Ask people what they want from their light bulbs, and you’re likely to hear a rather obvious answer: brightness. 60W bulbs (and 60W replacements) are fine for most purposes, but if you’re looking for something extra bright, you’ll probably want to push it to 100W. With LEDs in particular, that typically means paying a premium.

Fortunately, that premium has been shrinking steadily over the past year or so, with prices falling from $40 or $50 per bulb down to less than $20 in some cases. Utilitech’s 100W equivalent LED is one such bulb, costing just $17 at your neighborhood Lowe’s. With over 1600 lumens from roughly one-fifth the power draw of its incandescent predecessors, Utilitech’s affordable LED offers both brightness and efficiency — but it isn’t as well-rounded as some of its competitors. For basic needs, it’ll do a fine job, but competitors that cost a few dollars more might actually be the better deal.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Utilitech’s 100W Equivalent LED isn’t inconspicuous to look at. At just under 8 ounces, it’s far heavier than its incandescent counterparts and even some other comparable LEDs. Its white, plastic body is lined with long, narrow fins, creating channels that help disperse heat.

Utilitech promises a light output of 1600 lumens, which is right where it should be as a replacement for a 100W incandescent. Unlike that incandescent, though, Utilitech gets you there with a stated power draw of just 16 watts. That gives it a very impressive efficiency rating of 100 lumens per watt, tying it with GE’s latest 100W replacement LED, which also puts out 1600 lumens from 16W.

That level of efficiency adds up to noticeable energy savings. Assuming you’re paying 11 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), a 100W incandescent’s power draw would cost you about $12 per year to run for 3 hours per day. Switch to the Utilitech LED, and that number falls below $2. In less than two years, you’d have covered the cost of the bulb and would continue saving money for the rest of its lifespan.

That lifespan is clocked at 18,000 hours, or about 16.4 years at those same 3 hours per day. That’s certainly a great deal more than you can expect from an incandescent, a halogen, or a compact fluorescent (CFL), but it falls a bit short of other LEDs, the majority of which have settled on 25,000 hours as the average lifespan.

Cree 100W Replacement LED GE Energy Smart 100W Replacement LED Philips 100W Equivalent LED Sylvania 100W Replacement Ultra LED Utilitech 100W Equivalent Warm White LED
Lumens 1600 1600 1680 1600 1600
Watts 18 16 19 19 16
Efficiency (lumens per watt) 89 100 88 84 100
Estimated yearly energy cost $2.17 $1.93 $2.29 $2.29 $1.93
Color temperature (stated / measured) 2,700 K / 2,663 K 2,700 K / 2,602 K 2,700 K / 2,628 K 2,700 K / 2,664 K 3,000 K / 2,999 K
Lifespan 25,000 hours 25,000 hours 25,000 hours 25,000 hours 18,000 hours
Color rendering index 80 81 80 83 85
Weight 5.80 oz. 5.65 oz. 8.50 oz. 11.45 oz. 7.80 oz.
Warranty 10-year 10-year 5-year 5-year 2-year
Price $20 $21 $22 $22 $17

The Utilitech LED puts out its light at a stated color temperature of 3,000 K — a slightly hotter, slightly less yellow shade than you’ll find with most LEDs, which aim for 2,700 K. When we turned the bulb on in front of our spectrometer, we measured its color temperature at 2,999 K, which is as spot-on a result as any bulb we’ve ever tested.

Our spectrometer can also shed some light on a bulb’s color-rendering capabilities, measured on a 1 to 100 scale. Bulbs with higher scores will do a better job at making colors look accurate and vivid. Most household LEDs score right around 80, which is decent enough, yet unspectacular.

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