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nderwater
nderwater UltimaDork
2/26/20 6:23 a.m.

All right guys, here's a question for you. I just moved into a new house and nearly all of the lights in the house (we're talking 80 bulbs) are incandescent, with a bunch more tiny halogens and candelabra bulbs.  Eventually I'd like to swap everything to LED but don't I want to spend a fortune doing it.

Setting aside the little bulbs for now, I need about 50 standard bulbs and about 30 standard size 'flood' style bulbs.  The flood bulbs (set in recessed cans) need to be dimmable.  And I don't want to spend a small fortune to replace them.

I've had mixed results with cheap LEDs from Walm*rt, Amaz*n and Ik*a (trying not to invite canoes to the party).  Some die early deaths, others only dim to 50% instead of 5-10%, and others flicker or strobe when dimmed.  Is there any particular brand that you'd recommend for long life at low cost?  For reliability?  What are the best sources to find them?

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
2/26/20 6:29 a.m.

I want to keep an eye on this thread for good dimmable LEDs.  

But would like to add the 12V kind that are direct replacements for the under counter lighting.

nderwater
nderwater UltimaDork
2/26/20 6:42 a.m.

The under-cabinet lights here are all halogen and really heat up the bottom shelf of the cabinets. I was thinking of replacing them with inexpensive long-strip LEDs but would love to hear if anyone has found better solutions.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim MegaDork
2/26/20 6:49 a.m.

I've been replacing a bunch of CFL bulbs with LEDs in the current house as well. I made the mistake of using a bunch of non-dimmable WalM*rt Great Value floods - they work well, but they're not dimmable. Doh.

I like the dimmable Philips floods you can also get at the same chain of stores, much nicer light and, well, dimmable. They're not that much more expensive than the Great Value brand once, but IIRC still somewhere around $12 for two. What I ended up doing was replace the CFLs and LEDs in the high traffic areas with Philips and Sylvania and leave the rest alone for now.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
2/26/20 6:51 a.m.

Be sure to pay attention to the "color" of the LED lamps.  Sometimes listed as "warm white" or whatever, the technical term is Kelvin and goes from around 3000K to 5000K.  The lower the number, the "warmer" or less blue the light output will be.  The higher the number, the more accurate visual colors will appear. Some fixtures have adjustable color outputs.

Why I bring this up is you'll want to pick a color and then remember it when buying new lamps.  Because when you put two lamps with different color can look... kinda bad.  Or at least keep all of the lamps in a room or area the same color.

Like anything, you'll often get what you pay for with LED lamps.  

When looking for lamps for existing recessed can fixtures, make sure the LED replacement lamp is rated for use in an enclosed fixture - many A19 (standard bulb) LED equivalents are not.

Dusterbd13-michael
Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
2/26/20 6:51 a.m.

Around here, habitat for humanity restore has a lone of led bulbs in a green and black box.  About a dollar a bulb. My whole house is done with them now, with only one failed bulb in two years. The floods dim fine in the kitchen. 

RossD
RossD MegaDork
2/26/20 7:09 a.m.

For living rooms, bedrooms I like 2700k or there abouts.

Basement or garage can be higher. But mix one 5500K into a room of 2700K, and I think I would go crazy. 

I just bought a bunch of LED Jeff B's online store (you know the one) and so far so good. Buying them at a home store was twice the cost if not more.

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
2/26/20 7:18 a.m.
nderwater said:

The under-cabinet lights here are all halogen and really heat up the bottom shelf of the cabinets. I was thinking of replacing them with inexpensive long-strip LEDs but would love to hear if anyone has found better solutions.

On my set up, they were 12V incandescent bulbs, and I swapped them with 12V LEDs.  Work ok, but I think there's still a mismatch in power especially when the dimmer is used.

oldopelguy
oldopelguy UberDork
2/26/20 7:22 a.m.

