LED Recessed Lighting Shootout: Home Depot vs Lowes vs Costco


Update (13-Aug-2017): Costco in our area has started carrying a soft white retrofit kit. I had a chance to buy a couple pairs and try them out. I’ve updated this review, and I now  feel that for the price the Costco Feit Electronic lights are tough to beat.

Update (12-Apr-2017): Shortly after writing this I installed 12 of the Home Depot Commercial Electric kits, and 4 of the Lowes UtiliTech Pros. My recommendation is now clearly for the Home Depot CE kit. Out of the four Lowes lights one has developed a hum and another occasionally flickers. Out of the 12 Home Depot lights I have had zero issues.


When we remodeled our house in 2000 we installed recessed can lighting. A lot of recessed can lighting. As in 69 6″ halogen cans. Oddly enough, we don’t use much of that lighting. In the bedrooms yes, but otherwise not so much. Why? Because the halogens use so much electricity and put out so much heat that we were reluctant to turn them on.

Now that LED retrofit kits have come down in price I decided to get serious about replacing the old halogens. There are lots of choices in LED kits. I wanted bang-for-the-buck. That quickly led to the house brands of Lowes and Home Depot.

So I decided to do a shootout. I bought a pair of each and compared.

Why a retrofit kit instead of just replacing the bulbs? Because the retrofit kits:

  1. Look nicer, especially if you have old yellowing trim rings on your cans.
  2. Help to seal that big hole in your ceiling. Old style cans are notorious for allowing airflow between your attic and your living space. Most kits come with a rubber gasket and seal tight against the ceiling helping to reduce that air flow.

What I Bought

Before I start keep in mind that Lowes and Home Depot continually update their products using the same “item number”. So by the time you read this things might have changed. But this will give you an idea of what to look for.

Note: the Lowes lights were purchased in a two-pack. Price is for one light. I recently purchased the Costco Feit light.

Lowes UtiliTech Pro Home Depot Commercial Electric Costco Feit Electric
Item 0599032 (SKU 8 22985 51130 8) SKU 0 46335 97939 0 ITM 1136343
Model MQTL1017-LED11.5K827 CER6730AWH27 CELEDR56/927/2
Date Code 0415 Unk Unk
Color Temp 2700 2700 Soft White
Lumens 700 670 850
Watts 11.5 11 11.3
CRI 80 90 90+
Beam Angle Unknown 96deg 101deg
Made In China China Unknown
Price $17.49 $15.97 $7.50
Notes Back of light says Type LB012CM-160C Back of light says Model CDLPS35OR15

Performance

Lowes UtiliTech Pro Home Depot Commercial Electric Costco Feit Electric
Ease of Installation B+ A A
Fit B A B+
Appearance B+ B+ A
Speed A B A
Brightness A B+ A
Color Quality B A A
Quiteness A A A
Dimming A B B+

Impressions

All products were very easy to install. The Home Depot lights were a bit easier because the torsion springs were pre-set into a V and required less compression to slip into the tabs in the can. Also, the Home Depot springs had an improved profile — a bend in the spring that caused it to “snap” into place as you pushed the light up into the can. This resulted in a tight fit against the ceiling. The Costco lights lacked the rubber gasket that helps seal against the ceiling, but seemed to fit well otherwise. Overall the products were easy to install and fit well, but I’ll give a slight node to the Home Depot light.

Appearance is a matter of taste. The Lowes lights are recessed farther into the can and have a stair-stepped bezel. The Home Depot lights have a cleaner look, but when staring directly into them you can see the yellow of some of the leds — once installed this is not as obvious. The Costco Feit Electric lights have a very clean look that I had a slight preference for.

The Lowes and Costco lights turn on instantly, the Home Depot lights have a split second delay. All have good light quality. The Costco light was the brightest — almost too bright for some applications. Lowes was in the middle, and the Home Depot seems a bit more true to color (this is consistent with their lumens and CRI numbers).

All lights dimmed well using my 15 year old Lutron dimmer, and I could detect no noise or buzzing. From low to bright the color stayed consistent. On the lowest setting the Lowes lights were dimmest — so they get the nod here.

Conclusion

All of these kits worked well and I would be satisfied with any of them.

But the price of the Costco Feit Electronics light is tough to beat. In our area there is an instant utility rebate that brought the cost of these lights to $5 each! Very tough to beat that.

Pictures

Which is the Home Depot light? The one with the yellow LEDs showing through. Once installed in the ceiling it doesn't look this bad.

Which is the Home Depot light? The one with the yellow LEDs showing through. Once installed in the ceiling it isn’t  this obvious.

Note the profile of the tension spring on the Home Depot light. It really helped to hold the light firmly against the ceiling.

Note the profile of the tension spring on the Home Depot light on the right. It really helped to hold the light firmly against the ceiling. Also you can see that both lights have a rubber gasket to help seal against the ceiling.

FeitLight

The Feit Electronic light from Costco has a very clean look, performs well and is cheap. Note the lack of rubber gasket to seal against the ceiling. Otherwise they fit very well.

Old fixture with yellowing trim ring.

Old fixture with yellowing trim ring.

You can see the tabs that the tension spring legs slip into. On some cans these are pressed against the walls and you need to bend them out.

You can see the tab that the tension spring legs slip into in the bottom of the photo. On some cans these are pressed against the walls and you need to bend them out.

One of the Lowes lights had a bit of a gap between the ring and the ceiling.

One of the Lowes lights had a bit of a gap between the ring and the ceiling. Others fit better, so this was in part an issue with our ceiling.

The Home Depot lights sucked firm against the ceiling thanks to the spring design.

The Home Depot lights are held firmly against the ceiling thanks to the spring design.

FeitLight2

The Costco Feit Electronics light has a very clean look and fit well despite its lack of rubber gasket.