Published on July 29th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


Cree Soft White LED Bulb Review (Exclusive)

July 29th, 2014 by  

We’ve been writing about Cree for a few years now. It is a definite leader in the LED market. Earlier this year, I got the chance to review a few Cree soft white LED bulbs. Because the bulbs don’t work in Europe, where I live, I decided to have my dad review them for me. I figured this was good for a couple of other reasons too: 1) my dad is an artist, and he has a very sensitive and critical eye; 2) he’s not a fan of CFLs (with which I don’t have any problem).

Cree LED soft white bulbs

If you want to have a look at the details of each bulb from the backs of the packages, here you go:

Cree LED soft white 450 lumens / 40W equivalent

Cree LED soft white 450 lumens

Cree LED soft white 800 lumens / 60W equivalent

Cree LED soft white 800 lumens

Cree LED soft white 1100 lumens / 75W equivalent

Cree LED soft white 1100 lumens

The review regarding the light is actually really simple: the bulbs seems to produce more and better light than an incandescent bulb with the same lumens. Compared to 60-watt incandescent, the “40-watt equivalent” with the same lumens gives the same light quality (used over the stove in the kitchen).

So, the short and simple is, you get the same light for much, much less energy and (in the long term) much less money. There’s not much more to it than that.

My dad and I do have one other point, though. Before shipping these bulbs to him, I got the chance to open one and check it out. One great thing about these LED bulbs that I haven’t seen with any others (our home is full of LEDs) is that they have a somewhat sticky exterior. Not so sticky that it’s problematic, but sticky enough that it’s much easier to keep it in your hands without dropping it. I’m not sure if the material serves any other purpose, but my dad and I both really liked that quality from a user perspective.

Overall, I think these Cree bulbs are a great buy.

As I noted in May, you can get a Cree LED for as low as $6.97 at Home Depot. You can also get a Philips SlimStyle LED (which I am able to use here in Europe, and also works well) for as low as $1.97. For a 60W equivalent, it uses a little more energy than the Cree. When it comes down to it, though, I think the matter is mostly which style you prefer.

Let me know if you have any questions. And if you have any technical questions, I’m sure a Cree representative would be happy to chime in.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Radovan Matus

    Is it possible to get those CREE bulbs also in Europe? Or will it work when I order it from USA? Or what is the best alternative price/lumens/long life here in Europe?

    • Bob_Wallace

      US power is 120 vac, European 240 vac. US bubs would fry on European grids.

      You have IKEA around? Check and see what they are selling. They have good prices on LEDs in the US. There are other companies such as Phillips that are selling good LEDs but I don’t know if they produce for Europe.

      Check your larger home improvement stores. The larger stores will likely have sold a lot more units so they will have a better idea about quality.

  • LED lighting not only provides great money saving possibilities, but also warmth and light….

  • Patrick Linsley

    Went to Home Depot a few hours ago and they were selling for around $10 for the 40W and $11 for the 60W (the $6.97 price was for a sale on them in May I’m guessing). Just put one in my lamp. Looks nice.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Prices for the 60 watt at Home Depot bounce up and down with some regularity. I’ve bought them three different times for ~$6 ($5.97?) and in between the price has been back up in the ~$12 range.

      Last time I was in they had the A19 – 75 watt eq. – for just under $12. Right now they are $15.97.

      You can check their web site and see what the in store prices are.

      • Patrick Linsley

        Ah good to know thanks Bob!

  • Ronald Brakels

    And the LED bulbs at my supermarket here in Australia are still about $18 US. It seems that because electricity prices are so much higher here and so Australians are more focused on energy efficiency, companies can charge much more for LED bulbs here than in the US. We also get charged more for electric and hybrid cars since our gasoline costs are higher. So the rule seems to be in Australia when high prices slow the uptake of efficiency it’s yay free markets, but pro free market moves such as pricing in some of the externality of carbon emissions must be destroyed. What a bunch of stupid drongos we must seem.

