Shedding Light On LED Lights: Leaders In Cost & Performance

October 19, 2015

In this era of continuing attention to energy efficiency, few, if any, are going to argue the case against the benefits of using LED lights.

But replacing burnt-out incandescent bulbs with LEDs is no simple undertaking, especially when it comes to price. LED bulbs, built using light emitting diodes, although certain to last longer than the Edison-style incandescent bulbs and demand less electricity, are not what you would expect to find in the nearest neighborhood bargain basement store.

LED bulb Cree cfl-vs-led-light-bulbs

Another incandescent option is the compact fluorescent light, or CFL, which contains mercury, a toxic chemical. Aside from how best to dispose of toxic bulbs when they burn out (recycling these seems to be a myth), the biggest knock on CFLs involves the overall, less attractive light they provide when compared to the old-fashioned incandescents.

The Transition To LEDs

While LEDs today are far less expensive now than they used to be, they still cost considerably more than a 4-pack of the old incandescents, which are being discontinued. To this point, Holly Johnson adds, “And while prices for LED light bulbs were astronomical when we first covered this topic just a few years ago — upwards of $100 for one bulb — you can now pick up a cheap, 60-watt-equivalent LED light bulb for less than $5.”

LEDs different shutterstock_209328583While Johnson’s staggering price of $100 may seem unreal to some readers, a $50 tab per bulb was not uncommon that long ago. Today, the average is below $10 a bulb, even though certain LED brands cost more.

How LEDs Work

LEDs have traditionally been used in small electronic displays. According to the Lighting Research Center, LEDs are semiconductor diodes, electronic devices that permit current to flow in only one direction. The diode is formed by bringing two slightly different materials together to form a PN junction (see figure below). In a PN junction, the P side contains excess positive charge (“holes,” indicating the absence of electrons) while the N side contains excess negative charge (electrons).

Put another way, LED light bulbs bring together currents with a positive and negative charge to create energy released in the form of light. The result is a fast source of light that is reliable, instantaneous, and able to be dimmed. (CFLs cannot be dimmed.)

LED PN junction figure2

“When a forward voltage is applied to the semiconducting element forming the PN junction (heretofore referred to as the junction), electrons move from the N area toward the P area and holes move toward the N area. Near the junction, the electrons and holes combine. As this occurs, energy is released in the form of light that is emitted by the LED.” -Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

LED Lifespan Makes The Difference

Ultimately, what puts LEDs above incandescent bulbs and CFLs is how long they can last. According to Consumer Reports, LED light bulbs can last anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 hours (up to 5 1/2 years), or up to five times longer than any comparable bulb on the market. Just don’t break them or expose them to water.

Buying Energy Star Certified LED Lights

Here’s the low-down on what ENERGY STAR certification means: Strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Lighting products that have earned the ENERGY STAR label deliver exceptional features, while using less energy. Saving energy helps you save money on utility bills and protects the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Energy Star, these certified bulbs:

  • Use about 70-90% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs
  • Last 10 to 25 times longer
  • Save $30 to $80 in electricity costs over each bulb’s lifetime
  • Meet strict quality and efficiency standards that are tested by accredited labs and certified by a third-party
  • Produce about 70-90% less heat, so they’re safer to operate
  • Can cut energy costs associated with home cooling

These factors offer pretty impressive reasons for using LEDs.

Top Global Manufacturers Of LEDs

LED candles Phillips sparkling_ambience_with_LED_candles_06

LED candles from Philips

The Photonics Industry and Technology Development Association (PIDA) compiled a list of the top 10 global LED lighting manufacturers, according to Economic Daily News. According to Source Guide, there are presently 965 LED manufacturers world-wide. The top three are Philips, Osram, and Panasonic.

  • Philips
  • Osram
  • Panasonic
  • Toshiba
  • Cree
  • ENDO
  • Zumtobel
  • Koizumi
  • Iris Ohyama
  • Sharp

LED Pricing

Consumer Reports has written this on LED pricing: “When LEDs were $50 a bulb not long ago it took years to earn back the money you spent on an LED. But now you’ll find LEDs for $10 and less.”
When you start price shopping, keep in mind how many different types of LEDs that are available for purchase. You guessed it: PLENTY!

LED Buying Basics

Your LED light bulb search should be based on what light best provides the amount of light you need. You should also decide on the color of light you like. Then there are other basics to consider, such as price and the dimensions of the bulb and base.

Using a color temperature spectrum, lights can be all colors. Shades of white can range from warm to cool white. The lower the color temperature, the more yellow your white light will appear. This type of light is referred to as soft white. These distinctions will usually do plenty to drive the sale of the LED product, price aside.

According to the Top Ten Reviews site on 2015 LEDs, you will find a comprehensive list of the best LED manufacturers and their product specifications.

Warranty & Support
“A good LED light bulb should come with at least a three- to five-year warranty, while the best LED bulbs have up to a 10-year warranty,” states TopTenReviews, who published the Top 10 list below.

The Top 10

LED Cree 9.5 W 61330-cree-9.5-watt-boxCree 9.5 Watt $9.97





LED Phillips 61331-philips-led-425264-boxPhilips LED 425264 $60.00





LED G7 power 61332-g7-power-incline-led-boxG7 Power Incline $19.95





Feit 13.5-watt $22.50LED FEIT 3.554602-feit-13.5-watt-box





EcoSmart GP19 $14.97LED EcoSmart 61334-ecosmart-gp19-box





TCP LED 40W $19.99LED TCP 61333-tcp-led-40w-box





Sylvania 73014 $9.81LED Sylvania 61335-sylvania-led-73014-box




GE 89888 $3.24

LED GE 61336-ge-lighting-led-89888-box





Philips 433227 10.5-watt Slim Style $3.00

LED Phillips s;om 61337-philips-10.5-watt-slim-style-box





Lighting Ever 10W 100018 $6.99LED Lightning ecer 61338-lighting-ever-10w-box





Notice first the significantly large difference in pricing on these lights, from $3 to $60. Read all of the fine print and make certain you are satisfied with what you’re buying.

In the end, LED lighting is an environmentally friendly option that will save you money in the long run. Regardless of what you choose, LED lighting solutions will shine long after incandescent and CFL bulbs have quit working. And you are contributing to green living!

hand on bulb via Cree via Facebook, LED candles via Phillips
Originally published on Green Living Ideas



Glenn Meyers

Writer, documentary producer, and director. Meyers is a contributor to CleanTechnica, and founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.