For the can lights the led panels that replace both the bulb and the trim ring are the only way to go. I've been sticking with the Phillips ones and had good luck, but they definitely do not dim down as much as the regular bulbs, or at least looking at them next to an incandescent on full dim they look brighter.  They are commonly on sale for $5-6 each in two packs, but I have something like 80 cans in my house so it's going one area at a time.

There's also at least 3 different technologies for dimmers, and depending on those you may not be able to get a range of brightness you are happy with no matter which bulbs you use.

mad_machine
mad_machine MegaDork
2/26/20 8:26 a.m.

Phillips are a good brand. I use them to good advantage. As stated above, you want lower K numbers in living areas, but can get away with higher more "harsh" lights in the garage and out of doors. 

bluej
bluej UberDork
2/26/20 8:37 a.m.
Ian F said:

Be sure to pay attention to the "color" of the LED lamps.  Sometimes listed as "warm white" or whatever, the technical term is Kelvin and goes from around 3000K to 5000K.  The lower the number, the "warmer" or less blue the light output will be.  The higher the number, the more accurate visual colors will appear. 

.....

Like anything, you'll often get what you pay for with LED lamps.  

That's not quite right. How well different lighting renders colors is indicated by a light sources color rendering index (CRI). Basically, cheap fluorescent and LED have crappy CRI. It is not temperature dependent, but that does play a role. Wiki for more info: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_rendering_index

The last point is true. You'll spend more for a better LED, but it'll use less energy and last longer. You could do a few rooms/areas at a time to spread out the cost. If you need to dim, the dimmer at the wall also matters for LED, so factor that in as well.

 

Edit: yeah, see next post, haha!

Duke
Duke MegaDork
2/26/20 8:43 a.m.
Ian F said:

Be sure to pay attention to the "color" of the LED lamps.  Sometimes listed as "warm white" or whatever, the technical term is Kelvin and goes from around 3000K to 5000K.  The lower the number, the "warmer" or less blue the light output will be.  The higher the number, the more accurate visual colors will appear.

This is close but not exactly true.  Here's a chart that explains it generally:

Also, here's a really good reference image:

 

 

Color rendition is related to but separate from color temperature.  Thanks to the sun and a hundred years of incandescent lighting, we're happiest in the 3000K-4500K range.  Sunlight is really quite green but we've evolved to see that as 'natural'.  Because it is radiated by an actual, heated element, incandescent and halogen lights tend to be a little on the yellower side of the spectrum.

Warm white and lower-K LEDs try to mimic this but because they are electronically based rather than resistance based, their 'yellow' light almost always contains a lot of weird blue / purple overtones that are entirely missing from incandescent / halogen sources.  This makes even the warmest-white, yellowish LEDs have a green or purple overcast to them (oddly enough, 'warmer' light is from a lower Kelvin temperature source than 'cooler' light).

For example, about 10 years ago I put LED undercounter lighting in my kitchen.  I used 3000K units because I prefer warm, incandescent light and I wanted it to look inviting rather than clinical.  When the undercabinet lights are on they match well with the halogen downlights.  Most food items look pretty good under them, particularly fruits and vegetables... but meats turn purple.  Because of the blue overtones hidden in the LED drivers, almost all meat looks undercooked when you're slicing it.  I've gotten used to it, but it's not great.  Someday I will replace them with more modern LEDs, but that's low on the list.

But higher Kelvin temperature does NOT mean more accurate color.  It's perfectly possible to get terrible color out of cheap,  inaccurate LED sources all across the spectrum.  There is a separate measurement for that called Color Rendering Index or CRI.  That is on a scale from 0-100, and the closer the rating is to 100, the better and more accurately the colors of illuminated objects will appear.  Incandescent / halogen light sources are the bench standard for color rendition because their output is very very consistant across all wavelengths of light in their their spectrum.  LEDs and other fluorescent sources, on the other hand, gust around wildly through the spectra:

So, to get the best performance from LED lighting, you need to spend the money for high-CRI LED lamps that have had their drivers tuned to normalize their output across the spectrum.  At least where it matters - I don't give much of a crap in my basement, and in my garage, I'm mostly concerned about lumen output (brightness).

