Just when I mastered CFLs and accepted the phaseout of T12 fluorescents, 100W and 75W bulbs, enter the LED bulb. Anyone who has tried to shop for these bulbs is probably as frustrated as I am when trying to find a 100W “equivalent” bulb. These bulbs don’t yet exist on store shelves and the word “equivalent” is a useless gauge to determine similar light outputs of incandescent, CFL and LED.  I have yet to find any equivalent equivalents.  Yes, you read that correctly.

Simply trying to find a suitable 100W “equivalent” LED table lamp replacement has become an infuriating chore.  Most stores don’t yet carry a wide variety of options to suit what I believe to be standard lighting for everyday use.  It’s a hodge podge of shapes, styles, output, color temperature and energy used that I’m sure will change as the technology matures and more options are brought to market.

First some terminology:

  • A Watt is the amount of power consumed by a bulb per hour
  • Lumens are a raw measure of light output
  • Kelvin is color temperature – 2,700K (indoor soft white) to 5,600K is bright white like a fluorescent.

To replace the 100W table lamp bulb with an LED equivalent, I settled for a funky Philips 17-Watt (75W equivalent) LED Soft White (pictured above).  It does produce a nice light, albeit less Lumens than I desired.

For my kitchen, I searched for an 85W equivalent LED recessed downlight, but the stores don’t yet carry it either. I settled for lower output 65W LED “equivalent” lights (Ecosmart 10.5W / 2,700K / 575 Lumens LED).  The packaging claims it replaces 65W bulbs so I thought the room would be dimmer, but my room is actually brighter than the 85W CFL bulbs they replaced! Arghh! The product is a pretty neat one-piece replacement can with integrated trim that’s easy to install.

Watts used to give us a good idea of how much light a light bulb would produce. But as bulbs now produce more light (or lumens), Watts have stopped being a useful guide to brightness.  As LED bulbs continue to improve in efficiency, you can find two 65W equivalents that can give quite different levels of light output, perhaps as much as a third more or less. It’s not to exaggerate power (consumption), but older and less efficient LEDs could use older and less efficient electronic driver circuits. Big box stores have a chart that does a fairly good job of explaining the differences between Lumens, Kelvin across incandescent, CFL and LED. If only the product were consistent with the claims.

Be careful to check color temperature as that varies from bulb to bulb too.  The four 65W equivalent Ecosmart downlights (575 Lumens) I replaced were listed as soft white (2,700K). Three of the lights were soft white while the fourth was noticeably whiter at about 3,000K.

So how easy is it to replace a 85W flood?  Bring Tylenol or Acetaminophen equivalent.

Summary
- Watts are no longer useful as an indication of the brightness.
- Lumens have taken over to measure the brightness of a light.
- Color temperature (Kelvin) describes incremental color, from Soft White to Bright White.
- LED’s are more energy efficient than CFLs. A 19W CFL (75W) could be similar to a 10.5W LED or half the energy used.

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