The Smartest And Most Energy Efficient Household Lightbulbs You Can Buy

Thanks to strict government regulations, inefficient lighting in homes has quickly becoming a thing of the past. While compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) have been around for a while, the far more efficient technology of LED lighting is now cheap enough to justify an upgrade. But which brands offer the best efficiency?

LED light images via Shutterstock

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There are two main considerations to take into account when you're buying new light bulbs — primarily how much power they'll consume, and also how long they'll last. Combining these will give you a total cost for the entire life of the product.

LEDs have very long life spans — typically over 20,000 hours for the best of the best bulbs, although cheaper ones may be rated to somewhat shorter lengths. That 20,000 hour figure equates to over 10 years at five hours per day of use — extremely long in comparison to both CFLs and traditional incandescent globes. It’s also important to note that lifespan actually is not until the LED will fail, but when it reaches 70 per cent of the original brightness.

That said, like any electronic product, LED lights can still fail from other faults and stop working. Warranties vary, with ranges from a year up to five or more.

Going Green

According to figures from the government, lighting represents on average around 12 per cent of the energy usage from households, and about 25 per cent of energy usage of the country's commercial sector. To help reduce these numbers, government introduced energy efficiency standards for lighting products in houses starting way back in 2009, and also has standards for commercial and public lighting.

In terms of efficiency, any bulbs that produce less than 15 lumens per Watt are not allowed to be sold. That's fine, becaused LED bulbs generally have better than 50 lumens per Watt efficiency. Some halogen globes can just scrape in, though the most common type of light are CFLs and everybody knows the older incandescents.

In this case, lumens just mean the amount of light outputted. Different bulbs can output different amounts of light for the same power input due to varying efficiency. Not all manufacturers list lumens either, so it can be hard to compare.

As a rough guide, a high quality 25W incandescent gives about 200 lumens of light, a 40W around 400 lumens, a 60W around 600 lumens, and a 75W about 1000 lumens.


Also Read: LIFX Wi-Fi LED Bulb Review: Work In Progress

Let’s face it: LED light bulbs are cool. They’re much more energy efficient than incandescent globes, they have better colour than fluorescents, and they start up nearly instantly. Fancy bulbs like the Philips Hue have red-green-blue LEDs, too, that can change their colour to create impressive and dynamic scenes, with Wi-Fi control. The LIFX is one of those fancy bulbs.


An Efficiency Comparison

A traditional 60 Watt incandescent light uses 60 Watts of power — of which up to 90 per cent can be wasted as heat, instead of being converted into light. Other technologies such as LEDs, CFLs and halogens convert power into light with greater efficiency and less waste heat.

At five hours of use per day, a 60 Watt incandescent bulb uses around $27 of power per year (at an average electricity rate of 25 cents per kilowatt-hour, or kWh).

In comparison, an LED globe of similar brightness uses around $5 of electricity a year.

These days, with LEDs available at similar prices to CFLs, the choice is a no brainer. LEDs generally have at least double the rated lifespan of CFLs, while being slightly more efficient and producing a higher colour rendering index, or CRI.

CFLs also have a few undesirable aspects — such as taking time to reach full brightness, having a shorter life is turned on and off a lot and not generally being dimmable. They also contain mercury, so should (but are not always) disposed of correctly.

Also Read: Philips Friends Of Hue Smart Lights: Australian Review

As imperfect as they might still be for the average, everyday, regular user, Wi-Fi enabled lightbulbs are still a thing that won’t quit. The Philips Hue range is one of the best out there at the moment, with a high quality globe backed by a solid open-source wireless standard and a useful and versatile mobile app. There’s more than just a standard globe available, though — Philips’ two Friends Of Hue devices are two add-on variants that don’t exactly change the entire philosophy of your Hue devices, but that add a little more versatility in where you might want to place them around your house or office.

Advice For Buying LED Globes

We have rounded up a comparison of the major LED bulbs currently available from stores in Australia. If we've missed any, feel free to tell us in the comments. There are a few other bulbs out there that are either very expensive, not commonly sold or that are frankly cheap junk that we have excluded from the list.

Avoid buying your LEDs from cheap overseas suppliers. There are plenty of poor quality knock off products out there that have limited lifespan and dubious safety.

Double check what fitting you need — LED bulb come in most of the standard types, but some of the more rare sizes can be hard to find.

Decide what colour temperature you want. Traditional incandescent bulbs give a very warm light, while many LEDs tend towards a whiter colour. These days you can get a range of colour temperatures.

Look out for extra functionality, such as Wi-Fi connectivity and colour changing globes.


Also Read: A Beginner's Guide To Smart Lights

Gone are the days when a light bulb had a hot filament that came on when you flicked a heavy switch. Today’s smart lights offer flexibility, security and real cost savings. But how do you get started?


