Recently, I decided to finally bite the bullet and swap out the old incandescent lightbulbs in my home. Before you stop reading in disgust or leave nasty comments about the fact that I still have incandescents in 2014, let me take a step back and say that I swapped out the vast majority of my bulbs for CFLs a long while ago. I like the soft-white ones from Phillips; they draw about 22 watts for a 100 watt equivalent brightness, they produce a nice quality of light, and they’re cheap.
CFLs have their downsides, though. They’re (usually) not dimmable. Even with good ones, the light has that vague office building-esque character to it. They’re big, and can be hard to squeeze into compact fixtures. And if you break one by trying to force it into one of those fixtures (as I did recently), you have to go into full hazmat mode and evacuate the house to avoid mercury poisoning.
Still, I had already gone CFL for the majority of my lights. The ones which remained incandescent were the problem children: a three-bulb dimmable hanging light in my dining room and track lighting in my kitchen. When I set up Bidgely to monitor my home energy use, it quickly became clear that these bulbs were costing me. Leaving them all burning (as I tend to do) was consuming 700 watts, or about 25 cents per hour at California energy rates. Do that for 4 hours a day and you’re paying $30 per month to light two rooms.
Given the potential savings, I decided to make a switch. I would go LED.
LED lights have come a long, long way in the last several years. They combine many of the advantages of incandescents (good light quality, instant warmup, easy dimming) with the advantages of CFLS (low energy use, long life). The biggest issues with LEDs are normally price and brightness. I have a couple Hue bulbs from Phillips (more on these later) which are awesome for home automation, since you can control them from a smart phone, and they generate fantastic light. But they cost $60 per bulb, and even the basic Phillips LED bulbs hover around $15 for a decent brightness.
Enter G7 Power. I discovered G7 while doing a random Amazon search. They’re based in Reno, Nevada and were founded by an electrical engineer. They make all manner of LED bulbs, get stellar ratings on Amazon, and are even veteran-owned. And the best part? Their bulbs are cheap. You can get a 60w equivalent bulb for around $10, and they make a high color rendering index bulb (read: one which makes excellent quality light) for about $14. They even make weird bulbs, like the little GU10 bulbs for my track lights.
Naturally, I was skeptical. Were these bulbs really going to make light of comparable quality to the more expensive Phillips ones? Would LED tracklighting even look right? I decided to order a couple bulbs to see.
Turns out, the G7 bulbs are great. The light quality is excellent. I opted for the high CRI bulbs, which have a color temperature of 3000K, and they add in just the right mix of sunlight-esque coolness without making the dining room look like a 1980s office park.
For those who like the color yellow, G7 power makes 2700k bulbs too, which will look much more like your traditional incandescent. The bulbs dim pretty nicely, too. My only complaint is very occasional flickering, probably when there’s a power surge through my dimmer.
The best part, though, is the energy savings. Running all my track lighting and the hanging fixture, I’m drawing about 50 watts; a more than 10-fold decrease from my old bulbs. With just the track lighting running, I draw so little that Bidgely has trouble keeping track. My first electrical bill after making the switch was almost $30 lower.
So if you’re thinking of swapping out your incandescents for the best-in-class LEDs, use Phillips Hue. But if you don’t have $4k to drop on lightbulbs, take a look at G7 Power.