tl;dr: Awesome CFL replacement.
I've had CFLs in most of my fixtures for a long time. Multiple generations of CFL design. It's been a mixed bag of joy/tolerance. Some crappy, some noisy, some with stupendously short lifetimes. Even within a production lot, some last forever, some die in a year or two. One consistant thing: lumen degradation over time. This is sort of like the frog in the cold pot set to boil - it's hard to tell that it's getting dimmer until a significant event.
Most of my ceiling fixtures are recessed cans. I expect a lot of the early CFL failures were thermally induced (crappy caps @ elevated temps). I've been watching LED bulbs progress with the hope of replacing some key CFLs. The tough part is finding ones that:
- aren't insanely expensive or low efficiency (ie: wattage savings over CFL never recovers the purchase cost)
- aren't 2700K (might be nice in a den or bedroom...too frigging yellow for office and kitchen)
- will work in an enclosed can fixture
- have a decent warranty / are a brand that I trust to follow their warranty
- decent CRI (that said, nearly any LED beats out the average CFL)
Until recently, it was "chose 3 of the 5 criteria". "Aren't 2700K" and "work in a can" seem to be mutually exclusive
I started looking into it again last month and came across some nice reviews
for the GE Reveal 83574 BR30 bulb. Rated at 650 lumens at 12W, it's not the most efficient of the pack. The color temp is ~2850k, so just a tick cooler than the standard incandescent-hugging 2700K bulbs. However, there are no admonishments against being used in a can, the CRI is 90, and it can be used with a dimmer w/o generating noise. Price is $18 at Home Depot
. Doesn't look like this bulb gets the CA point of sale rebate even though it meets the requirements...
I bought two for my office to try them out. They replaced a couple of ancient 20W ~1100 lumen spiral CFLs. The combination of moving back to a BR30 reflector and the (now) obvious lumen-decay of the CFLs led to a "Gah! It's bright in here" moment. I like the color rendering - way better than the CFLs they replaced. Plus, instant-on rather than the multi-minute warm up time of the CFLs. No noise, either.
I'll take the 2W hit in efficiency for this higher CRI. 10 yr warranty (3 hour/day) as well*.
The payback is still out there. I can get 640 lumen 15W BR30 CFLs for $5. I have the lights on in my office for a good 8 hours a day / 7 days a week. So, the 3W improvement in efficiency is about $1/yr for a 13 year payback. That said, my past experience with BR30 CFLs has been less than stellar. I only have 2 left working out of ~12 I installed 3-4 years ago in the higher use areas with the highest death rate happening in year 2. So, if $5 CFLs last 4 years, then the payback drops to 8 years. Whether or not the LEDs will last this long is a future post.
* of course, I'd have to ship the bulb to Ohio with the proof of purchase