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After only 10 days, Home Depot’s online supplies were sold out twice, local stores have had to reorder and the retailer asked Cree to increase its production, said Mark Voykovic, Home Depot’s national light bulb merchant.
Watson attributes the initial success of the Cree bulb to positive reviews at Homedepot.com (all of the 23 reviewers recommended the product), its made in USA label and the incandescent-like shape.
But the best selling point? The low price. “We’re confident that if a consumer buys one, they’ll buy more,” he said.
There are some differences from traditional bulbs. People used to choosing by wattage alone now have to look at lumens for brightness and kelvins for color. Consumers have to read labels now, said Kim Sherman, senior product portfolio manager at Xcel Energy.
The lack of consistency in size or shape makes it difficult for consumers to easily pick out the bulb they want. Besides 400 or 800 lumens and 2,700 or 4,000 kelvins, they have to read the label for a bulb’s ability to be dimmed or used in an enclosed fixture.
Voykovic said Minnesotans generally like warm, soft light, which is measured in kelvins and listed on the label. A light with 2,700 to 3,000 kelvins is considered warm. Cool, blue-white light will have a light appearance near 5,000 kelvins.
Consumers who want to replicate the features from an incandescent or halogen with an LED bulb often need some assistance, said Connors. Dimmability is a big issue.
Most high-quality LEDs will dim without any problems, but some bulbs work best with certain brands of dimmers. “The consumer’s best bet is to keep the packaging and the receipt, test it, and return it if it doesn’t meet expectations,” Connors said.
Even an LED’s size and shape can cause problems. Many of the original recessed LED spotlights and floodlights didn’t fit existing openings. Cree changed the shape of its new A19 bulb to the classic incandescent, minus the ventilation fins that many LEDs still have.
“We wanted the new bulb to look like the incandescent that consumers are replacing,” said Watson.
Some are avoiding LEDs because of bad experiences with compact fluorescents. Manufacturers got it right this time, said Connors. LED bulbs are rugged compared to incandescents and CFLs.
They are expected to last 10 to 25 years, but Sherman recommends keeping receipts and packaging until that’s born out. Unlike incandescents or CFLs, LED bulbs do not burn out — they get dimmer. At the end of their life span, LEDs do not have to be recycled.
Connors recommends buying from reputable companies such as Cree, Philips and TCP, which all meet Energy Star qualifications. “It’s still a new enough product that the poor-quality manufacturers haven’t been shaken out yet,” he said. “Consumers need to do some homework.”
John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633