Incredible efficiency at an affordable price.
Light bulbs aren’t exciting, but they’re one of the cornerstones of home life. They light your way in the dark, define the mood of a space, and make your home more secure.
They’re also a large portion of your electric bill!
As we begin the journey toward our new home, I find myself researching the best ways to cut recurring fees and buy lasting products up front. As we still live in a house full of incandescents (with an ancient CFL here and there), it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the abundance of new lighting solutions on the market today. I do know one thing for sure… LEDs are about to dominate the marketplace.
LED bulbs have finally matured to a product that offers dimmable, familiar lighting at a fraction of the energy as their incandescent ancestors. They’re beginning to come down in price too, with some fantastic new entry level products from Philips, GE, Cree, and many others.
I plan to do a full shootout of existing options and an exploration of smart bulbs in the near future, but I thought it best to start with a review of one of today’s most popular LED bulbs, the Cree LED 60w replacement.
A Name You’re Not Familiar With… Yet
Unless you’re a flashlight enthusiast (yes, those exist), you’re probably not familiar with the Cree name. Headquartered in North Carolina, Cree has led the charge in LED lighting for years, raising the bar in low-power/high output lighting in a number of applications.
Owning several flashlights with their technology in my camping stash, I was eager to try out one of their well-reviewed light bulbs.
What Does it Claim to Do?
The LED bulb category is getting crowded, but the Cree bulbs stand out with their familiar shape, soft/even lighting, and power consumption that’s second-to-none. At an Energy Star friendly 9.5w (compared to 11-14w for other bulbs in this class), Cree seems to have a leg up on efficiency. It uses 84% less energy than an incandescent!
- 60w replacement (using 9.5w)
- Estimated energy cost of $1.14/yr
- LED “filament tower” design
- Mercury and lead Free
- 25,000 hour lifetime
- Safety coated glass
- Soft White/2700k
- 800 lumens
- Energy Star Certified
Note: Cree is in the process of rolling out a different model with several improvements to light distribution, but with slightly less efficiency at 11w.
Look and Feel
Like any light, it’ll probably be covered up in a fixture most of the time. That said, the Cree design is fairly traditional in appearance, and wouldn’t raise an eyebrow if you saw it in the nude.
I can’t think of a scenario where this would matter, but it does have a good heft to it (much more so than a standard bulb), and it has an odd rubber smell out of the package. Worth noting.
Performance and User Experience
As for light quality, it’s completely indistinguishable from my trusty old incandescent. Same color temperature, no flickering, and instant full brightness. You can see them side by side in my office below:
It works just like a normal bulb, taking only seconds to replace in any normal E26 socket. It does have a dark spot right at the top of the bulb, but the 360 degree light in the center compensates for that just fine.
Integration with Other Platforms
Like most of its contemporaries released over the past 12 months, the Cree bulb is compatible with quality dimmers and fits in every light socket I could find. It doesn’t include smart functionality like the Philips Hue Lux, LIFX, or GE’s Link products, but I wouldn’t expect it to at the price.
Build Quality and Reliability
The bulb feels sturdy and tightly engineered. There’s a thick, soft-touch finish on the glass that diffuses the light and gives the impression that it would withstand a fall (in case you’re accident prone).
It’s backed by a 10-year warranty (awesome!) and rated for 22+ years of normal use; you could leave these to your children after you croak, if that’s your sort of thing.
The bulbs cost 30% less than the competition at the big box stores, and can be found for about $7 if you find the right deal online. While still far from cheap, that’s a pretty great deal when you consider lifetime costs.
That said, even if you score a deal, it’ll definitely cost some serious coin up front to outfit your entire home.