flat bulbs are $4.97.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Thanks for the heads up!

    • Justin Shiffler

      Phillips Slim Style now $2 !!

  • Jerry Jurkiewicz

    The 600 Lumen “Ledare” bulbs from Ikea give off a nice warm light and light up a good sized bedroom in a 3 bulb fan unit. The prices have recently dropped too. Need to compare them to the Cree bulbs. I had my Ledare bulbs in bedroom, office, and bathroom for 7 months now without a single problem.

  • Michael Caputi

    I have Intermatic electronic timers on my front and back porch. I tried a Cree 40 watt equivalent bulb in the fixture and found that the timer was resetting almost on a daily basis. I contacted the manufacturer and their suggestion was simply, “Try a different manufacturer’s LED bulb.” The response seemed a little flip to me, but I went out and purchased a Philips 40 watt equivalent. I’ve had no issue whatsoever with the timer resetting using this bulb.

  • Jon Littell

    Has anyone checked out the $5 Utiltech LED (California price) at Lowes? I know it’s a store brand, but don’t know who the OEM is. low.es/1nzXi0C

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      We haven’t, but I’ll forward this along to our researchers!

  • Selim Targay

    The Philips 433227 10.5-watt Slim Style Dimmable A19 LED Light Bulb, Soft White is down to $3.97 per bulb at Home Depot.

  • Theodore Redinbo

    I am using three 18 watt LED bulbs A19 outside to light up my home driveway. They are so bright! The bulbs are in a frosted fixture. How much difference will I notice the brightness if I use the 9.75 watt LED bulbs? I hope this is ok to ask in this discussion?

  • Ben Bayes

    This article is great, but I’d love some expansion! My house has G25 (small, round decorative bulbs), B11 (candle shaped bulbs), MR16 (halogens), and BR30 (reflector bulbs). I wish you could make recommendations for each!

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Noted!

  • keltor

    How about including Feit.

  • Marcus Howling

    Hands down, I have tried many LED Lights. If you are looking for the best LED lightbulbs for your business you should check out ledradiant.com

  • Doug

    I used the 9.5 watt Cree LED bulb in my new office installing 52 of these without a single failure in a year. I also installed 72 Philips F32T8/TL830 linear fluorescent bulbs and just replaced 10 of them (14% failure rate).

  • Julian Seidenberg

    Could you perhaps update the article to give some recommendations for bulbs that use with a bayonet cap? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayonet_mount

    It seems screw caps are common in the USA, but other countries have bayonet caps as the standard, and none of the recommended bulbs come in bayonet varieties, for some strange reason.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Unfortunately I think all of the Cree’s we reviewed were Edison Screw bulbs.

  • http://www.michaelhorowitz.com Michael Horowitz

    Switch Lighting seems to have fallen off the end of the Earth. The Switch Infinia bulb is out of stock everywhere that I looked. The company website, http://www.switchlightingco.com, is offline. The company has not updated their Twitter or Facebook in many months.

  • Justin Shiffler

    On sale now at Home Depot, so is the Ph
    illips flat model !

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Online or in-store only? They’re frequently on sale in certain stores but rarely online.

      • Justin Shiffler

        Both I think. the slim style 40W and 60W equals are now $2 !!!! The cree bulbs are $5 each. In store and online in the 19465 outer Philly area.

        • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

          Just checked and this is semi-regional. They’ve been doing this for about a year. Last time I heard they were dropping prices crazy low it was in New Jersey. Thanks though!

        • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

          Just realized it was $3 4 months back in Philly too. Knew that sounded familiar!

          http://thesweethome.com/reviews/best-led-lightbulb/#comment-1444206543

  • http://www.electriciantoronto.ca/ Licensed Electrician

    An efficient light source like Cree Soft White LED in tandem with controls automatically adjusting
    light levels or turning lights off when they’re not needed cut lighting bill by
    81% in a couple of our projects. The savings if used all over the property are enormous,
    instant and rather hard to believe! To implement this in your house, office or building in the Greater Toronto Area visit:

    http://ledlightingretrofitinmississauga.blogspot.com/

  • tbone7

    I too would like to see a deeper analysis of Ikea’s LED Ledare bulbs. After a recent trip to my local Ikea, I noticed their prices and selection of bulbs were GREAT. They had a 200, 600, and 1000 lumen option for regular bulbs. Plus, a wide variety of bulbs with different size bases and tips. At $4.50, I think it bears further analysis.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Maybe when we refresh this guide!

  • Jason Druthers

    Interesting that you pick the Cree bulbs as “best.” They are one of the worst LED bulbs I’ve ever used because 1., they flicker at 120Hz which isn’t visible just sitting there, but when you try to film your kid in the room it looks really bizarre, and 2., they make a lot of noise with the supposedly compatible Lutron dimmers I have.

    The Philips L-prize bulbs are far superior in all respects. Unfortunately, Philips discontinued them as soon as they collected their prize from the DoE.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      According to our expert engineer that has been involved in the lighting/LED industry for 15 years, they are the best for most people.

  • wesmaniam