Best value pick: Utilitech 100W Replacement LED
Dimmable 100-watt replacement bulbs from big names such as Philips, GE and Cree will currently cost you about $13 apiece, but in a lot of cases you can save some money by going with a smaller brand. Head to Lowe’s, and you’ll see bulbs like that from Utilitech — including a 100-watt replacement LED that currently sells in a two-pack for less than $10.
That makes it the least expensive 100-watt replacement bulb I’ve ever tested, and while it isn’t without a few minor shortcomings, it’s easily good enough to offer outstanding value. For starters, it was the most efficient bulb I tested, putting out 1,574 lumens of yellowy brightness from a power draw of just 14.5 watts, good for 108.6 lumens per watt. Use it for 3 hours a day, every day, and it’ll add just $1.74 to your yearly energy bill. Add in the price of the bulb itself, and it’s still about half of what you would spend to run a 100-watt incandescent over the same period of time. It pays for itself within months.
It’s also pretty decent on dimmer switches. I was able to dim it down to an average minimum of 1.1 percent brightness across all of my test switches, which is better than any other bulb I tested, and I never once caught it flickering. I did hear a faint hum when I dimmed it down to a medium setting on modern, slider-style switches, but it wasn’t loud enough to be disqualifying. And it was silent on an old-school rotary dial that wasn’t even designed for LEDs.
Also worth a look: EcoSmart 100W Replacement LED
Utilitech gets the top spot as far as value is concerned, but EcoSmart came in a close second. Its current-gen 100-watt replacements sell in a two-pack at Home Depot for just over $10. Like the Utilitech LED, they offer impressive efficiency, with well over 100 lumens per watt. They’re a touch brighter, too, putting out 1,597 lumens.
The EcoSmart bulb’s dimming performance was more or less on par with Utilitech. It didn’t flicker, but it hummed faintly at some settings on some switches. I wasn’t able to dial it down quite as low as the Utilitech LED, but it still hit a satisfying average minimum of 6 percent. It’s not the best dimmable bulb I’ve tested, but it’s good enough for most purposes, and better than you’d expect for $5 per bulb. For something that dims a little better… well, just scroll down a little bit.
Best dimmable option: Cree 100W Replacement LED
At $13, it’s one of the more expensive options in this roundup, but the Cree 100W Replacement LED was the top finisher in my dimming tests. In fact, it’s the only bulb I tried out that was able to dim up and down smoothly without any flicker or buzz on each switch in our test rig.
That’s not to say that it’s perfect. Though the dimming was smooth, silent and flicker-free, the Cree LED was only able to dim down to an average minimum of about 14 percent across all of my switches, which is fairly high. The bulb’s claims of improved color quality also seem to be a little overstated — the quality of light looks fine to me, but it doesn’t look dramatically better than the other bulbs I tested.
Still, it’s an all-around good light bulb without any significant weak spots, and I love that Cree offers a best-in-category 10-year warranty. If you need a reliable bulb that dims really well, it’s worth the extra cash.
Also worth a look: Philips 100W Replacement Warm Glow LED
The runner-up in my dimming tests was the Philips 100W Replacement Warm Glow LED. Philips LEDs have a pretty strong track record in my dimming tests, but the Warm Glow lineup, with bulbs that get “orange-ier” as you dim them down, have been a little hit and miss. This one was a winner though — it dimmed down to a satisfying average minimum setting of 7 percent, and it didn’t flicker on any of my switches, though I did hear a faint buzz on our old-school rotary dial.
There are a few downsides, though. For one, the Philips bulb is just as expensive as Cree at $13, and the warranty is only half as good at five years. It’s also the least efficient dimmable LED I tested for this roundup, putting out its 1,605 lumens from a slightly above-average power draw of 18 watts. Those are nitpicks, mind you, but they’re enough for me to give the edge to Cree. I might be swayed if the Philips bulb was on sale, though.
Best color quality: GE Reveal 100W Replacement Bright Stik LED
I saw lots of bulbs in this category that claimed to offer superior color quality — the GE Reveal LEDs were the ones that delivered. GE offers lots of different versions, including new 100-watt replacement Reveal bulbs from its “HD Light” lineup that sell for $15 apiece. I much prefer the 100-watt replacement GE Reveal Bright Stik LEDs — they’re just as good at making the colors in your home pop, but you get two bulbs for the same $15, making them a much better deal.
Two big caveats with the Bright Stik LED, though. First, like most of GE’s Reveal bulbs, the special filter used to reduce the impact of the yellow part of the spectrum and boost color quality also means that the bulb isn’t quite as bright as you’d expect. With just 1,168 lumens to its name, it’s really more of a 75-watt replacement than a true 100-watt replacement, and it’s also much less efficient, putting out a category-worst 73 lumens per watt.
The other concern? The Bright Stik isn’t dimmable. I think that’s less of an issue than you might expect. The places where this kind of bulb really shines — the kitchen, the bathroom, the walk-in closet — often aren’t places where you’d traditionally need the lights to dim. Still, it’s something to be aware of before you make a purchase.
Also worth a look: Target Up & Up 100W Replacement LED
The only other bulb in this roundup that impressed me with visibly above-average color rendering capabilities was the store-brand 100 replacement from Target, which sells in a three-pack for $20. Like the Bright Stik, the bulbs don’t dim, but they do a surprisingly nice job of making colors look vivid and true. With a light output 1,603 lumens (well above the 1,500 stated on the box), they’re noticeably brighter than the Bright Stiks.