LED Bulbs Available Now

Comparing LED lights is somewhat tricky — every manufacturer has a slightly different model and luminosity rating available. We tried to compare roughly 60W equivalent globes where possible — this is roughly 600 lumens, but many bulbs are slightly more or less, so there's a little leeway in the numbers.

The key efficiency number is the amount of lumens produced per Watt — higher numbers are better. Of course, two 8W LEDs still cost the same to run, even if one is slightly brighter, so you don’t save any money unless you get the same brightness with fewer Watts.

The numbers are also very small — often under 50 cents a year. Across the entire lifespan of the LED this can add up but is not enough to worry too much about. All the LEDs we featured are quite close in efficiency.

That said, LED lifespan is a bit tricky — anything over about 20,000 hours (10 years at 5 hours a day) is probably a moot point, not to mention a bit of an unknown. An assumption of at least 5 years life is a good starting point. At this sort of lifespan, the purchase cost dominates the savings from efficiency differences.

We also included a cost to run the LED bulb for 1000 hours and a lumen per dollar of cost as a further comparison.

Philips

Phillips has one of the largest ranges of LEDs lights available. You can also get them in a number of locations, such as supermarkets and your local Bunnings.

The Philips LEDs are some of the most efficient available and will easily save their added cost across their lifespan. The Philips LEDs tend to offer a lower life than some of the other manufacturers.

Philips LED Bulb (60W Equivalent)

Dimmable: Yes Lumens: 600 Wattage: 7.5 Watts Price: $11.99 Lumens Per Watt: 80 Lifespan: 15,000 hours

Cost to run 1000H: $1.87 Lumens Per $: 50

Ikea

Ikea has a huge range of LEDs, from low to high power and for a number of different socket types. They offer very affordable prices, with decent efficiency ratings. The Ikea bulbs also have excellent run times.

Ikea LEDARE

Dimmable: Yes Lumens: 600 Wattage: 8 Watts Price: $8.99 Lumens Per Watt: 75 Lifespan: 25,000 hours

Cost to run 1000H: $2 Lumens Per $: 67

Verbatim

The verbatim LEDs come in a range of wattages, but we focused on the 530 lumen model. While this is slightly dimmer than some of the 60W equivalent competition, the Verbatim outputs this light from just 6 watts of power use.

This makes it one of the most efficient LEDs available, if you are ok with a slightly reduced brightness. One downside is that it is not dimmable.

Verbatim Classic A E27 6W

Dimmable: No Lumens: 530 Wattage: 6 Watts Price: $11.95 Lumens Per Watt: 88 Lifespan: 20,000 hours

Cost to run 1000H: $1.5 Lumens Per $: 44

OSRAM

A slightly more limited range compared to the competition, OSRAM has a slightly higher powered LED listed as a 60W equivalent.

The OSRAM LEDs have excellent life span for an affordable price. They will cost slightly more to run over time, but will also produce more light.

OSRAM LED SuperStar Classic A (60W Equivalent)

Dimmable: Yes Lumens: 810 Wattage: 10 Watts Price: $11.99 Lumens Per Watt: 81 Lifespan: 20,000 hours

Cost to run 1000H: $2.50 Lumens Per $: 67

Kogan

Want to buy in bulk? Kogan offer an affordable 8 pack of LEDs with free shipping. The price and bulb life are great, though they only have a 1 year warranty.

You can also get the Kogan LEDs as a two pack, but they are a lot more expensive.

Kogan LED 8W 8 Pack

Dimmable: Not Listed Lumens: 600 Wattage: 8 Watts Price: $12.375 each Lumens Per Watt: 75 Lifespan: 30,000 hours

Cost to run 1000H: $2 Lumens Per $: 48

Mort Bay

With a limited number of bulb types available through Masters and Bunnings, the Mort Bay brand is lower efficiency than its competition. Which would be fine, except it costs just as much.

While still better than an incandescent or CFL, there are better LEDs available.

Mort Bay 7W

Dimmable: Not listed Lumens: 470 Wattage: 7 Watts Price: $12 Lumens Per Watt: 67 Lifespan: 20,000 hours

Cost to run 1000H: $1.75 Lumens Per $: 39


Also Read: Belkin WeMo Insight Switch: Australian Review

The WeMo family of smart home gadgets and internet-connected appliances is growing. We’ve had quite a long wait for this particular apparatus, but you’re finally able to pick it up in a JB Hi-Fi or Bunnings Warehouse near you — Belkin’s energy-monitoring WeMo Insight Switch is finally available in Australia, with an Australian power plug.


