Energy Geek Video – New CREE CR6 LED Downlight Replacement

The CREE CR6 is the latest in a line of energy efficient LED lights made by CREE. This light addresses some of the issues of the earlier lights, allowing dimming down to 5% and having a compact, light-weight package at about half the cost of earlier models.

It draws only 10.5 Watts yet produces as much light as a 65W incandescent bulb, so it’s definitely an energy saver. That’s a 55 lumen/Watt rating, putting it in the same ballpark as a normal CFL spiral bulb. But the fair comparison is with dimmable fluorescent downlights. Those range from 40 to 50 lm/W, so on average, you get 10%-25% more light from the CREE than you would the equivalent fluorescent.

The CREE CR6 costs me $50 at the Home Depot website, though I’ve heard that certain states have this light in stores for under $30 due to rebates (Available in NJ for $24.97 as of 11/27/2011). At that price, it’s an excellent deal. For comparison, a good dimmable fluorescent costs from $12-$18.

Lifetime is rated at 35,000 50,000 hours vs. 6,000-8,000 for high quality fluorescent equivalents, so to be conservative, the LED light will last about 6x 7x as long. That makes the lifetime fluorescent equivalent cost about $105 vs. $50 for the LED.

What about dimmability and light quality? I’m very impressed. As with the Pharox (reivewed elsewhere) the CR6 can dim down to 5%. This is magical for those of us used to older fluorescents and LEDs that could only dim down to about 20% brightness. This means they’re finally useful as replacements for conventional bulbs. Finally!

And the light quality? Excellent! I was really impressed. When on full brightness, you’d never know that this wasn’t a conventional incandescent bulb. As you dim it, it stays the same color-temperature, so it’s not like the orange glow of a dimmed incandescent. But if you want candlelight, light a candle!

Overall, with the Pharox light bulb and the CR6 downlight, I think we have finally hit the sweet point for energy efficient bulbs. These set the standard, putting us at a point where I wouldn’t hesitate to replace any light in the house with LEDs. My only regret is that there’s no good candelabra replacement that I know of.

If you find good sources for these bulbs, please post them in the comments to share with others.

Here’s the official CREE installation video:


Consumer Reports – First look at the CREE CR6 LED Downlight

CREE CR6 – Official CREE page on the light

CREE Video – Official CREE video on installing the light (same as embedded above)

Energy Federation – Page on dimmable compact fluorescent lights

Home Depot – EcoSmart Edison bulb replacement downlight

Pharox dimmable bulb – A standard dimmable LED bulb replacement


22 thoughts on “Energy Geek Video – New CREE CR6 LED Downlight Replacement

  1. Hey Ted, thanks for all the great information. I have been trying to find out what is causing the fabrics (carpeting, couch), my hair and clothing in my closets and dressers to be wet. My search led me to find out that air is flowing out of my cold air vents when the furnace or A/C is not running. I have a high efficiency furnace and have turned the fan to the auto position instead of the on position. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I am in the process of having to re-cement a large portion of the garage and basement to replace my sewer system. The system has been replaced but waiting on concrete to be poured so there is air coming in through the garage and into the basement and house. Is it normal to have air flowing out of the cold air vents in your experience? If not, what could be the cause. I have taped and caulked all of the exposed cold air and hot air duct work that is in the basement and garage. The house was built in the late 50’s.
    Thanks for your help.

    • Thanks Pam. Sorry to hear about your troubles. It’s definitely not normal for everything to be wet. A good tight house and air conditioning system should take care of that. And having air coming out of the vents when nothing is running is not right. My guess is that there is some part of the duct system that is open. Little leaks wouldn’t result in such a big draft. The most common thing that I have seen is when they use wall cavities to bring the air back to the system. They don’t even seal them or anything. They just assume that air getting sucked through there is fine. However, a lot of times those same cavities have a connection to the exterior walls which allows cold and moist air to get sucked right into the system. Unfortunately, it’s often very difficult to find where these are without special equipment. And energy auditor with an infrared camera would probably be able to find out exactly what is going on and guide you on how to fix it.

