Consumers who are less enamored of LED lightbulb technology than I am have complained to me over the years about their undesirable appearance, color and light dispersion (all true in early versions), but I am surprised when readers say LEDs fail prematurely. Most are guaranteed for five to 10 years and 50,000 hours or more.

Until last week, no LED bulb had failed on me. I assumed the unhappy consumers were buying inexpensive off-brands. I have had good luck with Philips and Cree brands, which are leading LED manufacturers.

But a Cree 3-way bulb that burned out last week was less than a year old. I didn't have the receipt to prove it, but Cree introduced the 3-way (30-60-100 watt) bulbs ($22 each) only a year ago. I took it to Home Depot without the original packaging or receipt, expecting to be turned away when I asked for a replacement.

Instead, I was given a new bulb without any problem. I also checked Cree's website about warranties. It said that a consumer can get a replacement if the bulb fails within 10 years if the consumer has the receipt and proof of purchase. I called Cree and asked if I could get a replacement without the receipt etc. The rep assured me that replacement without a receipt was no problem if Home Depot had turned me away. (He thought Home Depot only allowed returns within 90 days.)

I am not the only one having issues with Cree's 3-way bulb. A number of reviewers on Home Depot's site have also complained. Mike Watson, vice-president of product strategy at Cree in North Carolina, said that within a month of releasing the 3-way bulb last year, the company discovered a voltage spike when the user went rapidly through the 3 settings.  "After we noticed a higher than normal return rate, we instituted a fix," he said. Since then the return rate is much lower, according to Watson.

If an LED bulb fails on you, don't assume you're out of luck without a receipt or proof or purchase. If the retailer won't take it back, check the company's website or 800 number.

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