When shopping for LED lamps for living spaces, pick the color temperature that appeals to you most based on your personal preference - I like to be around 3000K.  Then look at the detailed information and go for the highest CRI you are willing to pay for for the given application.

ebelements
ebelements Reader
2/26/20 8:59 a.m.

I have NEVER* had good luck with dimmable CFL or LED bulbs. No matter how much or little I spent, the last 15% of dimming either shuts the bulbs off or makes them flicker/strobe.

 

*Most of my house is now Phillips Hue bulbs. They dim down to 5% perfectly, but even if you pick up refurb bulbs(what a world we live in) it's not a cheap proposition. 

The0retical
The0retical UberDork
2/26/20 9:09 a.m.

I have a bunch of med base Greenlite can and aline bulbs around the house for non-dimmable fixtures and I've been using GE candelabra base bulbs as dimmable fan lights.

Greenlites can be had from ACE for under a buck a piece if you catch them on sale. The GE bulbs were just something picked up walking around Sam's club. I want to say they were 12 bucks for a 5 pack.

I lost exactly one Greelite bulb in the last 3 years. The rest have held up ok.

 

What I will say is that the fans do not care for the dimmable LED's without an accompanying "LED Dimmer" they would flicker and not come on until the dimmer was raised >50%. I ended up swapping in some Lutron dimmer switches which eliminated the problem but they were $25+ a piece.

Duke
Duke MegaDork
2/26/20 9:37 a.m.

In reply to The0retical :

Yeah, you're never going to run even dimmable LEDs with the plain old rotary rheostats that work with incandescents.  You need to pair LEDs with electronic dimmers... which, unfortunately, make incandescent / halogen lamp filaments sing at anything under about 80% power, unless they are very expensive dimmer switches.

 

ultraclyde
ultraclyde PowerDork
2/26/20 9:45 a.m.

I've tried about every combination I can find to get dimmable standard LED bulbs that don't flicker. My current option works - an LED rated dimmer switch from HDepot, and the cheaper HD stocked LED bulbs that say they are dimmable. Other, higher end bulbs that said that still flickered annoyingly.

I've only had them in for a month, so no report on longevity, and 1/12 bulbs was DOA from the package. But I think they're under $10 for 4 "warm white" bulbs.

The0retical
The0retical UberDork
2/26/20 9:50 a.m.

In reply to Duke :

Yea learned that lesson the hard way. Just felt it needed to be stated as it was the missing piece to for a house last renovated in the 90s. It's easy to overlook.

mad_machine
mad_machine MegaDork
2/26/20 10:04 a.m.
ebelements said:

I have NEVER* had good luck with dimmable CFL or LED bulbs. No matter how much or little I spent, the last 15% of dimming either shuts the bulbs off or makes them flicker/strobe.

 

*Most of my house is now Phillips Hue bulbs. They dim down to 5% perfectly, but even if you pick up refurb bulbs(what a world we live in) it's not a cheap proposition. 

that is the dim curve. Even the professional LED fixtures we use in our theatre will drop off fast after a certain percentage, and ours are electornically dimmed (DMX) as opposed to throttling the power. These are not incandescents that will glow with even a small amount of power. 

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa HalfDork
2/26/20 10:12 a.m.
Ian F said:

Be sure to pay attention to the "color" of the LED lamps.  Sometimes listed as "warm white" or whatever, the technical term is Kelvin and goes from around 3000K to 5000K.  The lower the number, the "warmer" or less blue the light output will be.  The higher the number, the more accurate visual colors will appear. Some fixtures have adjustable color outputs.

Why I bring this up is you'll want to pick a color and then remember it when buying new lamps.  Because when you put two lamps with different color can look... kinda bad.  Or at least keep all of the lamps in a room or area the same color.

It can make a difference in sleep patterns as well.  Blue light keeps you awake.

FYI:

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim MegaDork
2/26/20 10:23 a.m.
ebelements said:

I have NEVER* had good luck with dimmable CFL or LED bulbs. No matter how much or little I spent, the last 15% of dimming either shuts the bulbs off or makes them flicker/strobe.