Comments

    Obligatory http://www.ledbenchmark.com/ post.

    Highly recommended as there are many more (important) things to think about when buying. Things like CRI and light spread are more important (to a degree) to me than lumens/cost.

      Great site! My apartment-full of OSRAM downlights isn't on there, though :(

      Thanks for the link. I'm about to find out how accurate their assessment of the Brightgreen D900 is.

    Can someone explain the heat they produce, I thought heat was a sign of inefficiency? I've got a couple at home and bloody hell they get hot.

      In a light, heat is a sign of inefficiency
      (not in a heater though, but it is still cheaper to pump heat than make it).

      LED's do get hot, but as they are more efficient than incandescent lights they will produce more light and less heat per Watt of electricity consumed.

      A light source which is 100% efficient would produce (theoretically) 683 lumens/Watt.
      The best of these lights listed produces 88 lumens/Watt (lu/W), therefore it is still only 13% efficient.
      An incandescent light is only around 2% efficient with (about) 15 lumens/Watt.

      So even with a 6-7-fold increase in efficiency, and corresponding reduction in power consumption from "60" W to 6W (530 lumens only equates to a low output 60W incand. bulb, operating at 8.8lu/W and 1.3% efficiency)

      The brightest 60W incand. bulb I found in a quick search was 855 lumens (Sylvania 11373) at 60W (130V) =14.25 lu/W equating to 2.1% efficiency (at producing light).

      SO even this most efficient 6W LED 'light' only produces 0.78W equivalent of visible light and the remainder (5.2W) largely radiated as heat.

      But your power bill is reduced by approx 54Wh per hour of use compared to a very low efficiency incandescent bulb, saving you $24.65 per year per light (5hr/day) (costing: $2.74 per year)
      While a perfectly efficient light which produces no-heat will only cost 46 cents to run for a year, you may need to power it for a many lifetimes for it to become cost effective (jk).

      NB. The actual temperature the light heatsink reaches, is more a factor of its radiative efficiency (good design, or bad design) than the heat capacity of the aluminium heatsink.

      5.2W (continuous heat output) will heat up 1L of water at about 5 Degrees C per hour, while a low efficiency incandescent bulb will heat the water 50.1 degrees (in an isolated system)..

      So we are much better off even if the current devices still have a way to go, we can still save the $2.74 per year, though the $24.65 already saved is a lot better than we can ever achieve even with max theoretical efficiency (law of diminishing returns), even at nearly 90% inefficiency..

      Last edited 10/11/15 4:36 pm

        Thanks for that. It only hurt a little bit to read and understand it. ;)

          Sorry it hurt, I did try to inject a little humour into the science (maybe I'm just not funny)..
          Hope it makes sense. In a light heat is bad (but inevitable). In a heater, light is bad (but also nearly inevitable) our world doesn't allow for "optimal", everything is a compromise.

          Last edited 12/11/15 1:39 pm

      md's analysis is spot on :-) I would say one thing - even 10w of heat (12w bright LED fixture) should not be too hot to touch - if it is that is a sign of poor thermal design, because if the casing is too hot to touch it is probably not keeping the LED core cool, which it needs to be to work well.

    Where's the mention of Brightgreen Giz?

      Really? Personally I'm not interested in "going green". I very much prefer white lights.

    Dont get Kogan, their LED claims 30,000 hours, first one burnt out at around 40 hours, second one started flickering about 5 hours in, I just chucked out the other 2

      I can verify this. Went through a pack of 4 GU10 bulbs in less than six months. Thought it was my light fitting but replaced with some more pricey Phillips bulbs and haven't had an issue since. Don't think these are an item you can skimp on

    The unit I'm renting at the moment has light fittings where the socket is oriented parallel to the ceiling. This means that a bulb-shaped light cannot fit in the socket, and unfortunately, all the LED lights I've found so far are quite bulbous (as some misguided attempt to be similar to the old incandescent bulbs?). As such, CFL is my only option :(

      While the bulbs listed are mostly attempts to mimic the shape of the old incandescent, there are also bulbs that mimic the shape of CFLs. You should try to have a look for "corn" shaped LED bulbs if you are interested in LEDs.

    I bought a Kogan LED bayonet bulb, one of the 2 pins fell off rendering it useless. I did ring Kogan and they asked me to take a photo of the damage and they sent me a replacement. The new bulb is our hallway light and stays on all night about 12 hours most nights of the year. It's 8 watts and we've had it for about 3 years and continues to work perfectly.
    I've also bought the Philips bulbs which always work well but the warmest whites are still a little glarey.
    I've also bought a bunch of ALDI 13 watt lights which are bright enough to light up a medium to large size room and they are 2700K which are very pleasingly warm white, equivalent to an incandescent, but one of the 8 bulbs has failed after just 3 months so I hope this is an anomaly and not a sign of things to come, that is my exciting LED life story up until now, thanks for reading!!

