Review: EcoSmart A19 LED bulb (40W Equivalent)

EcoSmart A19 LED BulbI’ve posted before about LED lighting, and consider myself an early adopter.

Recently, Home Depot significantly expanded their selection of LED bulbs beyond the Philips brand that I’ve been using for a few years, mostly in my kitchen track lights (GU10 formfactor). I’ve been quite happy with those, and I only have two more halogens left in the track that seem to be hanging on, knowing their fate should they burn out.

The EcoSmart line appears to be a Home Depot house brand, and as such is only available there. The brand encompasses both CFL and LED lighting technologies. The bulbs are less expensive than the Philips bulbs.

I picked up eight of the 40W-equivalent A19-style bulbs. These have a form factor that matches that of a traditional incandescent bulb, so they’ll fit anywhere a regular bulb will fit, unlike the bulbs I blogged about previously. I bought these to use in our master bath above the vanity, and the  master bedroom ceiling fan, where solid-state bulbs are a much better option due to the vibrations of the fan which drastically shorten the life of filament bulbs. Because of this application, these bulbs are also dimabble.

The specs on the bulb are as follows:

While this bulb is listed as a 40W equivalent, because of the directionality of the bulb, it’s roughly equivalent to the light you’d get from a 75W bulb in directional applications. I tried it in my regular bathroom fixture, which assumes a standard bulb emitting light in all directions, and it’s not up to the task. Side-by-side comparisons in a reading lamp, on the other hand, give a result that looks almost identical to the 75W incandescent bulb that was in it previously.

In the ceiling fan application (four bulbs), it lights up the large master bedroom quite nicely and dimming is not only smooth and flicker-free, but quiet. The overall consumption of  35W is a dramatic improvement over the set of 75W halogens that used to be in there.

This is the packaging for eight bulbs. The tiles are 12" across.

My only real gripe about these bulbs is the logical disconnect between the “eco-smart” name and the ridiculous amount of packaging they come in. The bulb itself is in a plastic clamshell that is not coded for recylcing (but is likely PET), which is then encased in a fairly convoluted cardboard box big enough for a PAR38. These then come four each in a corrugated cardboard tray for retail display. I haven’t been able to confirm it, but the boxes look like they may use the same box die for all their bulbs, and swap out the plastic shell for the appropriate one. At least it’s not your typical wound-inducing plastic retail shell. If I needed to return these to the store, it looks simple enough to repackage them such that they can be resold.

Home Depot also offers EcoSmart LED bulbs in PAR30, PAR38, PAR20, G25, MR16, and E26 formats, as well as a whole host of holiday lighting options.

Time will tell how well these hold up. Next up are likely going to be the G25 bulbs in the dining room fixture.

Energy-Efficient Lighting: LED Bulbs

The biggest electrical energy drain in your home is usually lights. It goes without saying that if you can address that area, you’ll be a whole lot happier when the electric bill comes.

To this end, we’ve been replacing the lights in our home, starting with CFL a few years ago.Rather than an all-out replacement campaign, we simply replaced bulbs as they went out, under the premise that those are the ones that are on most of the time, and consequently consume more energy. There are several lights in our house that are incandescent, but are rarely used. As such, changing them is not a cost-effective proposition, given the higher cost of the bulbs. There are other areas in the house that are on dimmers, so CFL was not an option there.

One area where I absolutely love the CFL’s usually annoying habit of having to warm up to full brightness over a few minutes? The master bathroom. The overhead light there needs to be reasonably bright, but first thing in the morning, a 100W bulb is an assault on the senses. The 13W CFL there now warms up gently (slower on colder mornings) and isn’t quite so rough when you wake up.

Even CFL bulbs have a limited lifetime (about 2-3x that of incandescents), so those are starting to die now, and need to be replaced. Disposal of fluorescent lights is problematic due to a number of toxic substances involved. Over the past few years, LED bulbs have become a much more mature technology, and the price has come down substantially. Most residential LED bulbs are expected to last 20 years.

Where I’m using LED bulbs in my house:

Kitchen Track Lighting. Gradually replacing the eight halogen GU10 bulbs. So far, I’ve got three 4W Philips LED bulbs from Home Depot ($30). They’re just as bright as the 50W halogens, and they don’t emit any IR to speak of (the halogens would melt butter on the counter!). Net Cost savings over the 10-year lifetime of eight bulbs: around $1500.

LED StackMaster Bedroom. Just got a set of four Dimmable 8W LED lamps from LED Liquidators (please ignore the horrible web design – it seems to be a common problem with online LED retailers) that claim to be equivLED Stack Bulb in Ceiling fanalent to 60W. These go in the ceiling fan and are ideally suited to that application – they’re on a lot, on a dimmer, and the fan has a lot of vibration, which is really hard on incandescents. Net cost savings over 20-year lifetime of the bulbs: $800.

And if you’re into that sort of thing, it also reduces your carbon footprint.

Update, December 2010: All four of these bulbs have failed – they’ve got entire strips of LEDs that are flickering or flat out not working. An e-mail to customer service in October went unanswered. Called by phone and they said “customer service will call back and take care of it”. We shall see.

On the perils of LED lighting and video…

For the last couple of years, we’ve used LED Christmas lights in our sanctuary. Considering how many we have (hundreds), the electricity savings are probably non-trivial.

All our LED strings in the sanctuary are plugged into either a stage dimmer or, where a dimmer port was unavailable, an Elation UniBar hooked into an RC4 Magic wireless DMX receiver (with the transmitter wired into DMX up in the catwalks). This allows us to control the Christmas lights along with the rest of the theatrical lighting via the Hog. It’s a very nice setup.

The other day, when Frank was running the stream, he saw the Christmas lights were fading in and out in sequence, and called up to the Penalty Box (the plexiglass-wrapped area at the back of house where the lighting operator and worship producer sit) and asked them to quit playing with the lights. As it turns out, they weren’t and the lights were all on. Mysteriously, they were fading in and out in sequence on the wide shot camera. When we looked at them on one of the other remote cameras, everything looked normal.

Then it hit me. I went to the remote control on the wide camera and cranked down the shutter speed, and lo, the lights gradually came together until they were all on. This is what it looked like:

Most stage dimmers operate by switching the AC cycle on and off via pulse width modulation. LEDs then only show one half of the AC sine wave, making them strobe, effectively reproducing the square-wave pulses that are modulating the dimmers. What We were seeing on the cameras was a beat frequency of the camera’s shutter speed and the strobing of the LEDs. You don’t see this on incandescent lighting because of the thermal persistence of the filaments. But why were the lights cycling at different times? Each one was connected to a different dimmer circuit, and those circuits are spread among the three AC phases coming into the dimmer room (which has a monster 2000-amp breaker).

So, if you’re shooting video of anything that has LED lights in it, make sure your shutter speed is at 1/60, or the lights are going to start acting strangely.