LED Recessed Lighting Shootout: Home Depot vs Lowes

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.

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

Performance

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

Impressions

Both 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 tighter fit against the ceiling than the Lowes light. So ease of installation and fit go 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 Lowes lights turn on instantly, the Home Depot lights have a split second delay. Both have good light quality. The Lowes is a bit brighter, the Home Depot seems a bit more true to color (this is consistent with their lumens and CRI numbers).

Both 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 dimmer — so they get the nod here.

Conclusion

Both of these kits worked well and I would be satisfied with either.

The Lowes was a bit brighter (just a bit) and dimmed lower.

The Home Depot hugged firmer against the ceiling and had a bit better quality light (just a bit).

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.

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.