LED and CFL bulbs don't generally work with standard dimmers. If you get flickering, did you change the dimmers out to LED/CFL compatible ones first?

We had the same problem at this house and the flicker was really bad in places. Unfortunately the correct dimmers are also $ouch, especially when combined with a fan controller.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
2/26/20 10:28 a.m.

In reply to bluej/Duke :

Thanks.  I know enough about lighting color to be dangerous, but in the pharma world it's not something we really stress about - as long as everything matches.  Most seem to want 4000K or 4500K.  I skipped the CRI mostly out of simplicity and since many residential fixtures don't show it.

I will confirm having different color LED fixtures in your house can make the lighting feel weird.  I have that in my house right now and fixing the lighting will be one of the projects when I re-wire the house.

From an energy POV, I'm not convinced LED fixtures save energy over CFL or fluorescent fixtures.  When I'm designing the power for them, the input watts are nearly identical for a given lumen output.  All of our clients now want LED fixtures more for the life expectancy and reduced maintenance costs (bulbs are cheap; storage room and the labor to replace them is expensive).  In the facility I'm working at right now, we just installed an integrated ceiling fixture that will be damn near impossible to service or replace (thanks to a lying salesman...), so hopefully that long life rings true.

Robbie
Robbie MegaDork
2/26/20 10:48 a.m.

Check with your utility. Ours offered an "energy assessment" a while back where they sent a guy out who replaced our entire house of bulbs to LEDs free of charge. He checked a few other things of course too, but mainly I wanted a bunch of free LEDs.

DirtyBird222
DirtyBird222 UberDork
2/26/20 10:51 a.m.

I've had nothing but bad luck with LEDs in living spaces. Subscribing for more great info. That stuff about the CRI is great. 

dculberson
dculberson MegaDork
2/26/20 11:30 a.m.

I had great luck with Costco bulbs and saved enough money on them to pay for the membership. I was in a similar situation with a house full of incandescent can lights and didn't want to spend a fortune ($1200 using Home Depot pricing at the time!) and spent more like $200-300 by the time I was done. Wayyyy worth it and some of the rooms are actually habitable during the summer whereas before they would heat up massively from the moment the lights were on and it just got worse and worse. I'm so happy with the leds. Costco! 

Curtis73
Curtis73 MegaDork
2/26/20 12:12 p.m.

I must have gotten lucky.  I bought a whole bunch at HD, then some more at a random hardware store.  They had a pallet full of them (likely found a bargain somewhere) and they were selling them cheap.

All of them are either Phillips or Cree.  On sale they are $1/bulb.  I think I got a bunch of 4-packs for $5

All dimmable, zero flicker.  Some pars for the cans in the kitchen and living room, Edison bulbs for the rest.  Just buy them and screw them in.  Done.

I bought a few on Amazon from China, and even they are fantastic.  My bathroom fixture had the halogen tubes with the contacts on the ends that fit between two springy tabs.  Got those on Amazon for a couple bucks and they're great.

Here is the thing you're looking for:  "dimmable to X%"  This is the point where a bulb just goes out.  Most cheap bulbs are 10%.  Good bulbs are 5%.  The stuff I use at the theater for LED lighting fixtures are 1.2%, but they cost $4000 each.  Any of the Cree or Phillips bulbs available at box stores will be 5%, and you'll never notice it.  If you were in my house, the only reason you would know they aren't incandescent is because they're not hot.

LEDs dim using a kind of pulse width modulation.  Since LEDs (within a certain threshhold) are either on or off, the way you make them dim is by turning them on and off so fast that your eye can't tell the difference.  Low frequency pulsewidths are what make the flicker, and also determines how far they'll dim before your eye can discern that it's just a flickering light.  Any of the commercially available bulbs these days will be more than adequate; 5% dimming, adequate pulsewidth frequency to not have flicker, etc.  I would notice if I were trying to light a show at the theater with them, but in your living room... fuhgettabout it.

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