I’ve been using CFL bulbs in most of my light fixtures for a number of years. They’re a pretty solid, mature technology by now and have a ton of benefits over classic incandescent and even “eco-friendly” halogen bulbs. Where a 60W incandescent bulb might put out 800 lumens, and a halogen might use around 45W for the same amount of light output, CFLs offer the same light output from only around 15W of power. Lower waste heat has been a big goal in my lighting choices, since I live in an apartment which has very high heat retention, and lower-heat bulbs made a real difference.
One of my CFLs started making a buzzing noise after a few months, though, and when I pulled it for inspection I found a major hazard. The top had come separated from the base, leaving the guts fully exposed which had started to vibrate!
That was a pretty dangerous failure. I pulled that one from service and replaced it (look for an article a bit later where I trace out the circuitry). I’ve been reading a bit about the new “LED filament” bulbs which combine the even greater efficiency of LED lighting with the classic filament look of the old-school incandescent bulbs, and so I ordered a few to try out.
They’re pretty cool looking. It’s not quite the same as an incandescent (you can barely see the wires in those style of bulbs, these have visible tubes) but it’s pretty close. These are made possible by a new “silicon on glass” manufacturing method. The silicon LEDs are “printed” onto a glass substrate, which is then dipped in an epoxy resin coating to diffuse the light and provide the correct color balance. It’s a great way to get LED efficiency, when you need a light bulb that’s a bit more aesthetically pleasing than the chip-tower design:
LED filament bulbs are incredibly efficient, too, only a tiny bit less so than a “standard” chip LED unit.
They’re made by a wide number of manufacturers by now, in the USA, Japan and China. I ordered a set of Chinese bulbs from eBay for myself, but they’re on Amazon as well. The Chinese ones are a bit cheaper, although Internet sources report the Chinese bulbs use a type of epoxy which becomes brittle after several hundred hours of operation – so if you find yourself moving your light bulbs between fixtures, or you’re using them in a mobile application, you might invest in a US or Japanese variant. The bulb I showed above, consumes only 8W of electricity and puts out 850-900 lumens, making it even more powerful while still being more efficient. eBay seller “torylee2013” has a good reputation and sells many styles of LED filament bulbs direct from the factory. They arrived in about a week and a half, with free shipping, too.
CrystalLED has a great “how it’s made” video, well worth a five-minute watch:
All in all, I’ve been very satisfied. They’re only slightly warm to the touch even after hours of operation, and look great. The one downside, though, is they do strobe a bit. It’s not even slightly noticeable in general, but it does give the blades of spinning fans a bit of a slow-motion effect if I’m looking for it. Nothing that I consider a problem!
I’ll be moving forward to replace all of my CFL bulbs with LED filament bulbs over the next few months I’m so satisfied.
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I did enjoy your article. I have a mixture of conventional lamps as well as compact florescent and LED Lamps. I also have Florescent work lights in my work shop with electronic ballast. My only complaint is they cause a lot of RF interference with my Antique Radios. I had to put up a long Wire antenna on the top of my roof and run Quad Shield coax cable to each of my Antique Radios to filter out the interference.
Shop lights will be the next to get replaced, for exactly that reason!