    Anyway, CREE, Phillips, whoever makes LEDs, and that’s you too no brand Chinese companies, for the sake of the earth and the sake of humanity, please lower the price of your LED lights in Australia. You will beat out your higher priced competitors and help save the planet. And even small decreases in evening electricity use can cause us to reach tipping points where fossil fuel plants are shut down for good. (It’s a two for one as LED lights in Australia reduce air conditioner demand as well because they’re cooler.) If we were to suddenly get down to US prices for LEDs it might mitigate well over 1% of a Tony Abbott.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Do you have import duties?

      Know anyone who wants to start an internet store?

      Looks to me that with a modest investment in stock one could get a web site up and running. Sell these things for around $10 and pump them out.

      • Ronald Brakels

        I forgot you can buy things online. After a quick check I see they can be bought online in Australia from LEDware for under half the price of LED lights in the supermarket, apparently with free shipping. Excellent! I shall have to spread the word. Maybe start giving them away as gifts or maybe putting them in my outside light socket with a sign saying, “Extremely expensive LED light fitting. Do not steal.”

        • Bob_Wallace

          With your electricity prices I would think the web store would have a hard time keeping stock at under $10 per.

          Have you run years , months , days to payback?

          • Ronald Brakels

            I should have mentioned that any import tariffs would be minimal at this point, so they’d just have to ship them in in bulk. Their per unit cost should be pretty low. And since they’d be using LED lighting to illuminate their operation their electricity bill won’t be that high.

            But the energy savings from switching to LED bulbs are generally not as high as in the United States as we got rid of incandescent bulbs years ago. Hence slower uptake. The LED light at the supermarket says it is good for 15,000 hours (not sure why it’s less than US LED lights. Our more powerful current, I presume.) At the median retail electricity prices it might save very roughly $25 in electricity over a CFL in that time. However, it will also save you the cost of replacing the CFL a couple of times. Also, I expect you can count on it to last more than 15,000 hours. Anyway, at the online prices, LED lights are a clear winner, and also have the advantage of not needing time to warm up to their maximum brightness.

            Now we just need to get reasonably priced LED lights into the supermarkets because that’s where grandma shops.

        • dynamo.joe

          I gave LED bulbs out as Christmas presents back when they were $25/each. Our gift giving was limited to $50, So I basically included a card which read “these $50 worth of bulbs will save you $300 in electricity, Merry Christmas”.

          I guess now that they are $7 I should just up the number of bulbs I give out.

  • Matt Binns

    Can anyone confirm whether the CREE bulbs have lead in them? It’s difficult to tell from their website. Personally I like the Lighting Ever bulbs (which are lead free), I’ve had mine (mostly 10 watt ~800 lumen) for 18 months and not had an issue with them.

    • Lawrence

      Try reading the CREE labels above. Your answer is there.

      • Matt Binns

        Thanks! I should have looked at the photos I guess…I’m fairly sure the original bulb design I bought a year ago didn’t have that information. Interestingly Home Depot’s website states that there is hazardous material used in these bulbs – via California’s Proposition 65, but it doesn’t say what.

    • Daniel

      The package says no lead and no mercury.

      • Daniel

        Sorry, this is only for the two biggest lamps, the smaler one has no marker for no-lead so it probably had lead in it. Left bottom corner of the package

  • Kyle Field

    Just wanted to share that it may be worth checking with your utility (their website if they have one) on programs for LEDs or even CFLs. I did and found that here in southern california in the US (with provider Southern California Edison), I was able to get CREE LEDs for $3 ea. Needless to say, I ordered as many as I could (16 bulbs per 6 months) and made significant progress in moving from CFLs to LEDs.

    I’m a fan of LEDs vs CFLs due to the higher life span (22yrs vs 3-5yrs) and the fact that they do not contain mercury – CFLs have mercury vapor in them.

  • vensonata

    We have had led bulbs throughout our 10,000 sq ft main building for about 5 years. They were early philips and are so superior to our previous cfl’s. We are off grid and you can estimate that to produce your own power in Winter in Canada about 60 cents kwh! Now these l.e.d. bulbs were expensive then, but the return at that rate of electricity is staggering. All the lights in the place use about 1 kw day. 200 kwh year. $120. A Cfl would be twice that and so we save $120 year…that pays for a lot of $10 bulbs.

  • Joseph Hall

    Got more than a few in my solar powered house!!!!

