Low End Products of Concern

Posted: November 30, 2008 in Reviewed - Poor Performers
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This is where we run into the same trouble that plagues the CFL market in the consumer segment.

There are so many of these on the market today that it’s impossible to review every one of them. These are the ubiquitous 5mm LED retrofit cluster lamps. Since they all have similar performance, this review is a generalized summary, and an expression of concern.

In each case, the claims made by manufacturers of products such as this are founded on the connected wattage of the devices and not on actual lumen-to-lumen, or photometric equivalency. This is a common ploy, and is misleading. Statements of up to 90% greater efficiency than incandescent or halogen lamps are founded only on the comparison of the LED product’s load being 90% less than the incandescent lamp it is advertised to replace. This is not an improvement of 90% in efficiency at all. In fact, most of these products produce efficacy (amount of light per watt consumed) well below fluorescent sources, and barely better than the incandescent lamps they replace (some are actually worse). Typically 5mm LED clusters produce in the range of 15 to 25 Lumens per Watt, which is a marginal improvement over incandescent and roughly equal to halogen lamp replacements to standard incandescent lamps.

In addition to inflated claims of efficiency, these lamps are marketed as producing no heat. This is simply not the case, other than their low power consumption overall being relatively low. The fact is, these products have no thermal control, which subjects the LED die inside to temperatures that limit light output and life.

Further, claims that these products “Never need to be replaced” or will be “The last lamps you will ever buy”, are again misleading. In fact, many of these products are marketed with a life of 30,000 hours as the “rated life” of the LEDs, with no statements of lumen maintenance over that period. These claims and ratings are outside the standard rating of LED service life to 50% or 70% of initial light output. See the article on 5mm LED performance below for more on this subject.

Testing of the lamps pictured above found lumen depreciation very rapid compared to quality SSL products. In each case, light color shifted notably more blue as the lamps aged.

None of these lamps are dimmable, nor can they be operated with typical non-relay photocells. In testing, operation of these lamps at voltages below 105 volts created unpredictable performance and premature failures. Further, most of these lamps cannot be installed in outdoor fixtures, as they can cause fires if exposed to moisture.

Color performance is another area of concern. The lamps claimed to be “Warm White” in color. Not only is the color of light inconsistent between products, the color within the beam distribution varies, with a warm color at the edges, and a noticeably cooler color at the beam center. This inconsistency is unattractive.

These products are all priced between $6 and $16, and are available now from many retail outlets, including big-box chain stores. These products risk creating negative perceptions with consumers who are interested in the technology, yet know little of what is available. As it has been with the CFL market, products like these risk the future of LEDs in the consumer market, and some commercial sectors.

Recommendation rating = 0 of 10 While the promise of energy saving and price may be initially attractive, experience with products such as these, as they loose light and eventually fail prematurely, will do more harm than good for the LED market as a whole.

Actual product Performance against manufacturer claims = 0 of 10. In virtually every claim made for these products, there exists some form of misdirection that will not stand scrutiny using standard test methods now in place for LED products. This applies to all aspects of the products, from rated life to color, and efficiency claims.

There are numerous high performance LED retrofit lamps on the market today, employing modern package LED sources, produced by manufacturers who invest a great deal in development of products that will out perform these low end 5mm cluster type products in every way.

In a free market, there is little to be done about products like this being offered. The only defense against them is “buyer beware,” which is exactly what we offer here. The LED community cannot risk being silent in this, as it risks failure from product perception damaged by experiences that are less than anticipated.


  1. Nice to see someone explaining what is evident.

    There are still many companies selling 5mm bulbs and claiming 50K Hrs.

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