Insteon Dimmers and LED Light Bulbs – Test Results

June, 2013 I’ve recently replace several wall switches in my house with Insteon switches.  In the bedrooms, I wanted to be able to dim the lights, so I chose the Insteon SwitchLinc Dimmer from Smarthome.  The compact florescent lamps (CFL) I have are not dimmable, so I went searching for an alternate bulb.  In order to keep power consumption low and enjoy a longer life, I opted for A19 LED light bulbs.  Most LED lights claim to be dimmable and the price is dropping, so I thought I’d try out a few brands and see what worked best with the Insteon dimmer switches.

I tried 5 different brands of A19, dimmable LED bulbs:

 

Description

Picture

1.  Sylvania 12W LED Bulb (72564)

  • Purchased at Mernards
  • $24.97 per bulb.  The most expensive model I tried
  • Says 60W equivalent
  • 820 Lumens
  • Has ceramic arms that cast weird shadows
  • Although this bulb had the highest Wattage and Lumens, it did not appear significantly brighter than the others
Sylvania 100W
2.  Feit 8W LED Bulb

  • Purchased from Costco
  • $9.99 per bulb.  Sold in a 4-pack.
  • Says 40W equivalent
  • 120 Lumens
  • Surprisingly good brightness for only 8W
  • This model was the only A19 LED option offered by my Costco
feit LED bulb
3.  Cree 9.5W LED Bulb, Warm White

  • Purchased from Home Depot
  • $12.97 per bulb.
  • Says 60W equivalent
  • 800 Lumens
  • There was also an 8W model available, but I found the 9.5W bulb to be dim, so would not recommend a lower Wattage.
  • Uniform light
Cree_Bulb
4.  Philips SlimStyle 10.5W LED (433227)

  • Purchased from Amazon.com
  • $9.73 per bulb
  • Says 60W equivalent
  • 800 Lumens
  • Casts an unusual shadow due to the shape of the bulb
philips-slimstyle-led-photo2
5.  TCP 9.8W LED OMNI, Soft White(LA01027D)

  • Purchased from Amazon.com
  • $8.98 per bulb
  • Says 60W equivalent
  • 800 Lumens
  • Uniform light
TCP LED bulb

 

Test Results:

Brand

Brightness

Noise

Flicker

Sylvania 12W A19 LED Bulb

Good

Loud buzz when dimmed

No

Feit 8W A19 LED Bulb

Good

No noise when dimmed

Yes

Cree 9.5W A19 LED Bulb

Dim

No noise when dimmed

No

Philips 10.5W A19 LED Bulb

Good

Moderate buzz when dimmed

No

TCP 9.8W A19 LED Bulb

Good

No noise when dimmed

No

 

Conclusions:

For me, the TCP 9.8W bulbs is the clear winner.  It provides good brightness, no notable noise when on or dimmed, and no notable flickering.  Also, they are the lowest price bulb I’ve tested so far and they are easy to get at Amazon.com.  Buying in bulk may help to drop the cost, but I’ve not researched that yet. I’ve not tested these with anything other than the Insteon dimmer, and suspect that the “noise” the Insteon puts on the power line could have something to do with the buzzing and flickering I experienced.  A traditional dimmer may have different results.

A key lesson I’ve learned from this testing:  If the bulb shape or structure looks unusual, then it will likely cast a non-uniform light pattern which is typically undesirable.

Advertisements

6 Comments

  1. Your table shows the noise and flickr, and speaks about when dimmed.
    What about when not dimmed, ie full brightness.
    Do they flickr ? hum ?

    thanks for info.

  2. Nicolas, I noticed a faint hum in the Sylvania at full brightness. The Feit and Cree are silent. There is no constant flickering for any of the three tested at full brightness. However, i have noticed an occasional momentary flicker (maybe once every 10-15 minutes) with the Sylvania and the Feit. I’m not sure if this is caused by the bulb or the dimmer switch. To date, it’s not been irritating enough for me take action and trouble-shoot. 🙂

  3. I’ve done some similar testing myself with the Cree Bulbs (both 60W replacement and the 65W flood replacement). I’ve tested with both the 2477D and the 2466DW Insteon dimmers. I have found that the dimming is wonderful and I don’t notice any flickering no matter what dimming level they are set to.

    I have noticed a very faint buzzing sound when I use the Cree bulbs with a dimmer. On a standard switch there is absolutely no noise. When on the Insteon dimmers (no matter the dimming level) there is a faint audible noise. The noise is only noticeable when you are close to the bulb (12-18 inches in my case).

    I am a slight bit annoyed by the audible noise, however given all the other wonderful aspects of the Cree bulb (price, 10yr warranty, power efficiency, no visual flickering) this is a small price to pay.

    Thanks for the great writeup!

    1. I have experienced a premature Cree TW bulb failure, with 2 of 3 dying already in my Insteon 2466DW controlled ceiling fixture. I don’t recall an audible buzz.

      I replaced them with GE Reveal bulbs, those continue to work fine after 7 months of daily use, in the same fixture. There is a slight buzz at less than 2 feet. I don’t know all the details or circumstances with certainty, but as Bob states below, I sure wish that Smarthome had some sort of LED bulb compatibility statement. Here’s something I wrote up:
      https://TinkerTry.com/replacing-your-60-watt-bulb-with-the-new-cree-led-is-it-a-bright-idea#Feb-12-2016-Update

  4. Thanks for the info. My query was because its super easy (and relatiely low cost) to find the dimmable wall switches versus the pure on/off wall switches.
    I use CFL’s but don’t need/want to dim them, and ive found with some other control mechanisms some CFL’s will buzz or not turn on properly, even at full brightness.

  5. Like Justin, I have had issues with audible buzzing at any power level, 100% or otherwise. I’ve tried Cree, Sylvania, and Philips bulbs with no success. The buzzing is something I can hear at any location in a quiet 10’x10’ room, so it’s really not something I am willing to live with. I expect the LEDs to be as quiet as the incandescents they are intended to replace.

    People used to complain about dimmers causing incandescent filaments to sing, something that I find doesn’t happen with quality bulbs, but now we move to solid-state lighting electronics and get ubiquitous electronic buzzing. The worst part is I can’t get a straight answer from the folks at Smartlabs, the makers of Insteon. They have an unofficial list of LED bulb brands they have found to work well with their dimmers, including two of the three brands I mentioned, but I can’t duplicate their results and it’s not clear they are testing for audible noise. I’m annoyed because I have a house full of in-wall Insteon dimmers and can’t find suitable high-efficiency bulbs for them.

    Finally, even if I were to replace my current Insteon dimmers with an updated offering from Smartlabs, right now they can’t assure me that their latest Insteon dimmer circuitry is fully LED compatible. Other lighting control manufactures, such a Lutron, have official product guides that list compatibility with LED bulbs. It baffles me how Smartlabs supposedly offers modern lighting control products, yet can’t assure compatibility with the current lighting technology.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s