I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Usable PAR20 LED bulbs

My kitchen is lit by 14 little recessed halogen PAR20 bulbs. They use 50 watts each, so it takes a whopping 700 watts to fully light one of the most commonly used rooms in the house. (I gather that when the previous owners remodeled it in 2005, the use of tons of tiny recessed lights was in style — electricity usage be damned.) And with this many of them, it seems like they’re constantly burning out, losing a $10 bulb every month or two. It’s wasteful and annoying.

I’ve been eyeing LED replacements for a while, but they all looked too primitive until recently: they had giant ugly metal fins, they looked harsh because they lacked good diffusers, and they cast a narrower light beam than the normal halogens.

But LEDs are advancing so quickly that I decided to try two current models that were well-reviewed and install one each, side-by-side with the halogens, for comparison:

Both LED bulbs are about the same size and weight as halogen PAR20s, and both are reasonable-looking.

Both LEDs have a brief but noticeable startup delay of less than a second, like most Philips LED bulbs. I usually find startup delays fatally annoying, but I’ll tolerate it for these since good PAR20 options are limited.

The three bulbs’ advertised color temperatures seem accurate. The Feit is slightly cooler than the halogens, while the Philips is slightly warmer. (It’s a little hard to gauge the colors accurately from the photo since the cabinets are a cream color, warmer than neutral white.)

The Feit is slightly brighter than the halogens. (There’s no way those halogens are putting out their advertised 570 lumens.)

As you can see, the Feit is creating a similarly wide, diffuse beam as the halogens — in fact, it’s doing an even better job of it. The Philips is a bit too narrow on the cabinet doors, although it’s less noticeable at counter level. But you can see that the Philips isn’t very diffuse — look at the difference in the two shadow directions on the cabinet-door handles. Shadows cast by the Feit approximately match the halogen’s shadows, while the Philips shadows are much darker and sharper.

The Philips also has the same odd orange-pink tint as every Philips LED bulb I’ve owned. Some people don’t mind it, but I really don’t like it.

I prefer the Feit overall, and I’m pleasantly surprised that there doesn’t seem to be much of a downside compared to halogens except the slightly cooler color temperature. Finally, PAR20 LEDs are good.

So good that I ordered 13 more, which will pay for themselves in only a year.