The history of LED lighting is pretty much the opposite of incandescent lighting. The light bulb was invented, and it had good output but required a lot of power. The LED was invented, and it had virtually no output but required very little power. Because of this, LED technology started with digital displays, before evolving into flashlights, and now, finally into home lighting.
These bulbs were sent in for review by SANSI. The first bulb they sent me about a year ago I used to replace a Philips bulb that crapped out, and it’s been used every day since. This review is for their newest model 13 watt LED light bulb.
Price: About $11 each in a two pack
These are multi-emitter LED bulbs which take 13 watts and put out the equivalent of 100 watt incandescent bulbs that I grew up using. Since the day I picked up my first LED flashlight, I’ve been waiting for the day where my home is filled with super efficient light bulbs that last 20 years. But my generation was also promised flying cars and hoverboards, so I’ve always had managed expectations.
Official Specs (From Amazon)
Overall, good. I’ve been using a couple of SANSI’s bulbs for a while now, and I like them, based on using them every day to replace other LED and CFL bulbs that failed. CFL was a good technology, but I’ve been waiting for LED home lighting to get to the point where LED flashlights have been for years. I think we’re almost at that point!
I didn’t weigh it, but these bulbs feel like about 3-4 times the weight of a single LED consumer bulb. I use one of them in a clip-on lamp, and I have to position the lamp in such a way that the weight of the bulb doesn’t make it fall off where it’s clipped to.
As an engineer, I’ve always been a minimalist. I shied away from multi-LED bulb designs for a while because at least on paper, more components equals more points of failure. But LED emitters put off a lot of heat. The first single LED bulbs melted the electronics, and melted the glue that holds the diffuser on. They’ve gotten better since then, but that’s still an awful lot of heat to concentrate in a tiny ares.
So, I like the design, and had a good impression un-boxing them and putting them through some tests. The extra weight and multiple design goes against my engineering instincts, but it’s well worth the benefits. These bulbs look industrial strength.
I remember when the biggest pack of incandescent light bulbs at Home Depot costed less than a two pack of these LED bulbs. CFL bulbs are dirt cheap and still a good value. The cheap Philips LED bulbs about half the cost of this product.
So, what I’m getting at is that an 11 dollar light bulb better be worth the price premium over other products. It better be well built. It better be reliable.
The product looks to have a build quality worthy of its price point. It’s ironic that I think these bulbs are way better made than their cheaper, USA-made counterparts.
Good design, good implementation–there’s not really much to pick on here. With a consumer LED light bulb I look at how much heat it produces and how well it sheds that heat, and these bulbs do well in both categories: lower-than-average heat output with better-than-average heat dissipation.
The LEDs are Chinese made. It’d be great to see them use Cree LEDs, though, even if that would increase the cost.
These bulbs are HEAVY. One of my clip-on lamps sags from the weight, and I have to keep the other lamp positioned in such a way that it doesn’t fall on the floor and scare the dogs.
So, I think the ideal use for these bulbs would be in table lamps, rugged light fixtures or possibly commercial/industrial use.
For my own use, the weight is well worth it for the extra reliability. I’ve had lousy luck with light bulbs pretty much my whole life. Once I had a CFL burst into flames in my office during a conference call. “Excuse me for a second–something is on fire” is not how I like to start off a business call. I won’t devolve this review into a rant about always having a fire extinguisher, but let’s just say that design and build quality don’t mean anything if it fails or catches fire, and the only way to know for 100% sure how something will perform is to plug it in and see how it performs over time.
OK, so I’m over my misgivings about having a bajillion LEDs individually glued to a heavy slab of ceramic material. Over time my SANSI products have performed well day-to-day. High output, low heat, and good reliability, at a cost of extra complexity and weight. I think it’s a fair trade-off.
It puts out light, it doesn’t run too hot, and it hasn’t burned out or caught fire. And these are the newest generation of the product, so I think the usability is excellent if you can look past the weight.
The first couple products they sent me are still in use. Usually the more I like a product, the more I scrutinize it. I don’t have a lot of time, and the blog is a hobby, so as my interest level increases, so does my desire to test something I like.
All the technical specs don’t mean much if a product isn’t reliable, and I think I’ve already established that to myself. That’s the first real test, and so far, so good.
The two most important data points to me for a household light bulb are heat output and efficiency. They are also really easy to test. I don’t use an integrated light sphere to measure light output like some of the hard core tech reviewers–I look at products more from a usability standpoint. Having said that, I’ve used probably thousands of 100 watt incandescent bulbs in my life, and these bulbs seem to put out the same amount of light. Just from my eyeballs, the output seems to spec.
Heat output: Overall, good. After 15 minutes in a well ventilated space, I measured 115 F with my handy dandy laser thermometer. After 2 hours in a confined space (clipped near the ceiling) it measures about 136 F. Hello, physics. These readings are definitely acceptable, even if you probably need to wait a couple minutes before touching the bulb with your fingers.I did notice that the top area of the bulb was cool to the touch, even if the ceramic base was hot to the touch.
Efficiency: It’s hard to hide from another gadget: the “killowatt” tool, which sits between a device and an electrical outlet, measuring how much current your device draws. A few times living in a cabin in the woods, I had to run a couple lamps and my laptop from an extension cord hooked to an inverter, plugged into my truck. My truck has a pretty good battery, but sometimes every single watt counts, and 13 watts is pretty good for what 100 watts used to be. This device has been invaluable for counting watts.
During my test, the bulb fluctuated between 13.6 and 14.2 watts on my tester–close enough for me.
It feels weird recommending a consumer LED bulb with a bank of LEDs as opposed to a much simpler, single-LED design, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’ve thought about the design a good deal–even discussed it with my nerdy, science friends, and I think that the 5 dollar, single-LED bulbs aren’t quite there yet. In the meantime, I think companies like SANSI are picking up the slack, and doing a pretty good job at building something practical and reliable.
I’ve only known SANSI, for about a year, but so far I’m impressed. They are making rugged, durable products while it seems like every other company is cutting corners by building LED light bulbs with a theoretical life span of 20 years into a cheap, disposable product. Hopefully LED technology and manufacturing technology is to the point where people can buy an efficient light bulb that lasts 10 or 20 years. A year of solid use is unheard of for an incandescent bulb, and terrific for a CFL type bulb. I usually get 6 months to a year from a CFL, and I’ve had LED bulbs fail within 6 months. So a year of solid use from a company I had never heard of is fantastic, and hopefully just a good start.
The only thing the jury is still out on in my mind is the Chinese made emitters. Cree has been around a long time, and it’s hard to imagine an LED not made by them standing the test of time. I really would like to see a high end bulb with high end emitters in it, at a non-ridiculous price. But the low end emitters have made pretty good strides in quality recently, so I’m keeping an open mind. I’ve never had any bulb of any kind make it past 2 years, so I’m interested to see if they keep on chugging. Someone gave me a few cheap Costco bulbs which I keep as a last ditch backup.
From the little bit of my own research I’ve done on SANSI, it looks like they started with industrial LED lighting and are now branching out into consumer products. Their products certainly have an industrial feel to them.