      • Hey Ted, thanks so much for your expertise as I searched for the open in my duct system and found one duct completely disconnected and openings in the transition piece from the furnace to the duct work. I appreciate your advise on the energy auditor, but as information I did have 3 energy auditors in my home along with 4 HVAC companies and none found this issue. In their defense I did have a drop ceiling in the area of the furnace but no one found this problem with equipment or from my description. I had to take down the drop ceiling and carefully looking as I missed the open duct work the first time and only found on my second pass looking between the floor joists and above the duct work.
        I cannot thank you enough. I do have a second question. A HVAC guy I contacted to come and fix the issue has suggested to cut through the bottom and top of the cold air duct work to get to this open. The top part of the duct work is very close to the floor joists and not accessible to tape any holes. Should I have them take down a section of the duct work fix the open and put the cold air duct work back up. I am afraid to create more holes in the duct work as that what has caused my problem. Hopefully, my description shows the open will be difficult to get to. Lastly, the transition piece coming from the top of the furnace to make a right turn into this open duct work has it tabs not flush with duct work right above the evaporator of the furnace. I tried to tap it with the appropriate UL 1881 tape but does not stick to well due to the size of the holes. Should I have this replaced as well? Thanks again for your great help as you have solve my long standing problem – You are a life saver! Pam

      • I am so glad that you finally found the problem! It sounds like you did some great detective work! Maybe you have a new line of work ahead of you lol! I always found being a good troubleshooter is the most important part of this job.
        It does sound like the other duct work should be pulled down rather than just cut for the reasons you mention. It would be really unfortunate to go through all the trouble to fix the one and end up causing another problem. As for the other connection, it’s hard to say. I do find that metal tape has really poor adhesion because most metal duct work has a lot of dust and oils on it. Even after I’ve cleaned it thoroughly tape off and comes undone. There is a magic tape that I use that has an incredibly sticky rubber adhesive. Once that stuff gets on something it’s almost impossible to take it off. I don’t remember the name of it off hand. I will have to do some research to find out what it is and I will send that along. The other thing that good duct installers will use is something called duct mastic. This is a gooey glue-like substance that you put over connections like the one you describe. I used fiberglass tape that is used for sheetrock and smeared the mastic all over it. This allows sealing lots of large gaps in a permanent manner.

      • Hey Ted I hope you are well and I appreciate the advise you have provided to me concerning my HVAC equipment. I have several issues that I hope you can provide some guidance. First, my supply duct work was sweating so bad water was dripping on the basement floor and throughout my supply ducts once the a/c began to run. The return duct work did not sweat and is located right next to the supply. I did have my garage door slightly open but this condition did not cause problems in the winter when the furnace was running so I am dubious the air entering the basement from the garage is causing this issue. The HVAC guy has not come back to explain why the variable speed fan wont ramp up when calling for lots of a/c. A/C runs all day. I have a high efficiency a/c and the coils of the a/c in the house has lots of water. This condition has existed for 2 weeks or so. Question:What do I do with this duct work that is so wet now?The basement is extremely cold and damp when A/C runs. Next the HVAC guy came and aligned the duct work but it is not secured with screws because of the location and he wants to replace with flexible duct work instead of the rigid. The existing rigid duct work needs to come down to access the unsecured duct work. I don’t like the flexible duct work as not efficient etc – can you provide your opinion on rigid vs flexible duct work. I asked a company to do duct blower test but he tells me this test wont help us find any other opens as it only gives the lost CFM. His duct blower works with aeroseal and he says that is how they find opens as they cant stop the leaks with aeroseal. Do you have any suggestions or help you can provide me on the duct blower test? Lastly, I did hire a company to clean the duct work based on the duct work being wet and the construction that is currently happening at the house. Do you think this company can remove the dust and possible mold in the duct work due to the duct being extremely wet. Since I have hired 3 different companies and no one has found the problem, I am thinking I should just punch holes in the plaster in the basement and unwrap the supply in the garage. Your thoughts? Thanks for your help. Pam

      • Hi Pam, let’s see what I can suggest…
        I too prefer rigid ducts. As you noted, airflow is better and they’re vastly more durable. However, cold sheet metal can be a bummer in the warm weather. It’s literally acting like a dehumidifier for your basement! If there were some way of capturing that water and flushing it away, it would be a good thing! Unfortunately, it just drips, making it annoying. The return won’t sweat because it’s just pulling in the warmer air from the house so the temperature of the return is high enough to avoid condensation.
        In the warmer months, especially spring and fall, the outside air can be near 100% humidity. So any cool surface is likely to form condensation, just as you’ve noticed. During the colder weather, air humidity levels are much lower and you’re not running the air conditioner, so the ducts are well above the temperatures required for condensation.
        what you might do is inquire about insulated duct board. This is a compromise between flex duct and sheet metal. It’s just a compressed, rigid fiberglass board that they cut and make into a rectangular shape. Here’s a link to one such product.
        Your guy is partly correct. The duct blaster doesn’t directly tell you about openings. In combination with other tests, it can help you find issues. However, just running the AC and having an infrared thermal inspection can often find things much quicker. This would show you where the cold air is flowing on the output side of your system. It can dramatically show where there are big cold air leaks that are otherwise hidden inside walls.
        Also, the Aeroseal can be a great product for “small” leaks. However, if you have big leaks, like the duct fallen off the connection, the Aeroseal will end up covering the room in glue! I had a client who had it done and the contractor forgot to seal one of the supply vents. He then proceeded to “seal” the ductwork. The process continues until the pressure gauge shows a designated increase in duct pressure, meaning less leaks. Well, in that case, the pressure never increased because all the glue just flowed out the supply register! Yuck. What a mess!
        As for duct cleaning – the condensation should have been on the outside of the duct rather than the inside. You can get condensation on the inside if the air is really humid, but usually it’s outside.
        Regarding the last question – can you explain what you’re suggesting? I don’t quite understand what you mean.

