LED bulbs are a long-term investment that will help you save big on energy costs. Most brands boast 15-20 years of life. Great! When I recently bought a bulb and happily installed it into my bathroom vanity, my excitement quickly faded to disappointment when I realized that the bulb buzzed! It looked great, but the very audible constant buzz really bothered me. Do I really want to listen to that for the next 20 years?
It turns out that lots of poorly engineered LED bulbs emit a constant annoying buzz, but this is something you’ll never know by reading the package. How was I supposed to know when I picked it off the shelf that it was going to buzz at me ever time I turned it on? Unacceptable.
Another common problem for LED bulbs is a delay when you first turn them on. You walk into a dark closet and hit the light switch, but the light hesitates a half second before turning on. This is especially annoying for spaces where you only intend to stay a few moments. This is another important detail you want to know about a bulb before spending your next two decades with it… but again… you won’t be able to tell by reading the box. You can easily measure delay with an oscilloscope or a high-speed camera.
In case you don’t trust our ears, here’s an example of what LED buzz looks like. This is a plot of the sound frequency content with the bulb turned on. The plot should be flat from 0 to 20 kHz. Notice the area circled in red? That’s very bad.
The good news is that there IS a way to measure the buzz and delay. To make your LED bulb shopping easier, we’ve tested the LED bulbs below and share our findings.
TCP Globe RLG255W27KND3 (3-pack) 2700k
Buzz: -19dB at 11-13 kHz. This is VERY annoying.
The buzzing on this bulb was worse than any other tested. The 3-pack is available on Amazon for about $19, but don’t buy it unless you don’t mind your vanity constantly buzzing at you.
Utilitech Globe 2700k
Delay: 500 ms
The color is nice and and it’s completely silent, but the half second delay is something you should avoid. You might be able to find it on Amazon, but we don’t recommend it!
FEIT BR30DM65/LED/6 (2-pack) 2700k
A great bulb with nice color from FEIT at a great price. No delay and on buzz. Available from Amazon in a 2-pack for about $20.
FEIT BPOM60/830/LED 2700k
Delay: 30 ms. Barely noticeable.
Buzz: -20dB at 17-19 kHz. Barely noticeable.
The 30ms delay isn’t anything to get worked up about by itself. To hear the buzz you have to put your ear fairly close to it. Most people won’t be bothered by either of these flaws. Available from Amazon for about $8.
Philips 8.5A19/LED/827 2700k
A great A19 bulb with zero delay and zero buzz. Available from Amazon in a 2-pack for about $13.