Science

The best LED floodlights you can buy in 2019 – CNET

Plenty of homes keep things lit using overhead BR30 (bulging reflector) floodlights in recessed lighting setups. If you're looking to upgrade bulbs like those, you'll almost certainly want to go with an LED over a fluorescent model or incandescent bulbs. In your local lighting aisle, you'll find plenty of picks that are bright, dimmable, efficient and as affordable as ever — and with most promising to last years or even decades, it'll be a long while before you have to break out the ladder again.

So which of these new options is the right one for you? So glad you asked, because I've got plenty of suggestions for the best LED floodlight.

Note that CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page.

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                                      Tyler Lizenby/CNET                  

After countless hours spent testing floodlights in CNET's lighting lab, the Cree 65W Replacement Floodlight LED emerged as our Editors' Choice for the category. It's brighter than advertised (and super bright compared with most of the competition), it's energy efficient enough to pay for itself in energy saving within a year and it'll work with your dimmer switches without flickering or buzzing. Best of all, Cree's bulb comes with a category-leading 10-year warranty to backup the 22.8-year lifespan.

All that from a $10 two-pack — just $5 per bulb.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The newest floodlight LEDs from Philips match Cree's outstanding 10-year warranty. They're also super bright, a bit more efficient and a bit better at heat dissipation than Cree. They don't flicker or buzz on dimmer switches and they get warmer and more candle-like in tone as you dim them down, which some will appreciate. On top of all that, they're slightly less expensive than Cree at about $4.50 per bulb.

So why don't they get the top spot? It's honestly neck and neck, but to my eye, Cree offers a slight uptick in color quality (my Twitter followers agreed when I put it to a vote). And if you want the full 10-year warranty, you'll have to register your bulbs — otherwise, you only get 5 years of coverage. In addition, the Philips bulb topped out at a too-low average of 92 percent of its actual brightness on the dimmer switches I tested it with. That undercuts the brightness and efficiency selling points to a small extent. But make no mistake, this is still a terrific choice for almost everyone.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

If you need to replace a bunch of floodlights and you want to keep the cost as low as possible, then put the GE Basic floodlight LED at the top of your list. Available in a six- or 12-pack at Lowe's for less than $3 per bulb, it's one of the lighting aisle's best values. And don't let the Basic branding fool you — these bulbs are efficient, fully dimmable and they manage heat surprisingly well.

They aren't quite as bright as Cree and they won't last as long, but those tradeoffs are fair at this price — especially given that each energy-efficient GE Basic LED will pay for itself in energy saving in less than six months if you're upgrading from incandescents.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

It's a relatively expensive option at $11 each, but the Philips SceneSwitch Floodlight LED is actually three bulbs in one: A yellowy, soft white bulb, a stark white, daylight bulb and a dimmed-down nightlight. Want to change between the three? Just switch the bulb off and then back on again within a few seconds. Leave it off longer then that, and it'll turn back on to the setting you left it at when you return.

That's a great pitch for anyone who doesn't have dimmer switches but still wants to be able to dim the lights for movie night or late-night trips to the bathroom. The bulb also aced pretty much every one of our tests, and with a power draw of just 8 watts (or a lot less if you're running it on the nightlight setting), it'll still save you money over the long run despite the higher-than-average entry cost.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Some light bulbs are better than others at making colors look accurate and vivid — but few of today's LEDs do as good a job with color quality as the GE Reveal line of light bulbs, which make color quality the main point of focus.

I've tested several GE Reveal bulbs over the years, and they always deliver on their promise of better-looking colors. The latest BR30-shaped floodlight versions, now available in a two-pack at stores such as Lowe's and Target, are no exception. Unlike previous-gen GE Reveal bulbs, which filtered out excess yellow light, these new versions achieve better-looking colors by boosting the product's ability to render reds, a longtime LED sticking point. It works — and it also means that the bulbs are both super bright and more efficient than before.

OK, start at the beginning: What's a BR30?

A BR30 bulb is a specific type of floodlight, and one of the most common. The "BR" bit stands for bulging reflector, which means the light source inside of the bulb sits over a metallic, reflective bowl that bounces all the downcast light back up and straight out the top. Like the name also suggests, that top of the bulb typically bulges outward, which helps put out a fairly wide pool of light. It's the same trick your car's headlights use to light up the road in front of you as you drive at night.

The "30" part refers to the diameter of the bulb in eighths of an inch. At 30 eighths of an inch, a typical BR30 bulb will be just shy of 4 inches wide.

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Typically used in overhead, recessed lighting setups, BR30 floodlights are designed to cast a wide pool of light in a single direction.

Chris Monroe/CNET

How much should I spend on one?

LED prices have fallen steadily over the past five years or so, with most dimmable LED floodlights settling in the $5 to $8 price range and some available for even less. That's great, since swapping in an LED for a 65-watt incandescent floodlight will knock an average of about $7 per year off your power bill. That means it won't take long at all for any of these LEDs to pay for themselves in energy savings.

Given how many options you have for $7 or less, I don't think you should spend any more than that per bulb without good reason. And keep an eye out for multipacks: Manufacturers use them to help bring down the cost per bulb, so they can make for an especially good deal if you need a bunch of bulbs anyway.

New Dimmable 65W Replacement Floodlight LEDs in 2019

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AmazonBasics BR30 Floodlight LED Cree BR30 Floodlight LED GE Basic BR30 Floodlight LED GE Reveal BR30 Floodlight LED Philips BR30 Floodlight LED
Brightness (lumen output) 792 732 659 799 749
Power draw (watts) 9.5 8.5 8.5 9 9
Efficiency (lumens/watt) 83.4 86.1 77.5 88.8 83.2
Yearly energy cost ($0.11 per kWh, 3 hrs of use per day) $1.14 $1.02 $1.02 $1.08 $1.08
Color temperature (degrees Kelvin) 2,972 K 2,646 K 2,659 K 2,838 K 2,716 K
Average dimmable range 12.0 to 92.8% 9.5 to 96.6% 1.7 to 99.8% 11.0 to 94.0% 4.7 to 92.4%
Flicker and buzz-free dimming? No (persistent buzz) Yes Yes No (faint buzz, flicker on older rotary dials) Yes
Brightness lost to heat 14.6% 6.3% 7.1% 8.3% 4.6%
Lifespan 13.7 years 22.8 years 6.8 years 13.7 years 22.8 years
Warranty 3 years 10 years 2 years 5 years 10 years
Retail price $11.99 (two-pack) $9.97 (two-pack) $16.98 (six-pack) $16.99 (two-pack) $13.45 (three-pack)

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