False advertising for 40 Watt LEDs?

Is this false advertising?

A reader recently brought to my attention an LED that he thought may be misleading consumers.  The LED in question was the Feit "40 watt equivalent" Soft White LED sold here by Lowes.  The problem is, the LED isn't the equivalent of a 40-watt incandescent! has a nice comparison of lumen (light) output of different types of light bulbs.  According to their table, a 40-watt incandescent bulbs puts out 460 lumens.  The Feit LED in question only outputs 340 lumens!  That is, it only puts out 74% of the light that a 40-watt incandescent bulb puts out.  That is hardly "equivalent", but it is 3/4 the way there...

One of the reviews on the Lowes' website for the Feit bulb says it best:

Don't understand how this is a 40-watt equivalent? This is too dim. An average 40-watt incandescent produces around 500 lumens. The specs on this bulb say 340 lumens- or only about 70% of a regular 40-watt. That makes this more like a 25 or 30-watt equivalent. I think it should be re-labeled to more accurately describe it's brightness. Otherwise, it's fine.
This type of advertising can only hurt the success of LEDs.  What is a consumer going to think when they buy this bulb thinking this is truly how bright LEDs are?  In comparison, the LED I have in my home is the EcoSmart LED by Home Depot and it outputs 429 lumens.  This is 24% more light than the Feit LED, but is still 93% of a standard incandescent 40-Watt.

Interestingly enough, both of these lights ARE NOT Energy Star!  It seems the Energy Star program has pretty strict requirements for LEDs.  Energy Star LED specifications mention nothing about lumen output (keep reading to find this information), but what they do say is:

Has efficiency as good as or better than fluorescent lighting.

And I'm assuming that Energy Star measures efficiency by lumens/watt. While it's hard to find on the Energy Star website, the GE 9-watt product announcement (below) does mention that and LED needs to output more than 450 lumens to be considered for Energy Star.

One of the only LED Energy Start 40-watt equivalent bulbs that I've found is one by GE.  While this is Energy Star rated, it is currently selling on Amazon for $56, more than 3 times the amount I paid for my EcoSmart LED; however, the GE bulb puts out 471 lumens, which is much higher than the 429 lumens the EcoSmart puts out.  But all of this begs the question, if you have $56 to spend, should you buy 1 GE LED that has an Energy Star rating to replace 1 incandescent, or buy 3 cheaper LEDs that you can use to replace 3 incandescents?

I know we're just at the beginning of the LED revolution, but I can only hope that manufacturers can use honest marketing practices. And for the ones that do use honest marketing, I hope the prices of your bulbs come down!

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I just bought a Sylvania Ultra LED 40 Watt replacement for $19.99 at BJ's. The specs are: 430 lumens, 8 Watts, 3000K color temp, dimmable. So far I like it. The light color is nice and white and it is fairly bright. My wife doesn't like it in a lamp because it produces little downlighting. I think it would be perfect in a base up fixture like in my bathroom. I may buy 2 more for that purpose.
I got another e-mail from Lowe's (though confusingly it referenced a different case number from the first e-mail.) Mr Reza, assistant store manager, referred me to for more information on lumens. The exact URL he gave me did not work, but I found this page - - which might have been the one he was trying to direct me to. The 40W entry their just confirms my point - they list 40W incandescent at 450 lumens [though I'm not sure I'll take this website as a definitive source, elsewhere on the page they say 60W is 300-900 lumens ... a huge range, and in yet another spot "a 3W LED is equivalent in output to a 45 W incandescent" (even though their 40W table said 4-5W LED for the same light output.
I'm the reader that alerted Chris to this situation. I sent an e-mail to Lowe's asking about this ... and got this reply from "Sandra L." in customer care: "Thank you for your e-mail. I appreciate you letting me know of your concerns with the Feit 40W replacement LED light bulb. I will forward this to the Senior Store Management at the San Jose, CA store. They will research this and follow-up with you within 24 hours." I'll follow up again here when I get the promised e-mail. @Rob: in certain applications the directional bias of LED bulbs will indeed work to your advantage. But I still think that it is wrong to claim on the packaging for your bulb that a 40W incandescent only puts out 390 lumens.
Chris, the total amount of lumens does not tell the whole story. Incandescents often radiate equally strong in all directions. Replacing selectively those lights for which you need only "forward" light by LED bulbs like the one in the image may actually increase the amount of usable light. YMMV. I love the new dimmable LED bulbs. Contrary to old-fashioned lights, LED tends to become more efficient when dimmed and also the color stays the same.
ckmapawatt's picture
Good point Rob. I do know that LED are more directional with light, which helps in certain tasks. So you're right, lumens don't tell the whole story. But if you're using the light to light a room (i.e. you want the light to spread in all directions) then I think people will be disappointed with a lower output led. Thanks for the input!
I think <a HREF="" rel="nofollow">this is the full energy star spec for LEDs</A> but it's pretty dense... without a long, careful read it's not immediately obvious what the efficacy requirements are. I see references to 50 lumens per watt (lm/W) in a few places, but there seem to be standards for many different categories of lamp.

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