    • Bob_Wallace

      I’ve now got them in all the fixtures in my solar powered house. And a bunch of CFLs I picked up for $0.50 each a year or two ago. Guess they need to go to the thrift store for someone else to use.

      I’ve still got three incandescents. Refrigerator, sewing machine, and chain saw sharpener. I wonder how long it will take for small incandescent replacements to come on market?

      • Kyle Field

        I found a bulb for my refrigerator at Frys electronics…you may be able to find them on Amazon. I have a few hold outs in my house as well – our microwave…which I bought a replacement for that didnt fit very well and a custom fixture upstairs which uses a similarly odd sized small bulb.

      • GCO

        Those (refrigerator, etc) are low wattage and probably used only minutes per day, so it’s pointless to buy replacements if the goal is to save money or energy: manufacturing and delivering them just wasted dramatically more than those will ever recoup.

        Where it becomes interesting is as an upgrade. I swapped the sewing machine’s 12V 5W with a home-made 3W LED (a star-mounted 5000K Cree typically meant for a flashlight + small heatsink + a 1*3W driver for MR16s): dramatically brighter, better colors… Absolutely worth it.

        • Bob_Wallace

          It comes down to hours used per year. At this point I don’t see a big reason to seek out those small savings of chain saw sharpener that might get used two hours a year. (Most likely far less.)

          Maybe if the bulb burned out and I needed a replacement. And if that happened I’d probably just use my headlamp (with rechargeable AAAs).

          • Kyle Field

            also, old bulbs generate more heat which you dont want in a fridge…but yeah, minimal

        • Calamity_Jean

          Yeah, an LED bulb in the refrigerator would probably last longer than the refrigerator. Not worth doing.

  • Jim Smith

    we have been using these for several months now. They are extremely bright for their rating…a 40W easily replaces a 60W incandescent or CFL

    • hmm, i probably should have made him do a side-by-side comparison.

      • Jim Smith

        could just be me…but i swear any LED i have bought (Cree and Phillips) the rating they give them seems low for the actual brightness.

        My wife prefers the softer yellow light ones, but i like the whiter ones. I notice the brightness with both though.

        • i like the white ones too. 😀 yellow lights don’t suit me.

          we actually bought some and then decided to switch because the ones we bought were too bright, but i haven’t don’t a side-by-side comparison.

    • nikol kidman

      Two examples. First, globally, he ignores the biggest issue in the conflict — almost all Israelis (desperately) want peace while a majority of Palestinians want to destroy Israel. No one asks the U.S. to negotiate with Al Qaeda. A peace process requires a peace partner. Otherwise you are just funding

    • GCO

      Yet one more reason to stop using watts when we mean amount of visible light.

      Those bulbs are rated 450, 800 and 1100 lumens, respectively, actually perfectly matching the 120V “incandescent equivalent” claimed on the package.
      So-called long-life incandescents have both lower output and lower color temperature though, so that could account for the difference you perceived.
      Another possible factor: the glass of non-halogen incandescents darken with use.
      Lastly, incandescents are less efficient at higher voltages, so those LED bulbs would definitely exceed their “equivalent” in e.g. Europe.

      • Bob_Wallace

        We need a dedicated effort to switch people from “watts” to “lumens”.

        People can estimate the amount of light they’ll get using watts. What Cree and others are doing now is probably best. Let people replace a 60 with a “60”. Put the lumen number where it’s easy to find.

        Next step, start labeling Watts / Lumens.

        Then next, Lumens / Watts

        Something on that order. Fade it in.

  • Jan Veselý

    I just came from Hornabach (for US citizens read: Home Depot) with hands full of $6 warm white LEDs. It should have 2 year payback, cool.

    • Warm seems to be the preferred lighting. I prefer white lights and my wife is indifferent, so we have white ones in the kitchen & living room, but kept warm in the bathroom & bedroom (though, i may find a way two switch those…). We have a ton of options here in Poland, so I imagine they’re all over the EU 😀

      • Jan Veselý

        They are also pretty cheap LEDs in Catorama. I saw them last time I was in Raciborz (live close to the border).

        • Ha, yeah. We got ours at Leroy Merlin, which I think is a French store, but they’re everywhere.

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