    Genuine question - how many people have houses that exclusively use the Edison-screw connections that all smart light bulbs use? My house is about 8 years old, and it only has 2 of those fittings - in the ensure and bathroom. Everything else is recessed downlights with GU10 or MR16 bulbs.

    It's really annoying to see all of these cool smart-bulbs released and can't use any of them. Are there any that are GU10-based? Are there any products designed to replace your wall-mounted light switch with something Wifi-controlled?

      I hadn't realised they were all screw ins. Given that fittings are picked based on looks instead of practicality, I'm guessing everyone would have this issue. But I guess if you can make at least an entire room (maybe living room or bedroom) to have screws, then you could at least have those rooms addressed.

    Would be interested to see how these compare
    http://www.aliexpress.com/item/1pcs-Big-bayonet-led-lamp-220-240V-Corn-Bulb-B22-Lamp-12W-5730-led-36-smd/32272551405.html

    Funny the comment about bunnings - my local one has all the main brands, I get my OSRAM there (the best from all I have tried, though phillips are fine too)

    I have had LED bulbs throughout my houses for a long time, back when they needed to be directly imported. Some observations:
    1. usually the internal power supply circuitry in the bulb that converts 240vac or 12vdc fails long before the LED elements do. The more efficient bulbs and longer lasting have the best power supplies - makes sense, that happens before the bulb "sees" any power.
    2. if your AC supply is dodgy, bulbs will fail a lot faster. Do NOT use conventional 12v downlight supplies for LED bulbs, whatever the manufacturer of the bulb says. You need LED ones - they generate better regulated and filtered DC.
    3. they are super sensitive to surges - one lightning storm took out half my bulbs
    4. rated watts are a joke - I have whole batch of 6w rated bulbs that actually draw 4.5W - use a watt meter to check. I suspect a lot of your "dim for the watts" comments fall into this camp from experience.
    5. the oldest bulbs I bought years ago are still going strong, while the newer ones are failing faster - in built obsolescence from major brands is sneaking in as it did for mercury fluorescent and filament bulbs I think ...
    6. There are two main types of LED emitters - PCB based and single chip . PCB are several conventional circuit boards (often mounted at different angles) containing many LED "bulbs". The PCB type are harder to cool efficiently, and thus the individual elements are often underdriven and quite spread out. This produces an odd "screen door" effect in the light, with multiple faint shadows, but on balance is probably best for indirect lighting like table lamps. The single chip have a small number of bare LED elements (often one, but sometimes a square array of four, nine etc) on directly bonded onto a ceramic/aluminium carrier. These can be efficiently attached to a heat sink and are available at insane ratings (up to 60w = 5000lm !) but provide a very point like light best used like a "down light" - even bulbs like the OSRAM "looks like a BC filament bulb" I have have a surprisingly directional output - fine for overhead lights but kind of pants for table lamps :-)

    Last edited 12/11/15 1:55 pm

    Just a few tips from a electrician.
    It should be noted that LED replacement bulbs as discussed in this article are a very poor compromise compared to a Integrated led light fitting.
    The electronic drivers and chips in led replacement bulbs are severely limited by the price point of a bulb and the form factor.
    At the moment integrated led downlights are readily available and affordable and other types of lights are entering the market all the time.
    The single chip type of Led has been nothing but a disappointment other than for specialised applications, and the stated lumens output exaggerated by 200-400% in a lot of cases, for instance i have a 3in1 exhaust fan that incorporates 4x 9w GU10 COB single chip downlights that outputs about half the light of a single 11w Integrated Led downlight in the same room.
    Something else to look out for is light fittings that are advertised as Led but are regular light fittings fitted with a Led replacement bulb, often at a higher price than buying the standard light and a led bulb yourself.

    You can get LED bulbs with bayonet fittings

    What about the Brightgreen BR1000? I remember them being the best last time I looked. https://brightgreen.com/led-lights/br1000-retrofit-bulb

    I've just replaced my 26 downlights with Melec D13's after being recommended them by a friend that works at an electrical wholesaler that sells a number of different types.
    http://www.melec.com.au/d13-multi.html
    I'm very happy with them. Can switch between White, Neutral White & Warm White when installing. Just got some for my folks too as dad was very impressed by them. Paid around $30 each

    Last edited 28/12/15 1:39 pm

    MiLight?!
    I've tried the others. I love MiLight AND they're a fraction of the cost.

    You guys need to update the clip-are for the lifx box's.. That was the very first boring box they came with.. the new boxes are actually quite pretty.

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