  2. I want to change the lights in my kitchen out with these but I have Ruud compact fluorescent (1996 vintage) cans and therefore I have no socket. How do I get a socket and can I reuse the existing cans I have? Also if I have 6 twin tube (total of 26 watts per fixture) can I expect that replaced the 6 fluorescent fixtures with 6 ecosmarts will have the same light levels? I am hoping it may be brighter as the fluorescents don’t really produce enough light for me.

    • There are a lot of different recessed light fixtures and configuration, so it’s difficult to know whether the CR6 would fit. About half my home’s cans work and the other half don’t. So you really have to get one and try it.
      That said, you would want to check the existing fluorescent socket. The sockets in my cans are removable using spring clips. This exposes the power wires. There’s a version of the CR6 that uses a GU-24 style socket, so you could *probably* snip off the existing sockets and install the GU-24 that comes with the CR6 fixture.
      But before I cut anything, I’d want to make sure the fixture actually fits. This you should be able to try by just pulling the existing bulb and seeing if you can get the CR6 into the can.
      One other thing you’ll have to check. The wiring to your existing fluorescent bulb may come from a fluorescent starter and associated electronics. You can NOT connect the CR6 to that wiring!!! Your electrician will have to let you know about that.
      As for light levels, the best thing is to compare the lumens rating of the existing fluorescents versus the CR6. The CR6 is rated about 575 lumens. A 26 watt fluorescent actually throws off a lot of light, much more than 575 lumens. The trick is directionality. The CR6 is sending all that light down. The fluorescent is omnidirectional. So again it’s a little hard to compare (impossible?) just by the numbers. Ultimately, I think you’ll just have to try one and see how you like it.

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  6. I bought 9 of the Ecosmart from Home Depot. I have to say the are GREAT lights. we have the 6 in cans with the flood light showing out the opening, (I hate the look) Ecosmart now gives a fantastic finished look, to top is off the wife loves the look and the color of the light…

    • Great to hear it!
      They really do have a great look, don’t they? After seeing them, I look at my unconverted conventional bulbs and they look like a throwback to an era long gone…

  7. I ordered one of these bulbs for our portable energy efficiency display based on your comments and other ratings I read afterward. Thanks.

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  9. Hi Ted,

    What is the difference between the CR6 and the Ecosmart. Both are made by Cree, but there is a good price difference between the CR6 and Ecosmart. What are the product differences and why the price difference?

    • Based on my research, the EcoSmart line is a private labeling for Home Depot and they’re being aggressive on pricing. The standard distributors seem to be selling the CR6 for anywhere from $50ish to $75.

      • Do you think there is a quality difference between the two or if different materials for used in making the two different products?

      • To my knowledge, they’re identical units. However, be sure not to confuse these units with the LR6 that I reviewed earlier. The LR6 is brighter and more efficient and uses a much larger heat sink, so in theory, it should last longer. But after using the CR6 and LR6, I’m standardizing on the CR6 because it dims so much better and costs about 2/3 as much.

  10. Ted! Thanks for giving the EcoSmart LED Downlight a spin, and for showing viewers how to install one with a GU24 base. We’re so glad you are satisfied with the results, especially the dimming. Just FYI, each month we give away five Cree CR6 LED downlights on our website as part of photo contest. So if you or your readers ever want to enter, swing over and submit a photo!

    • Ginny,
      It’s great to see CREE reading the posts and contributing to the dialog.

      After my success with the light, I bought five and was planning on buying another dozen to install around the house. With the CR6 at the lower price, I can confidently say that they’re “ready for prime time”

      Kudos on producing a great product!

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