What To Know Before You Buy Vintage-style LED Light Bulbs

- Mar 26, 2018-

A new crop of LED light bulbs wants to combine modern technology with old-school looks. Here's what to look for as you pick one out.

You'll find all sorts of light bulbs in your local lighting aisle, but more and more, we're seeing bulbs that fall under labels like "vintage-style." The pitch for lights like these is pretty simple: new-age LED efficiency paired with old-school incandescent looks, right down to the fake LED "filaments" inside of the bulb.

Vintage-style bulbs started out as a nostalgic novelty for folks who weren't ready to say goodbye to the incandescent bulbs getting phased out by rising energy standards, but with big names like GEPhilipsFeit and others jumping in with the trend, they've become a legitimate category of their own. These days, most lighting aisles afford them their own, dedicated section.

That means that you've got plenty of choices if you're planning to pick one out. Here's what you need to know before doing so:  


The designs can make a difference

Most vintage-style LEDs achieve their looks by stringing the light-emitting diodes together into fake filaments inside of the bulb. The way those filaments are arranged can make a big impact on the way the light actually looks when you turn it on. 

For instance, vintage-style bulbs that arrange the filaments into tidy columns can lead to a more industrial look, whereas bulbs like the Feit vintage line that twist the filaments into decorative double helices can make for a more artistic appearance. Those twisty Feit bulbs are also good at dispersing light evenly and without shadows, since the design leaves each diode shining straight outward. Other vintage-style bulbs with multiple filaments can cast ugly-looking shadows when those filaments get in the way of each other.

Dimming is another design concern. Most of the options I found at retail were dimmable, but most of them also still showed at least some light flickering and buzz on the dimmer switches I tested them with. Issues like that are often caused by electromagnetic interference from the dimmer switch, and judging by my tests, decorative LEDs like these aren't any less susceptible to that sort of interference than standard LEDs. In fact, I wasn't able to find a single vintage-style LED that dimmed without issues in my tests.